By Kelly Turner for DietsInReview.com
With fall upon us it can only mean one thing: the holidays are looming. If the thought of all those upcoming parties full of fatty foods and calorie-filled cocktails has you already drilling an extra notch in your belt, allow me a few minutes of your time and I promise to reduce your stress.
Most people wait until after the holidays to worry about losing, but even if you are successful, you will only be taking off the extra weight you gained from your care-free attitude toward holiday season eating. Wouldn't it be wonderful if, just this once, your New Year's resolution had nothing to do with losing weight? How great would it feel to get through the entire season without guilt, remorse or shirt buttons that scream for mercy? Start now. It is easier to avoid holiday weight gain if you establish your healthy habits, exercise routine and nutrition plan before the holidays even hit. That way, your momentum and motivation can carry you through the stress of the season and the tempting treats at every turn. There are eight weeks until the holiday season officially starts. If you work hard and really commit, that is plenty of time to get into fantastic shape, lose weight and have enough energy to tackle the end of the year head on.
No one likes to hear it, but no matter how much you exercise, you need to watch what you eat. No need for a fancy diet, however, just follow these two easy steps:
Calculate and count your calories: First, you must figure out how many calories you need each day. Use our calorie calculator to figure out your daily needs. This number is the amount of calories you need to consume to maintain your weight. If weight loss is your goal, subtract 500 from that total. That's how many calories you should eat per day to lose one pound of fat per week (a healthy average). Here are some sample menus you can follow that will ensure you stick to your totals without feeling deprived.
Ditch the Junk: While the number of calories you eat is important, the quality of those calories is just as vital. You have to cut out the crap from your diet. For the next 8 weeks, eliminate processed carbohydrates that cause bloating and unnecessary cravings, eliminate calorie-laden drinks like gourmet coffees and soda that is loaded with sugar, and anything with an ingredient list you cannot pronounce. While this may sound restrictive, eliminating unhealthy foods from your diet that will negatively effect your results will speed up the visible changes in your body. Eating a healthy diet boosts your metabolism, causing you to burn even more calories than you would consuming the same number of calories from unhealthy sources, and will properly fuel your body for your workouts.
An easy rule of thumb: stick to lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and a few healthy fats. Try to eat every 3-4 hours, totaling 5-6 small meals a day. This will keep your metabolism revved and hunger at bay.EXERCISE
Workouts are key. Cardio is important for burning extra calories and strength training is necessary to increase metabolism and create a tight and toned physique.
Cardio: Cardio should be done 4-5 days a week, for about 30-60 minutes a workout, depending on your intensity. You should burn around 300 calories per cardio session, so use a heart rate monitor or the counter on your cardio machine to keep track. Don't limit yourself, however, the more calories you burn, the better.
Strength Training: People underestimate the importance of strength training. The more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you burn through out the day, so don't skip weight training. Strength training is also the only way to actually change the shape of your body.
Train each major muscle group (core, arms, chest, back and legs) 3 times a week, giving each muscle group at least 24 hours to rest in between. Don't know where to begin? Try our Beginner's Guide to Strength Training.
There are a few other things you can do to boost your results.
- Drink water, and drink it often. Carry a water a bottle with you where ever you go and sip all day long. Drinking water will flush out toxins, decrease bloating, kill cravings and will boost your energy.
- Make sure to get your 7-8 hours of sleep a day. Sleep gives your muscles time to rest and repair, and studies have found that people who get enough sleep eat less through out the day and lose more weight.
- Relax. Holiday stress can lead to stress eating, so keep your cool with some relaxation techniques.
It's going to take work, but if you really buckle down and stick to your plan, you can be in the best shape of the year during the holidays. While most people will be giggling like a bowl full of jelly, you will be showing off a firmer set of abs.