Amy Culver - The Queen of Lean
October 26, 2009    

Holiday survival guide

Halloween tips

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Amy Culver

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Holiday survival guide

This time of year always brings to mind a very special personal memory.  I bet you'll never guess what it is.  This is the time of year when I started on my path to weight loss success.

Yep, I got my Diabetes diagnosis in early October and was sitting in a Weight Watcher's meeting within a week.

I didn't care what time of year it was, I was terrified.  At the time, I was caring for my mom who had wasted away to nothing partly because she hadn't taken very good care of herself.  I was lifting her from sofa to wheelchair and back again.  I saw the pictures in the Doctor's office of the feet of diabetics and was forced to picture someone having to lift my giant bulk around like that. 

And you know what?  I lost weight all through the holidays – ten pounds each month!

There really is no "good time" to get on track to getting healthy.  Now is as good a time as any.  You watch, over the next few months, all they do is change the packaging around from season to season.  Halloween candy becomes Christmas candy becomes Valentines candy, then Easter candy and finally Mother's day candy.  You get a small candy break from May to late August, then the Halloween candy comes back out again!  And during that break?  Summer vacation, traveling, barbeques, etc.

The cakes and cookies are there all year long with different colored icing to fit the holiday.  If there's no national holiday, there's a wedding, a birthday or an anniversary.

Pick any month and you can find a reason why it's "hard to start a diet this month."

Right now, many folks are thinking "Ok, in January, I'll start exercising and / or dieting.  And because I know that it's coming, I'll go ahead and indulge and enjoy myself over the next couple of months because, come January, no more fun!"

If this is your attitude, let me paint you a more realistic picture.

The average weight gain from Halloween to New Years is about 10 pounds.  So, if you are planning to indulge, you are likely looking at that much additional weight (or more) to deal with in January.  You'll feel run down / lethargic from lots of overeating and worn out from the stress of the holidays.

You'll be in the middle of post-holiday depression and looking at larger than usual credit card bills to pay off and a closet full of clothes that don't fit.

The LAST thing you are going to want to do is to get up on a treadmill!  And you aren't going to feel like spending money on a gym membership or a weight-loss plan.

So why not avoid all of that?  Start planning now, before it all gets beyond your ability to get a handle on it anymore.

How about setting a manageable goal such as not gaining any weight?  If you can do this, you'll start January off 10 pounds ahead and will have a much better attitude and outlook for working on actual weight loss.

Here is my step-by-step holiday survival plan:

1.  Make a list of everything that needs to be done between now and the end of January. 

If you plan that far ahead, you won't be faced with having a lot left to do and everything being disorganized.  By the end of January, you'll be well back on track to your post-holiday routine.  Some examples:

• Buy Halloween Candy
• Plan Thanksgiving meal
• Shop for Thanksgiving
• Christmas Shopping
• Put up Christmas Decorations
• Wrap Presents
• Take down Decorations

List it all.  Put everything on the calendar.  Then create sub-lists:

• Thanksgiving menu
• Christmas Shopping list
• Ideas for gifts
• Decorations I need to buy

Keep your lists from year to year so that you have a starting place each year.  As you go along, make notes of what works and what doesn't for next year's planning. 

2.  Create your meal plans at least two weeks ahead.  Now that your calendar is filled in with your to-dos, you can create a meal plan.

Keep it simple.

You're probably going to have to eat out a couple of times each week, so make a list of nutritionally sound but quick places to eat.  Subway, Souper Salad, etc.  Go online and create a simple low-cal meal for yourself from a few fast food places, print them out and keep them with you.  For example, you can go to Wendy's and get a baked potato and salad, or you can have a grilled chicken sandwich and apple dippers at McDonalds. 

For at-home cooking, create a list of about ten simple meals that you can rotate through.  When you have time, cook for leftovers.  Roasted chicken on the weekend can become chicken burritos or chicken stir-fry on Wednesday.  Stock up on those wonderful microwave-ready veggie combos that are available now.  They come with pasta or rice and some type of sauce.  Combine one of those with any meat cooked in the oven and you have dinner.

Keep a few low-cal frozen dinners on hand just in case.

3.  Stock up on healthy snacks.  Have them available to grab and eat while you are at home or on the go.

• Fruit – Apples, oranges and bananas are all easy to grab and don't have to be refrigerated.
• Sensible snack bars – I like the South Beach ones, but the Fiber One bars are also good.  Look for some that are 15g of sugar (or less) per bar and are high in either fiber or protein.  These will keep you fuller longer.
• Yogurt – the low-sugar kind.  A handy treat to have while you take a few minutes to breathe.
• Light cheese sticks – Have one with a piece of fruit for some added protein.
• Beef Jerky – It travels well and is quick lean protein.

4.  Create your January plan right now. 

Having a plan for post-holiday recovery gives you something to focus on when the holidays are over and will help to eliminate some of the doldrums.  You will be able to keep the plan in the back of your mind throughout the next couple of months and consider different ideas.  Nothing needs to be concrete now, just get a pad of paper or make notes on your computer so that you can read them after the New Year.

Are you going to start going to a gym?  Watch for holiday specials and get signed up in November or December.  Then you are ready to hit the treadmill running come January.

Are you planning to join a commercial weight loss plan?  Join now.  Get all the information and start looking through it over the next couple of months.  You can even start incorporating some of the plan now so that you are that much further ahead after the first of the year.

Obviously, you don't have to do all of these things, but even incorporating a few into your holiday routine is going to give you a much better handle on those holiday temptations.

Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  Yes, an overused quote, but true nevertheless.

Try a little planning this holiday.  Let me know how it works.

Halloween tips

Check out my latest article for a Halloween survival guide.

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