In The Fitness Spirit

Image for article titled In The Fitness Spirit

We all know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but what about Fat Tuesday? Nope, not the one heralding Mardi Gras. No, no. This is the Fat Tuesday that follows your holiday meal binge—you know, the one after all the turkey and pie and festive drinks, when you realize your pants are tight, the scale is ticking upward, and you've still got a few more weeks of celebrating left to do. If you're like many Americans, the post-Thanksgiving reality check often rolls through Fat Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and right on through December. But there's still time to get things under control.


If you've got a sexy party dress or new suit to squeeze into this holiday season—or an inauguration gown or tux to fit into in January—you need to find a way to push back from the table or buffet—right now—to avoid the holiday heft. It's not so hard, really! With a little planning, you can still stay active and make good food choices without feeling like Scrooge. Here are a few pointers.

What's Wrong With A Little Good Cheer?

The (kind of) good news. Actual holiday weight gain is often exaggerated and is only about one to two pounds. Now the (totally) bad news. People who are already overweight tend to gain more, packing on five pounds from Thanksgiving to New Year's. And worse, after the holidays, people don't take the weight off, so over time, those extra pounds really add up.

Top Tips To Keep From Tipping The Scales

If you want to truly embrace change, give up that weight loss New Year's resolution. Don't wait till Jan. 1. Adopt these basic strategies right now.

Have a plan. Don't go to a party starving or sit down for dinner without a mental list of what you're going to put on your plate. Don't pile it high with everything on the table. Be choosy. You know your absolute favorites, so allow yourself moderate portions; think palm-sized meat and a golf-ball-sized helping for dessert. And at a buffet or cocktail party, use a plate to avoid mindless grazing.

Recruit others. You definitely won't be the only one watching your waistline, so enlist a friend, relative or recruit your entire family to establish healthier holiday traditions. When planning the menu, choose lower-calorie side dishes, pump up the vegetables and limit the gut-busting carbs and sweets. Then make it a point to move by making a date for a pre- or post-meal walk.


Give/get the gift of fitness. Ask for workout gear, a gym membership or prepaid exercise classes to encourage you to keep up with your fitness routine. Give the same kinds of gifts, and you'll be repaid with a workout partner.

Watch the booze. Straight alcohol is just a glass of empty calories, and if you're indulging in eggnog or any other creamy cocktail, you've just drank dessert. Limit the high-fat dairy drinks, and avoid the bottomless wineglass. And don't get drunk. Besides the personal humiliation factor, impaired judgment leads to unconscious eating and bad food choices.

This image was lost some time after publication.
This image was lost some time after publication.

The Morning After

But what happens if despite your good intentions things get out of hand? This time you really outdid yourself and ate and drank enough to single-handedly "bring gluttony back." First, don't beat yourself up. It's done. But don't give up. Once you've had a binge, it's important to get back on track immediately so things don't spiral out of control. Just brush the crumbs off your face, comb the frosting out of your hair and adopt a morning-after plan.


Start by rehydrating. Drink a few glasses of water followed by a cup of tea. Chances are you're hung over and dehydrated, so getting the fluids back will help you flush your system, eliminate toxins and regulate your metabolism; plus, the tea will settle a bubbly stomach. Next up is reestablishing good eating habits. You'll need to reset your diet with food that will give you energy to get you moving but won't spike your blood sugar.

Plan a high-protein day. Start with eggs for breakfast. They're packed with protein and will keep you feeling fuller longer without making you sluggish. Then throughout the day snack on a small handful of nuts. Almonds and walnuts are full of antioxidants and heart-healthy, monounsaturated fats. For a midday pick-me-up, add some citrus since foods rich in vitamin C have been proven to increase energy and alertness. For lunch and dinner, fuel up with fish. The omega acids in fish like fresh tuna and salmon help to balance blood sugar and prevent energy highs and lows.


Finally, move your body. You may not be up for an intense interval workout, so opt for an endurance session. Take a brisk, 45+ minute walk or engage in another low-intensity activity. It's a smart way to restart your exercise program, and it won't burn you out or leave you too sore or exhausted to workout the next day.

Alicia Villarosa is a regular contributor to The Root.