Time and time again, I’m always asked for advice on “surviving” the Christmas season. In the fitness world, it seems like the holidays are often cast as an evil source of temptation, a malicious character intent on derailing bikini body goals. You are what they eat, they say – and you don’t want to be a pig in a blanket, right?
I see this bizarre demonisation of Christmas leading to even more bizarre “tips and tricks” being shared around the #fitspo community; fill up your plate with brussel sprouts, and you won’t even need any roast potatoes! Eat carrot sticks rather than mince pies at the Christmas party! Drink vodka soda instead of red wine! Drink lots of water to fill your stomach! Go extra hard in the gym in the week before so that the turkey can fuel your #gains!
We need to stop talking about Christmas in this way. It’s a holiday, it’s meant to be fun and a way to reunite families and friends for just a few days a year out of this non stop treadmill called life. It’s not about “survival”, it’s about enjoyment. It’s not a one off, it’s an annual event and therefore a part of your overall lifestyle picture.
No fitness program continues on a constant upward trajectory – life ebbs and flows and along with it, our fitness and lifestyle decisions.
If we give ourselves a hard time about eating and drinking more at Christmas then we are missing the very point; we’re actually setting ourselves up for more overindulgence, as guilt almost always fuels bingeing. We continue to tell ourselves that it’s a one off, and that January will be different. Come January we are miserable and guilty, self flagellating via overdoing it in the gym and avoiding socialising to eat steamed chicken, kale and lemon water alone in the evening instead. Is that really living?
Life is a balance and that balance constantly changes. Taking the pressure off is really what Christmas is about – it’s the one time of year when almost everybody is on holiday, and you can guarantee it will happen every year, for the rest of your life.
If you are not a fitness competitor, model or athlete, then you should question why it is that staying lean is at the forefront of your mind this season. There is so much more to your overall health than that – unwinding properly, resting up, and spending time with your loved ones is just as, if not more, beneficial to your overall mental and physical health.
Know what your goals are – your yearly, meaningful goals, not a generic short term one – and create a lifestyle that supports those overall. Walking through this world in a state of guilt and anxiety because your actions don’t match who you think you should be doesn’t work. Look at the evidence, be real, accept yourself as you are – and eat the mince pie!