The Dangerous Holimonth

Don't let December turn into a monthlong health and fitness break

You don't have to eat perfectly or work out daily, but a little holiday maintenance will help avoid having to start all over again January 1st.

Holidays are designated days of relaxation and are a great time to enjoy family, friends and celebrate life. However, it’s important to remember it’s a holiday—or, if you’re lucky, a long holiweekend, which you can look forward to and get some extra rest and mental space from your routines—but you need to be careful not to check out of your healthy lifestyle for a week or more. Most anti-fitness breaks start with a holiweek that snowballs into a holimonth or holiyear.

If you normally use the holidays as an excuse for unhealthy choices, remember Newton’s first law: An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion until acted upon. What is true for physics is interestingly quite true for human behaviors as well. When you workout, isn’t it easier to also eat healthy? And when you are working out several times a week, doesn’t it feel almost easier to just stick with the routine and hit the gym again the next day? However, when you’ve fallen off healthy eating and preparing healthy food, it can seem like such a chore to make a healthy home-cooked meal one night. This is true of almost any similar positive behavior, such as reading, meditating, cooking, or making time for those you love. When you’re doing it, it feels easier and enjoyable, but when you aren’t, it feels like a huge effort to start it up again.

I am no psychologist, but I’d guess that making mental and physical routine changes actually requires more energy. It requires us to both face the unwanted behaviors we have been doing—which can generate guilt and lower self-worth, which are draining negative emotions—and it also takes physical energy to start exercising again after you’ve been sedentary.

Often, we make an even bigger mental drama of starting back up so we procrastinate and sometimes wait for the perfect conditions to appear before restarting. To avoid this wasted time and energy this year, take a cue from Philly’s own Ben Franklin, who said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Instead of putting yourself through all of that post-holiday drama, do what I, along with my team of trainers, do: slip into “maintenance mode.” Do what you can. Try to workout a few minutes every day and get in at least a one to two workouts each week. Try to make smart food choices. The average American gains a pound or two each year over the holidays that they rarely lose. In ten years that could be 20 pounds! The little workouts and smart food choices you make time for this year will help you stay healthy and fit for years to come.

Gavin McKay is the owner and creator of Fusion Cross-training with locations in Center City, Philadelphia and Mt. Laurel, New Jersey. He’ll be sharing his fitness tips and advice weekly on Be Well Philly. Read more about Gavin and his role at Be Well Philly here.