If you want to lose weight, you may be putting it off until January. Which makes perfect sense, because the beginning of a new year is a perfect time to get started with healthy habits. But I’d like you to consider another option too – the fact that you can put some healthy habits into place right now and lose weight before Christmas. It may seem a little crazy, but you can learn new healthy eating habits, start losing weight now, and avoid gaining weight during the holidays.
Is this the easiest time of the year to lose weight? No, it’s not. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. If you’re unhappy with your weight or your health and have been thinking about starting a weight loss program, why wait any longer? You can lose weight before Christmas and be ready to rock your healthy living and weight loss goals in January.
Actually, in some ways, this is a great time to start. Because the holiday “eating season” hasn’t arrived yet, which gives you time to get started with a healthier diet and time to come up with a plan for dealing with holiday foods. It also gives you an opportunity to take control of your diet and your health, rather than letting events, circumstances or other people decide what you’re going to eat.
I’ve lost some weight recently, and am working to lose a few more pounds. In the process, I’ve discovered some things that work and things that make weight loss easier (although I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t easy!). If the idea that you can lose weight before Christmas appeals to you, here are some things you may want to consider:
• Set yourself up for success. Pick a start date and do some things before that date to get ready. (Sign up here to receive our healthy weight loss emails and information on a 6-week program that starts in January.) Then clean out and organize your refrigerator, freezer and pantry. Get rid of foods you don’t want to eat or put them out of sight. Put the foods you do want to eat “front and center,” so that you can see them and access them easily. Declutter your kitchen and make space to work. Organize your food storage containers. Look at your schedule and figure out when you can do some healthy food prep each week – it’s going to be critical to your success. Many women do it on Sunday afternoon or evening, but find a time that works for you.
• Make a menu based on foods that will help you lose weight. Losing weight requires you to eat fewer calories than your body burns, but the source of those calories makes a big difference. If I eat 1500 calories a day of fast food, my weight loss (and health!) will not be the same as if I eat 1500 calories of vegetables, chicken, Greek yogurt, eggs and olive oil. So develop a menu plan and a list of meals that’s based primarily on vegetables, lean protein, eggs, dairy, and olive oil and small amounts of whole grain carbohydrates and fruit. (We’ll be talking about this more in the 6-week healthy weight loss program.)
• Develop a healthy mindset for dealing with the holidays. Yes, it’s a challenge to stick with a healthy eating plan and lose weight before Christmas. But part of the problem is how we think about the holiday season. Do you see it as a six-week eating event that starts on Thanksgiving Day and continues through New Year’s Eve? (That’s how a lot of people think about it!) Or do we see it as a time of the year that includes some holiday meals and special events, but also lots of regular days that don’t need to include special foods and lots of treats? If you tend to think of it as the former, work on changing your mindset. Remember that just because the holidays are coming, you and I don’t need to eat pumpkin pie on the Monday after Thanksgiving or fudge on the second Wednesday in December! Most of the days in November and December are regular work, home or school days, and you can plan to eat a clean, healthy diet that will help you lose weight on those days.
• Make a plan for dealing with the holiday foods and events. Clearly though, some days in November and December are not regular days. They’re special days that involve special meals, parties, high-calorie foods and more – all of which can spell disaster for anyone who’s working hard to lose weight. So think about those events ahead of time, and make a plan for how you’re going to approach them. Maybe Thanksgiving is one of your favorite meals of the year, and you adore all of the foods that will be served at your family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Then your plan might be to simply enjoy Thanksgiving dinner without worrying about your diet. Or maybe your sister’s dessert buffet is a highlight of the season for your family. Then you may decide to enjoy your favorite desserts that day and get back on your eating plan the next day. But the food at some holiday events may not be worth the calories. For example, maybe your husband’s office party features run-of-mill food that isn’t really anything special. In that case you might decide to stick with healthier options and not waste calories on mass-produced pumpkin pie or cheesecake. Or if your church’s holiday potluck features the same old potluck fare, you may decide to stick with the baked chicken and salad and avoid Mrs. Smith’s cream-soup casserole! And if someone leaves a package of store-bought Christmas cookies in the break room at work, you may decide that they simply aren’t good enough to entice you to get off track with your healthy eating and weight loss efforts. The key is to think it through ahead of time, make a plan, and follow the plan – rather than letting things happen that get you off track.
• Get up and move. A healthy, reduced calorie diet is the key to weight loss, but exercise plays a role too. It burns calories, tones and strengthens muscles, and improves mood. And although exercise can increase your appetite, I believe that moderate exercise can actually help regulate appetite. (I can’t prove that with research, it’s just something I’ve observed in my own efforts to lose weight. When I’m exercising regularly, it seems like my cravings for sweets and other foods that I don’t really want to eat are reduced.) So make a plan and make time in your schedule to get up and move 5 or 6 days a week. Do some aerobic exercise (like brisk walking or dancing) and some strength exercise (like lifting weights or using exercise bands) every week. (And if finding the time in your busy schedule seems impossible, check out these tips for making time to exercise.)
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