How to go overboard without jumping ship

The last few weeks have tested my commitment to a healthy lifestyle. Since Thanksgiving, the gatherings and access to plates of sweet and savory food have come weekly, with delicious dinners and rich deserts around every corner.

I’ve indulged, a lot. I didn’t restrict the amount of times I filled my plate or how many deserts I chose to consume during this time. In the moment, it was great. The next day? Not so much.

I am the type of person that easily falls victim to the “all or nothing” mentality that so often accompanies a diet. I still struggle with rebounding after a big meal and especially after I eat a lot of sugar. It’s so easy to say, “Well, I might as well eat whatever I want the rest of the day” when you don’t track the calories for a couple of meals.

And while I did gain a pound or two over the holidays, there are a few things that kept me motivated throughout the past month so those two pounds didn’t and don’t turn into 10 or 20 pounds.

1. My personal trainer. I meet with my trainer about twice a week and he always asks me about my eating habits. Over the past month, I tried to schedule sessions with him for the day of or day after a big event. This ensured I either started my day with healthy habits, or had an early morning session looming over my night of eating and drinking. Believe me, a hungover workout would have been miserable. Having scheduled appointments also meant I was at least going to the gym twice a week and made it less likely that I skipped on solo workouts.

2. Eating healthy when I had control. I really tried to make most of my meals healthy when I could, so when I did indulge it was only during one sitting and didn’t carry over into days or weeks. I didn’t take leftovers from anyone and I didn’t bake too many of my own sweets. Having fresh meals packed with fruits and veggies to look forward to really kept me on track and feeling good after too much salt or sugar intake.

3. Setting fitness goals. Thanksgiving 2011 marked my first 5K race! Running the 3.1 miles has been a lifelong dream of mine and it was finally accomplished this year. While I plan to discuss how I got started running in another post, I will say that having a fitness goal really kept me from gaining weight. Knowing that I had a race to run provided the motivation to wake up and go to the gym when it was cold, head to bed early when I wanted to stay out and kept me from slacking on strength training. I knew that if I measured my success on eating perfectly during the Thanksgiving/Christmas season, I would end up feeling like a failure and being frustrated. Instead, I focused on my other healthy habits. Running the race also gave me a sense of accomplishment when the numbers on the scale weren’t dropping.

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I would say that I’m ready to jump back into calorie counting full force now that the holidays are over, but for the next three weeks I will be traveling in India. Like I mentioned in this post, I have some anxiety about not having access to a scale or being in control of what and when I eat. My healthy goals for this trip are simply to not eat too many sweets. Other than that, I’m really hoping to relax and practice intuitive eating, which for me means turning down food when I’m full. A lot of my meals will be with other people, so I won’t really have control over the times I eat, but I will be able to control how much.

I’m also taking my sneakers and hope to get in some early morning workouts when I have the time and the space. In reality, I know this may not happen, but my intention is to get some kind of movement in on the days I don’t do a lot of walking and sight seeing.

By the time I come back, I know I’ll be more than ready to make my own food again and get back into a routine. It’s also when I’ll be setting my goals for 2012.

My plane takes off tomorrow night and I couldn’t be more excited! I plan to continue blogging during the trip as much as I can – so check back often!

I hope everyone had a good holiday season, and I’m sure many of you were like me and are glad to get back to normal!

Bon Voyage!

– J