October 31 is the scariest day of the year, and it has nothing to do with Halloween.
Sure, you’re 10x more likely to be attacked by a zombie, scared by a ghost or bitten by a werewolf.
But those incidences pale in comparison to the fright you’ll get on November 1 when you step on the scale.
That’s right, the only true thing to fear is the Attack of the Fun-Size Candy Bars (insert sounds of screaming and wailing)! These small, miniature treats appear harmless enough. They’re so tiny they look as if they’d get stuck between your teeth.
How bad can they be, right?
Therein lies the problem. A single piece on its own, not a problem.
But it never stops there.
It all starts innocently enough with one peanut M&M and doesn’t end until you find yourself lying face down in a pool of melted chocolate, your body outline constructed of empty candy wrappers, as you try to remember what you did during last night’s sugar blackout.
Then you step on the scale.
“How can a person gain possibly 12 pounds overnight?” you exclaim, tossing the bathroom scale out the window, setting off your neighbor’s car alarm.
Then you see the candy wrapper debris field around you.
Physiologically, no, you can’t gain weight that quickly (although water weight gain may register a few pounds heavier). In reality, it takes 3,500 calories to add a pound of fat to your body, so unless you ate 35, 100-calorie mini bars you’re alright.
But the danger begins with a mental state shift that occurs after Halloween.
Throwing caution – and calories – to the wind for one night won’t do a lot of damage on its own, but only as long as you don’t make that your mantra until January 2.
For example, here are a few common, dangerous thoughts that enter many minds during this time of year:
1. “It’s the holidays! Time to forget all about this silly dieting and live it up a little. Hand me that bowl of cheese balls, will ya?”
2. “What’s a little wine/spiked eggnog/hot toddy for breakfast? Cheers!”
3. “I’ll just wear my bathrobe until the first of the New Year, when I’ll burn all of it off at the gymrea.”
We all have good intentions. Eat a little more and get rid of it come January 1. Easy peasy.
In theory, it sounds like a bulletproof plan.
Sure, it’s super simple in concept, but guess what happens in January?
It’s cold, snowy, and dark.
The holidays are over.
No more parties and good cheer.
Just you, lousy weather, and a boatload of leftover treats from three months of celebrating.
In other words, it’s not the most motivating time to start calorie counting. You really have until March, though, right? That still leaves enough time to get in shape for summer at least.
Problem is, something else comes up then, too.
In short: You never lose it.
At least that’s what studies show.
Most people gain only a pound or so over the holidays but then they never take it off. Who worries about a pound, right? Now add that up over 10 or 20 years, throw in menopause, stress, and four new Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors and you’re now up to 20 or more pounds.
So here’s a tip: Avoid the weight gain altogether by starting NOW. Yes, TODAY.
“Wow, maybe she should rename her blog Angry, No-Fun, Buzzkill and Miserable After 50,” you may be thinking.
All I’m saying is you may be torn between overindulging and staying on track during a time when the overindulging opportunities increase 20 fold over the ones that help you stay fit and lean.
Here are some words of wisdom to keep you on the straight and narrow:
1. Do NOT go to parties hungry
Yes, it’s tempting to starve all day so you can pig out at night, but it’s way too easy to more than compensate at night. Eat lightly instead, maybe do a little extra workout both before and the day after your party, but don’t make it an all-out food orgy.
2. Strive to maintain, not lose
Look, it’s hard enough to lose weight any time of the year. The holidays present so many opportunities to fall off the calorie wagon it’s unrealistic to think you can continue to lose weight. So give yourself slack and simply focus on keeping things status quo. Enjoy yourself but keep it within reason.
3. Case the joint first
When you go to parties, take a walk around before you dive into the buffet table. Make a mental plan and pick only what you really want. If you’re not a fan of fried cheese squares, don’t eat one just because it’s offered to you on a frilly toothpick. Pick and choose your calories wisely.
4. Limit alcohol
Here’s the tip you’ll skip. Yes, it’s Miss Booze Buzzkill again. I’d suggest drinking a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage but no one does it (but yes, it’s a good idea if it works for you). Keep in mind that alcohol slows fat burning and increases appetite. As with everything, pick and choose your battles. If you like a glass or two of wine, go easy on fried appetizers. If you live for eggnog, cut back on dessert. You get the idea.
5. Enjoy yourself
Yes, this sounds like a contradiction to points 1 through 4, but it’s not. My point is this: If you focus on family, fun and socializing with people you see only this time of year, food naturally falls into the background. Keep in mind the true meaning of the holidays and you won’t feel as if you’re missing anything.
What will YOU do to keep yourself in check during the holidays? Let me know in the comments below…
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Your Ageless Body Coach,
Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.