By John Bobey
Comedian Dave Attell has a joke: “Eggnog, who thought that one up? I wanna’ get a little drunk, but I also want some pancakes.” There’s no denying that the holidays are the time of year when we drink and eat way more than usual, and in the case of eggnog, yes, it can feel like you’re doing both at the same time.
It’s often said that you should enjoy the last week of October, because it’s the thinnest you’re going to be all year, at least until it’s time to make yet another resolution to start working out in January. This has become so ingrained in the popular consciousness that magazines and morning TV shows annually run their “fitness tips” segments in November and December just as surely as gyms offer their “get back into shape” promotions at New Years.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. No, really. The number one, guaranteed, sure fire tip for not packing on the pounds when the holiday parties, cocktail shakers and cookie trays come flying at you is to not…even…try. Rather than get caught up in the endless cycle of denial and indulgence, realize that the holidays are coming at the exact same time as they did last year. Same thing with the Super Bowl, July 4th, your birthday, and the late-night raid on your kids Halloween candy. There are plenty of occasions when circumstance and the fear of being that guy who eats his Labor Day barbecue burger without the bun forces us to change the channel from our regularly scheduled program of healthy eating and exercise. But it shouldn’t matter. If you’ve been keeping your diet in check and you're stopping by the gym often enough to make sure the people at the front desk know your name, trading a few kale salads for pumpkin pie won’t be a big deal.
We are creatures of habit, and Galileo was right that objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Having a fitness plan and working that plan consistently is the key. Studies have shown that people who exercise and eat right regularly are happier, more creative and successful, and generally have a more positive outlook on life. (Bonus—they also look good with their shirt tucked in.) These are just some of the benefits of an overall fitness plan (your doctor could point out some others).
Much like in romance, an on again/off again relationship with fitness ultimately proves unsatisfying and unsuccessful. The soul crushing ineffectiveness of yo-yo dieting and exercising is hardly news, and the “oh no, I overate during the holidays, so now I have to sweat it off on the treadmill” is the stuff of bad sitcoms, not real life. Plus, it doesn’t work. Starting, stopping, and then starting again is way harder than logging a few days a week—every week—in the produce aisle and at the gym. Remember, more muscle than fat on your frame means you burn more calories just sitting there, watching A Christmas Story for the eleven millionth time. That’s not a bad deal.
And oh—the inevitable holiday weight gain that the morning shows warn us about? Turns out it’s an average of... two pounds! The problem is most people never lose that extra weight and it can add up over time. If you take your eye off the ball between the ages of 30 and 40, that’s ten holiday seasons and twenty pounds and two pants sizes. And that guy looks horrible with his shirt tucked in. So instead, be the guy who is either eating right and staying active all year long, or somebody who resolves to start that plan today. Don’t wait for New Year’s.
And once you’re living that life, you can handle an extra helping of stuffing. So don’t avoid the open bar and trays of sliders and shrimp puffs at the office party—this is your permission to dive in! Just be sure you order an Uber and don’t cancel your pickup game the next morning.
John Bobey is a writer/producer living in Los Angeles whose work includes The Today Show, Huffington Post, Saturday Night Live, and The Late Show with David Letterman. He can be reached at email@example.com.