If you want to lose weight, or make any kind of healthy change, the conventional wisdom says to put it off until January. After all, we’re right in the middle of the “eating season,” and the beginning of the New Year seems like a better time to get started with healthy habits.
But is that the only option? Absolutely not. In fact, I like the other option much better – take control of your health, put some healthy habits into place right now, and lose some weight before New Year’s Day. At the very least, start following a plan that helps you feel great and avoid gaining weight during the holidays.
Is this the easiest time of the year to start healthy habits or 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 something new, why wait?
Honestly, there’s no reason to put it off. The reality is that you can create new habits now, lose weight before Christmas, and be ready to rock your healthy living and weight loss goals in January.
In addition to getting a head start on the New Year, this plan encourages you to set priorities and make decisions during the hectic, food-laden holiday season, rather than letting events, circumstances, or other people decide for you.
I’ve done this in the past, and I plan to do it again this year. I love the way it helps me take charge of what happens during these busy and often stressful weeks. And it can do the same for you.
If the idea that you can create new healthy habits and lose weight before Christmas appeals to you, here are 5 steps to help you get started:
1. Set yourself up for success. Pick a start date within the next few days and do some things now to get ready. 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 healthy 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. Find and organize your food storage and food prep 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.
2. Make a meal plan based on foods that will help you feel great and lose weight. Losing weight requires you to eat fewer calories than your body burns, but the source of those calories makes a big difference.
So develop a menu plan and a list of meals that are based primarily on vegetables, lean protein, eggs, dairy, and olive oil, and small amounts of whole grain carbohydrates and fruit. Focus on foods that are low in sugar and processed fats, and high in fiber, natural fats, and complex carbohydrates.
3. 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 you 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 sweets and treats? If you tend to think of it as an extended “eating season,” get to work now on changing your mindset.
Remember that you don’t need to eat pumpkin pie for 5 days in a row (or is that just me…). Or fudge every day just because someone brought it to work. Most days in December are business-as-usual days, and you can plan to eat a clean, healthy diet that will help you lose weight on those days.
4. Make a plan for dealing with holiday foods and events. Clearly though, some days this month are not regular days. They’re special days that involve, parties, celebrations, high-calorie foods, and more – all of which can take you off track when you’re working hard to eat healthy or lose weight. So think about those events ahead of time, and make a plan for how you’re going to approach them.
Maybe Christmas Eve dinner is one of your favorite meals of the year, Or your sister’s dessert buffet is a highlight of the season for your family. Decide which events make the season a celebration for you, enjoy your favorite holiday foods during those events, and then plan to get back to healthy eating the next day.
But, the food at some holiday events may not be worth the calories or the way they make you feel. For example, your spouse’s office party may feature run-of-mill food that isn’t really anything special. In that case, decide to stick with healthier options and not waste calories on mass-produced pumpkin pie or cheesecake
And if the break room at your office is like mine, people tend to bring in packages of store-bought Christmas cookies and candy that just aren’t worth your time and attention. If that’s the case, decide now 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.
5. Get up and move. A healthy 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 find that moderate exercise actually helps regulate my appetite.
So make a plan that creates time in your schedule to get up and move for at least 30 minutes on at least 5 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 whenever possible, do it outside. Natural light helps regulate your mood and reduce stress.
Although it takes a bit of effort, you can establish healthy habits right now and lose weight before Christmas. Get started this week, and set yourself up to feel good throughout the holiday season and move right into a healthy New Year.
And if you need more tips, ideas and encouragement for losing weight before or after Christmas, check out my ebook, The Busy Life Diet – Healthy Weight Loss for Women on the Go. It includes the ebook and a quick start guide. Use the code FRIEND25 at checkout to save 25% off the regular price.
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