12/27/2013 12:16 EST | Updated 02/26/2014 05:59 EST

Enjoy Holiday Glee Without Weight Gain Guilt

'Tis the season to engage in holiday cheer with family and friends, sings songs, play games and feast on whichever meals and treats are traditional in your family. It's a time to be grateful for all the wonderful things and people who surround us. There's one problem: Why does it feel like even before the tinsel's been removed from the tree or the wax has melted from the Menorah, we are bombarded with messages from TV talk shows and diet company commercials telling us it's time to repent for everything we've eaten or had to drink during the holidays?

After weeks of baking and sharing recipes, talk instantly turns to dieting and losing weight. It's almost like giving a child the video game they asked Santa for, only to turn around and call them lazy for playing with it!

It's gotten to the point where many people find it nearly impossible to eat something without an instant calorie count coming to mind. I will never forget how frustrating it was last Christmas when I was at the gym doing a spin class and feeling pretty good about doing something good for myself, when the instructor ruined it for me by explaining that we would need to do seven spin classes in order to burn off one Christmas dinner! Was that really necessary? If she was trying to be motivating, she had failed miserably.

Here's the good news: All that shame and guilt we feel post-holiday indulgence is unwarranted. The best way to return to our pre-holiday weight is not by dieting, but by returning to our regular, balanced meals and active lifestyles.

For 2013, the top resolution that Americans will make is to lose weight. According to CNN, losing weight was also #1 on our lists of resolutions in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Sadly, while intentions are good, results aren't as promising. According to O magazine, 80 per cent of people who lose weight gain it right back. Any regular gym-goers know to expect their gyms to get busier in January with an influx of new members and then quiet down by mid-February when these members give up.

Here are a few common mistakes we make post-holiday season:

1) Completely Overindulge with plans to restrict later on:

"I'm going to eat everything I can now and start a strict diet January 1!"

2) Set unrealistic goals:

"I will lose 50 pounds by March, even if it kills me!"

3) Make exercise a punishment:

"I've been BAD, so I will make myself go to the gym every day, whether I like it or not."

A better way to handle it:

  1. Do not shock your body with a very restrictive diet, instead, return to a balanced diet with the focus being on healthy choices and portions. Believe it or not, your body knows where it wants to be and with proper food and activity, will get there easier than you'd expect.
  2. Set realistic goals based on improvement. Your aim should be to improve your fitness level which includes things like strength and flexibility. Speak to a fitness professional about what you can expect and appreciate the positive changes as they come.
  3. Do not make exercise a punishment.

Being active is a good thing. Don't think of it as something you do because you hate your body, but something you do because you love it and want it to be healthy. Exercise doesn't have to happen in a gym either -- find something you enjoy doing and you'll be much more successful at sticking with it. Some people enjoy the atmosphere of group classes at fitness clubs, while others prefer to on a sports team or walking club. Try a few things and discover what works best for you.

Guilt and shame are never good motivators. Enjoy your holiday and every day that comes after it!


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