Survival of the Fittest Feature

Ever wondered why so many people make resolutions relating to fitness after the holiday season ends? It’s because the parties are over, all the festive treats are eaten, and it is easier to maintain a strict exercise regime and focus on healthy eating. While this strategy can work perfectly well until the calendar rolls out again and the holiday season returns, it’s not always the most feasible option. Think about it: wouldn’t you want to be slim and trim before the party season, so that you can show off your svelte figure and flaunt those abs while at a party or on vacation? If yes, don’t wait for January to get in shape! Start burning fat and building muscle now, and keep the holiday bulge at bay because, believe us, the beginning of December is only the calm before the storm. If you don’t plan ahead, you may soon find yourself spending another New Year’s Eve feeling unfit and ready to resurrect the same fitness resolution as last year.  

It’s no secret that December is a tempting time, and it’s easy to lose focus of your diet and exercise. For all you budding fitness buffs, here’s some good news: the holiday weight gain can be avoided; all you need is a proper plan and a whole lot of dedication. Don’t be one of the many who put their fitness routine on the back burner at this time, and then rush to the gym on January 1, looking to restart things with a crash diet and exercise plan. Instead, stay committed and remain fit and healthy – starting now! Here are some great guidelines to help you keep those extra pounds at bay.               --- Niharika

Pic: Reebok

SET A GOAL FOR YOURSELF

The first thing to do is to set a realistic goal and make a plan. The goal can be just about anything; just ensure that it’s enough to motivate you to push yourself because you can easily go astray without a solid aim in mind. After setting a goal, make sure that you stick to it, whether it is to go for an hour-long walk everyday, or to wake up early and workout for an hour before work. If the goal is food-based and you’ve promised yourself not to eat out or drink alcohol, stick to it. It can be easy for your friends to drag you to a bar over the weekend or for a meal out. And while peer pressure is fairly hard to fight even if you have a valid excuse, if you’re disciplined, you won’t be tempted to give in.

DRINK PLENTY OF WATER

Staying hydrated is important year-long, whether you’re on a strict fitness routine or not. However, if you’re in a party environment, it is all the more vital as water fills you up when you think you may be hungry. Water is known to prevent all kinds of health problems, too. In this case, it can suppress your appetite as well. It is advised to have three to four litres of water a day, and in fact nutritionists and dieticians often recommend their clients to fill up on water before heading to a party. This way they won’t be tempted to have a slice of that delicious looking cake or gorge on that chicken pie.

Water also helps with hangovers, and in digestion and recovery. So be sure to hydrate yourself with lots of water and electrolytes, if possible. Lean towards coconut water if you’re hung over, as it’s full of potassium and will make you feel fresh instantly.

DON’T SKIP THOSEWORKOUTS
Skipping your workout is a big no-no! It can initiate a downward spiral and, according to some British research, can increase your odds of skipping another day of workout by 61%. Something is better than nothing, so if you don’t have time for your usual workout, go for a short one, or just take a walk. This way, your metabolism stays high and your body continues to be in the muscle building and fat loss phase. Skipping workouts breaks your routine and may also take you off the healthy eating path, since many of us pay more attention to what we eat after working out hard at the gym.

LEARN TO SAY NO
We all know how hard it is to say no to desserts and treats, even when you don’t really want them. Often the idea of consuming something delicious is a lot more satisfactory than the actual bite itself. So learn to say no in order stay on track. Don’t fall prey to people’s guilt-giving; remember the taste of success is a lot nicer than that brownie lying on the plate. Besides, don’t worry, you can have your share of brownies and chocolates once you’ve reached your goal. Until then, stay on track!

LIMIT EACH CELEBRATION TO ONE DAY
While sticking to your plan and not going astray is vital, every now and then you must give in to your cravings and indulge in what you desire. Take a break from working out too if you’re feeling too fatigued, but just remember to return to your normal diet and exercise program the next morning. The longer the break, the more difficult it is for you to re-focus on fitness, and the harder it will be for you to get back on track. A day off won’t hurt you, but a week off certainly will. It can not only disrupt your progress toward your goals, but also inflate your waist size.

DON’T DEPRIVE YOURSELF
Of course, remember that saying no doesn’t mean that you have to deprive yourself of everything completely. “No” is only a means to hold yourself back from overindulging. Instead, dive straight in for that salad or those veggies, and even that hearty piece of meat. Starvation isn’t a means of losing weight. You have to strike a balance between indulging and depriving, as this is what leads to consistency, and consistency in turn leads to achieving your goals. If you don’t, you’ll end up feeling deprived, which will lead to binge eating and that is definitely not worth it. Consistency is key!

HAVE A BITE BEFORE YOU STEP OUT
One of the biggest mistakes people make is to save up for a large meal, as you actually end up over-compensating for the calories you didn’t consume earlier in the day. A better strategy would be to eat normally and have at least a small meal before you head out for a party. This way your stomach is half full and you won’t eat as much as you would if you were starving. Having a wholesome salad packed with protein, fibre, and nutrients is a great way to curb your hunger. You can also have simple grilled chicken or other lean meat, and it will do the job just the same.

MOVE MORE THROUGHOUT THE DAY
Apart from your time at the gym, being healthy calls for moving more throughout the day. Have a cup of black coffee in the morning to give you that instant push and then make it a point to move around more instead of sitting on that comfortable chair or lying on that lazyboy throughout the day. If you lead a sedentary work-life, try getting up from your chair every hour, or half an hour if you can, and walking around for a few minutes before heading back to work. You can also add in a few stretches during this time to give your stiff muscles some rest. Not only will this help you improve your posture after sitting hunched over at your desk for hours, but it will also help keep you active and focused on healthy habits even during a stressful time at work. Wearing a Fitbit or an Apple Watch is a great way to track the number of steps you take in a day.

KEEP COUNTING THOSE CALORIES
Don’t get us wrong: we don’t mean you should log each and everything you consume and burn during the course of a week. But having an approximate count on your calorie intake will make it a lot easier to calculate your progress. As long as your diet is dialled in 80% of the time, you’re on track.

WEIGH YOURSELF REGULARLY
Of course, it’s not healthy to obsess over your weight, but it is definitely alright to track it. According to a study, people who weigh themselves daily lose more weight per year than those who don’t. Why, you wonder? Because you’re more likely to be mindful of what you eat and drink (and how much you exercise) if you weigh yourself every day. After you step on the scale, record the result and paste it somewhere you can’t hide from.

DON’T SKIP BREAKFAST
Breakfast, long for “break fast”, is the most important meal of the day as it breaks the fasting period between your last meal of the previous day and the first meal of the new day, and it sets the nutritional tone for the day to come. Prolonging your overnight fast will put your body into survival mode and that is perhaps not the wisest thing to do.

Having a hearty breakfast will result in you consuming fewer calories in subsequent meals. This however doesn’t mean that you eat that cheese croissant and chocolate muffin every day. Swap that for eggs and multigrain toast or oats with dry fruits, but be sure to add some kind of fruit to your meal, as it is necessary to add some fibre to your diet. Bonus points for adding fibrous, vitamin-rich, fruits such as oranges, pineapple, papaya, and kiwi. Top that with black coffee and you’re good to go! This will instantly increase your metabolic rate and ensure that you start burning calories right from the morning.  

PERFORM SIMPLE WORKOUTS AT HOME
If you’re looking to develop a healthy lifestyle as opposed to just losing those extra pounds, a good way to start is by performing some simple exercises at home. Most of these require no equipment and not much time either, but they’re good to keep your body on track. So whether or not you can make it to the gym, try performing some simple exercises at home, preferably in the mornings, using your own bodyweight. This can be great for both, building strength and endurance. Some easy bodyweight exercises to perform at home are lunges, squats, burpees, planks, and push ups. Try these by repeating 15 counts of each exercise for a total of two-three sets. Increase the count and frequency as you get used to it.  

SLEEP MORE
We cannot emphasise on this point enough. Sleep is vital for the functioning of any body, whether during the holiday season or through the year. It’s a very important aspect of staying fit and healthy, not only because it’s good for your mind but also because relaxing your body means you will have enough energy to achieve your fitness goals.

During the holiday season, you are bound to have some, if not many, late nights and this can make you feel run-down and increase your stress levels. This in turn will result in your body producing more cortisol—a stress hormone that can affect your digestion process. Regular, good quality sleep can improve your brain functioning, physical and emotional health, make you feel more energetic, and increase your ability to concentrate and perform your daily tasks. Some research suggests that adults need seven to eight hours of sleep every day to be well rested. But it’s not just the quantity that matters in sleep, but the quality and regularity of sleep too. Avoid sleep disrupters like caffeine and alcohol at nights for better sleep. Apart from this, it is also important to sleep at the right time. Try to go to bed when you feel sleepy and make it a routine to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.

Every now and then, it is a good idea to relax your body by indulging in a good spa session or going for steam or a hot bath, too. So what are you waiting for? Get up and make these simple changes to your everyday routine and see the change for yourself!