In just a few days New Year’s Eve will come along, full of intentions to get “back on track”, make your dreams come true, and change your life. Before jumping on the latest diet craze, think about what you fell “off track” from: did you eat some atypical foods, overeat, and eat Christmas cookies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a week? Or maybe skip a few (all) workouts, overindulge on alcohol, and miss out on sleep? Maybe all of the above?
You’re not alone.
We recently came back home from a whirlwind trip to New York. There was pizza, cookies, sausage roll, cheese, pasta, and a whole lot of craft beer and wine. Short of a long overdue yoga class Saturday morning, there were no workouts, despite my mother’s nudging (15-degree snowy run? No thank you). Meals were a little unpredictable and sleep was hit-or-miss. Certainly not the most balanced or nutritious vacation. Instead, we reminisced with old friends, “tasted” some regional beers, and exchanged gifts and stories with family. Want to know what happened when I got home?
I did not develop cancer from the Italian sausage I ate. My blood sugar is in the normal range. My clothes still fit, more or less (and even if they didn’t, it’s NBD). I still know how to run and pick up a set of dumbbells. In fact, the shin splint that started last week is now gone after some down time. And believe it or not I actually wanted to eat a vegetable after days of cheese, bread, and desserts. Our bodies naturally crave variety. (Side note: somehow I received 3 pressure cookers for Christmas. So there may be some recipes in the next few weeks as I get to know them).
So. How do you get “back on track” after a day, week, or month (or more) off? Here are my thoughts. I’d love to hear any others you have as well!
5 THINGS TO DO
- Drink water. Between the sweets, salt, and alcohol, a little extra water can go a long way in making you feel better. Take a break from that glass (er, bottle) or wine and sip some herbal tea before bed. Your liver and psyche will thank you!
- Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation can do some wonky things to your health and well-being, worse than any Christmas cookie. It might take a few days to catch up, and that’s ok! Make it a priority and just go with it.
- Find a new recipe. I don’t mean steamed broccoli and skinless chicken breast. Go through an old cookbook and highlight some favorites for some inspiration. Also, get back on a regular eating pattern, including 3 meals and snacks (had to sneak an extra bullet in here).
- Ease back into exercise. Start with a lower-intensity activity, especially if it has been a while since your last workout. Your fitness might not be where it was in October, and forcing your body into the same routine may backfire by leaving you extra sore and primed for burn-out.
- Re-evaluate. Think about your lifestyle pre-holidays. Were your expectations realistic? Did your eating and exercise plan leave little room for fun, leading you to a cookie-and-Netflix binge? Re-evaluate your goals and what it will take to get there. If a strict diet leads you to over-eating at the end of the week, is it really in your best interest?
5 THINGS NOT TO DO
- Vow to eat “perfectly” for X amount of time. Whether this means eating a set amount of calories, points, macros, or cutting out sugar, carbs, or fat, it will set you up for failure. What happens when that time is up? Another cookie-and-Netflix binge? There is room for all foods in a healthy diet.
- Over-exercise. Putting yourself through grueling workouts to “make up” for all the fun foods you ate is not enjoyable. It associates exercise (and food) with discomfort, pain, and punishment. Not that every workout you do is going to be rainbows and butterflies, but it should at least leave you feeling better than you did before.
- Skip meals. Whether intentional or a byproduct of being busy, skipping meals pushes your body too far into “hungry”. Being ravenous is a good way to eat anything and everything in sight, including stale cookies that nobody actually wants to eat.
- Beat yourself up. It doesn’t accomplish or change anything.
- Give up. Just don’t do it. Lifestyle change takes time, patience, compassion, and persistence. We live in a society that supports quick fixes (that don’t work) and also makes convenient, nutrient-poor foods readily available. Think about reasons for making a change, and find one that does not focus on weight or body shape. It is impossible to mold our bodies into our or society’s idea of “perfect”, so of course when this result is not achieved we give up! So, find a new motivation and set goals that support your health.
Happy New Year! See you in 2018.