For many people, November is the start of the hardest time of year for keeping fit. Cold weather makes us crave stodgy comfort food, and that’s before you factor in the parties.
But rather than wait until the new year for yet another resolution to get fit or lose weight, how about trying to keep yourself focussed and keep the weight off whilst still enjoying the festive period?
At No1 Fitness we often work with clients who find it difficult to not put on the pounds at this time of year. Here are a few of my favourite strategies, which have worked for people over the years. I’m not saying you should strictly adhere to them all, but stick to one or two and you may find you don’t ned to make that New Year’s resolution after all.
My main piece of advice is not to over-consume calories, and if you do over-eat during a meal, then reduce calories somewhere else.
Sure, you could work out for longer, or harder, which will burn more calories, but this is far from the most efficient way of going about things unless you can spare a few hours of pumping iron a day. Far quicker and easier is to simply reduce calories elsewhere throughout the day.
So if you see in your diary that you have five big dinners planned in a week, each of which will no doubt be accompanied by a fair few drinks, then try fasting in the morning. We’re always told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but this is a myth. Skipping breakfast is a great and easy way to create a calorie deficit. If you’re hungry and you really need food, then eat, but if you can hold off, try to get to lunch before having your first meal; skipping food first thing in the morning can save you up to 600 calories.
We have clients who will forego breakfast three days a week if they have a big night planned, and they see fantastic results.
Training tends to fall to the bottom of the list when we get to the colder months. The solution to this is simple: stop making excuses and get to the gym. Organisation is the key: sit down and map out the last six weeks of the year, look at what’s in your diary and work out when you can spare an hour.
Even if this period is really busy for you, our challenge is to get in at least four training sessions per week. This can include weekends, where there should be more time. Once you have plotted the sessions in, create a weekly tick sheet, on which you can log all the sessions you have completed. Then look at the week ahead and remind yourself of the days you have booked in. If you’ve missed one of the days, try to make it up the following week.
It all sounds a bit elementary, but its been so successful for our clients. Just seeing it written down is a bit motivating factor. And if you’re really struggling, get yourself a personal trainer; it’s amazing how much a few quid and the knowledge someone is waiting for you at the gym can add to your motivation.
Remember, the more we drink, the more calories we consume. Ideally I would encourage you to lay off the booze, but that’s usually unrealistic. So instead, here are few suggestions to help keep your alcohol levels down.
Try to cap your night at three drinks. This can be hard when someone else is pouring, so get them in yourself. Another tried-and-tested strategy is to try stick to a 1-2-1 ration with between alcohol and water, alternating between the two, which not only spreads out the time between drinks, but fills you up so you drink the alcohol slower.
You can also aim to stick to white spirits (gin, vodka) with low calorie mixers. For those who prefer wine, go for a dry red wine, which is slightly lower in calories.
Like the organisation with your workouts, preparing your meals is also key. It’s especially easy to take your eye off the ball with food when you’re nursing a hangover, so having a healthy meal waiting at home will reduce the chances of you ordering a Domino’s.
Another advantage of making your own meals for breakfast and lunch is you can calculate the number of calories, and estimate how many more you can consume in the evening.
I always recommend clients use the MyFitnessPal app to track the number of calories consumed. Although this becomes much tougher when eating out, it still can allow you to make more informed decisions.
Some of our clients only now track when they are drinking or eating out. If they are suddenly drinking an additional 3,000 calories in alcohol over a week (far easier than it sounds!), they know they need to find a way to reduce their weekly intake.
David, our nutritionist at No1 Fitness, says it’s important not to feel guilty if you’ve eaten “badly” or over-eaten. The key is to account for everything, which will allow you to keep motivated and stay focussed. Don’t dwell on the past – find a solution for the future.
We always encourage people to enjoy the end of the year – you’ve worked hard and deserve to have some fun. Just don’t use this as an excuse to go off the rails. All it takes is a bit more discipline and some clever use of your time, and you might be pleasantly surprised when you get back into the office after your winter holiday.