Tuesday 12 December 2017

Shape Up: Change festive mindset to avoid New Year bulge

Library Image. Photo: Getty Images
Library Image. Photo: Getty Images

Damien Maher

The recent snowfall once again brought our country to a standstill. Each year it happens, and it seems our ability to deal with such inclement weather never improves.

We as a nation are consistent in that we rarely learn from our mistakes. We are always reacting rather than being proactive.

The elite American armed forces unit, called the Navy Seals, can teach everyone a good lesson in dealing with recurring circumstances such as snow and the countdown to Christmas. Their training is severe to prepare the soldiers physically and mentally for the worst possible scenarios in war.

The Seals go into battle and if they are lucky to return home alive, they put the lessons of war they learnt into their personal book, 'The log of lessons learnt'. This book contains details of the mistakes they made in battle.

Just before the Seals go into battle again, they review the log to ensure they do not make the same mistakes twice. Their lives depend on learning from their mistakes.

What is your log of lessons learnt from this past year?

December is the month you hear stories about how people will gain between five and 10 pounds of body fat in the run-up to Christmas. I'm not sure if this worries you or not, but a lot of people are terrified about getting fatter in the coming weeks.

The reality is the average weight gained is a modest pound, but a study by the National Institutes of Health found that this seasonal weight gain is the kind that most people don't lose when the festivities are over.

You don't just wake up one morning at age 40 or 50 and wonder how come you are 40lbs fatter. It wasn't because you ate a 40lb burger the night before. It was a result of the actions and decisions you made in the years and months previous to this.

Of course, there are others who do manage to gain 10lbs over the holidays, but did you ever take the time to ask yourself why this holiday weight gain happens at all?

It happens to the people who anticipate letting their workouts fall by the wayside while they blow their diet. The goal is to be fit for life -- not just the 11 months before Christmas.


Are you going to be one of them? Will you allow yourself to eat more, exercise less and instead of taking control, resign yourself to maintenance at best? This negative expectancy leads to a self-fulfiling prophecy where you set an unconscious goal to get in worse shape during December.

You may not even realise it, as you would never intentionally set out to get fatter. You may be reverse goal-setting. You simply do it by default. In your mind, you accept that it's impossible to stay in shape with everything going on throughout the month, so you say why bother?

You can try to reinforce your decisions by saying: "I'm more stressed over the holidays, and the food is there so I eat more. It's only three weeks of mayhem and I can lose any pounds I gain at the beginning of January."

Come January, you are in the worst shape you have been in for a year and you frantically make New Year's resolutions to shed the excess fat. You are first in the queue to join a gym because even your fat jeans don't fit -- never mind your skinny ones!

Or you can choose the alternative. The real reason people gain weight in December is because they never set out to do the opposite: that is, to get in better shape in the run-up to Christmas.

Why not be the person who sets their fitness goals for the rest of the year, schedules in their training with set times and set days and plans their food diary in advance? Training four times a week for 45 minutes with a good resistance training programme, incorporating exercises that challenge you, will change your body shape. If you alternate this with a sprint-style interval programme, you can increase the rate at which your body burns calories (known as your metabolic rate).

That way when you go to your New Year's Eve party, you could be 20lbs lighter than your friends.

That is, of course, if you take action.

You can be that person, the one whose New Year's resolution is to be in the best shape of your life as opposed to the guilt-ridden person trying to reclaim what they had.


Irish Independent

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