Dealing with the Fitness Cliff

Lots of concern these days about the so-called Fiscal Cliff the U.S. is facing. While it worries me to some degree, now that I’ve voted and sent my views to my congressional “leaders”, there’s really nothing else I can do about it.

Of more immediate concern to me is the looming “Fitness Cliff” in the months ahead. You know the one. It goes like this:

fitness cliff illustration

Taken individually, each of these events or situations is a minor bump on the healthier living road. No problem, you just grip the wheel a little tighter and keep on going.

Bunches of bumps in a two-month period can leave us feeling jittery, as if each bump inches (or catapults) us closer to the precipice of dietary doom, and we’ll wake up in January flat on our padded backsides at the bottom of the cliff, with a piece of fudge in one hand and a cup of spiked eggnog in the other. (But what a way to go, right?)

The good news is that, much like the Fiscal Cliff, the Fitness Cliff has solutions. We can:

  1. Jump! Eat, drink, be merry, and deal with the consequences later.
  2. Refuse to budge. Cross our arms over our well-toned (or soon to be well-toned) chests and don’t give an inch.
  3. Find a middle ground and build a plan to get there.

I spent the first half of my life employing option #1. It was fun but not particularly healthy.

I spent a total of ONE holiday season under option #2. It was healthy but not particularly fun. I’d been at this tippy-toe thing for six months and was on a roll. And then I had surgery on both feet just before Thanksgiving and was put on exercise restriction for the ENTIRE HOLIDAY SEASON! Not wanting to lose ground, I dug in and blazed through December like some sort of Camtila-the-Hun, ruthlessly weeding any hint of culinary joy from my path. I stormed into the new year victorious…and semi-miserable. It hadn’t felt like the holidays at all.

Since then (four years now?), I’ve worked to find a happy middle ground, one that allows me to enjoy both the fellowship and the foods of the holiday season and move into the new year with a happy spirit, but doesn’t lead me too far away from my version of a healthier lifestyle. While it might not work for everyone, it seems to work for me. So far.

If you’re looking for tips on a “compromise approach”, here are a few tips to ease the way a healthy but indulgent holiday season.

  • Choose your battles. Identify the foods or drinks that represent your holidays and choose those for indulgence. For example, I don’t drink alcohol very often (I like to chew my calories), so it’s easy for me to skip it entirely during the holidays. I’d rather have Memaw’s from-scratch biscuits on Christmas morning and a couple of pieces of her divinity that afternoon. I can have wine any time, but divinity only happens at Christmas!
  • Keep the routine times routine. Unless you’re at a holiday brunch, stick to your normal healthy breakfast of oats, yogurt, whatever. The same goes for lunches and at-home dinners. Maintain your balanced, nutritious meals and exercise program when you’re not celebrating.
  • Add in extra exercise when possible. Taking a long walk before or after (or heck, before and after) a holiday meal is a great way to burn a few extra calories and to release any lingering stresses.
  • Build up your “excuse bank” now. I have well-meaning friends and family who measure the success of a holiday gathering on how much food guests are eating. “Aren’t you going to have some of my {insert something I didn’t want here}?” or “Is that all you’re eating?” are frequent questions. Over time, I’ve created a handy set of white lies responses, including:
    – “Of course, I’m saving that for my finale!”
    – “Oh, I didn’t see that. I’ll have some later!”
    – “I had some earlier and it was divine.”
    Dishonest? Yes. Non-wet-blankety-holiday-spirit response? Yes. The alternatives, “No, I’m going to pick up some of that cheap deli-bought potato salad on my way home” or “No, if it tastes as disgusting as it looks, I’ll pass” don’t win you any party prizes.

That, in a nutshell, is my holiday plan. I will undoubtedly indulge too much at times, but I’ll spend a far greater amount of time well away from the edge of the fitness cliff, happily munching on my fruits and veggies and mostly whole foods and enjoying some really great workouts. In doing so, I’ll improve the odds of welcoming a new year with a smile on my face and wearing the same size pants.

And if the worse happens and I do go over the edge, I’m counting on getting snagged on a jagged outcropping so I don’t have too far to climb back to the top. :)

Do you have a plan for the holidays? Do these last two months of the year have you worrying about free-falling?

10 thoughts on “Dealing with the Fitness Cliff

  1. I am trying really hard to keep the indulgences to holidays and events and not just every day because it is the holiday season. I will be biking more now that the bikes are on the trainers and I am not just hoping for a nice day to get out there 😀

  2. Very clever! I have done it both ways too. This year I am trying to minimize the damage, and maybe even improve during the next few weeks. So exercise is amped up, and I think I will only indulge on the actual days. My social calendar is pretty bare, so that is actually good. Not so much to navigate through!

  3. I indulge in the stuff I can’t get any time of year like stuffing, grandma’s noodles, my homemade light pumpkin pie, etc. I’ve got my own turkey slices and frozen and same with the stuffing. I make GOOD homemade stuffing but the fam doesn’t appreciate it so we have it on high cal day Saturday (even though it’s not high cal but paired with some leftovers of Grandma’s noodles…carb hell!) We always exercise that day so we feel a little better about the day.

  4. I’m lucky in a way – I cook Christmas dinner:) And social circle is pretty limited so the temptations will be few!

    But, my “plan” is to incorporate some new exercise in December to slay the wonderfully delicious I mean evil evil bad bad yummies that the holidays bring!

    Great post!!

  5. I love your fitness cliff image, Cammy! Very nice. :)

    I am like you – gotta indulge, but keep it real. My plan is to exercise as much as possible.

    Have a great Thanksgiving!!

  6. LOVE the way you deal with this Cammy!

    I tend to live it pretty much like all days except I may PLAN to indulge a TINY bit more. I eat healthy at the meals, keep to my exercise schedule & really, the only things that tempt me are the sweets, not the meal foods so it is easy for me to stay true to my healthy eats there.

    The fact that I know I can treat thru the year if I really want to keeps me from getting too obsessed with holiday like I did when I was younger & stupid! :)

    I do make it a point to only eat things that are close to 10 out of 10 for me. I don’t eat just because it is there any more! Mentally, not worth it for me! :)

  7. Cammy .. Great post! I love The Fitness Cliff because that is how “failure” happens over the holidays. One or two meals don’t do it. It’s the constant eating off plan for six weeks that one holi-DAY seems to set up. It’s the parties, food in the office, left overs, etc. We then plan to get back on track in January. My recent blog post details my plan for the next six weeks. I’m going to continue my pictorial food diary. This will limit grazing and picking up food while in denial. My plan also includes a boundary of when I’ll eat off plan and when I’ll go back on plan. Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. Love that diagram – its very descriptive of what can happen so easily! I think your tips are great. At the moment I’m taking healthy packed lunch to work every day and trying not to eat or buy anything extra.

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