Happy (Healthy) Holidays

A Blog Post all about How You can make a Plan to have a Happy, and Healthy Holiday Season!

Photo by Oleg Zaicev on Pexels.com

Jingle All the Way! Catching Up on the Series

If you are brand new to my Blog or this Holiday posting series, welcome! This post series is the final leg in a series about breaking the Holiday Cycle of adding pounds and inches to our waist from October- January 1, and making a New Year’s resolution to essentially undo the damage. If we are not careful, this can be an annual occurrence.

This blog series is a case study format, I made a Holiday Health plan for myself and documented my progress. For more information on this topic and ideas to make your own Healthy Holiday plan, please see my previous post.

These posts were broken up into a series, so please also see my Thanksgiving post to catch up on the first month of the Holiday Season. This will show how November went for me, and also tips I share from my experience.

Summary of Tips, Challenges, and Highlights [Video]

My Top Tips for Healthy Holiday Success

During the program, I included a series of tips and strategies that worked well for me, I invite you to take a look at them below and hope they may give you some ideas or inspiration.

Intermittent Fasting: Put simply, intermittent fasting is going period of time without eating or drinking anything with significant calories (black coffee has some calories, but does not break a fast). There are potential metabolic benefits to fasting, and it is also a strategy to help manage your overall intake of food in a day. If you eat breakfast at 6 am, Lunch at 12 noon, dinner at 6 pm, and have late night snacks after dinner, your overall intake of food/calories will likely be higher than if you manage all meals within an 8 hour time frame each day.

The basic concept is to have a 16 hour fast, and an 8 hour period in which to eat your meals; this protocol can be adjusted to incorporate a longer fast and shorter eating period as well. The style I used this week was one meal a day (OMAD) intermittent fasting.

This is something I have in my dietary toolbelt because I spent some time building this metabolic flexibility while trying out the Keto diet for 30 days in September. If you started off trying to manage with one meal per day, it may be quiet uncomfortable if you have not spent some time trying out fasting and adjusting. If you wanted to give intermittent fasting a try, here is an idea:

  1. Eat dinner at 6 pm after a normal day, no late night snacks.
  2. When you wake up, do not eat breakfast, only have black coffee, tea, or water (no sugar or artificial sweetener.
  3. If you get hungry before 10 am, drink plenty of water.
  4. Eat your first meal at 10 am.

You have just fasted 16 hours!

I found that utilizing intermittent fasting a few days per week (especially the week of a holiday) helped me operate with slightly fewer calories than I need. This slight calorie deficit to (hopefully) help balance out the holidays that week.

Hydration: Hydration is important with any nutrition plan, but especially with intermittent fasting. Your body will sometimes send signals that indicate hunger, when actually you are thirsty and just need some water. And when I say hydration, I mean pure, clean water…you can have other beverages during the day, but the majority of your fluid intake should be water. Here is a helpful previous post on Hydration.

Eliminate Trigger Foods: Trigger Foods are foods that you are unable to stop eating once you have even a little bit, and they are different for everyone. It doesn’t matter if the food is “healthy” or not, what matters is your ability to control intake and stop eating the food. Mixed nuts may be considered “healthy”, but for me they can be a trigger food, so I avoided them during my Holiday plan.

Eliminate (or greatly reduce) Grain, Added Sugar, Alcohol: This is a strategy I picked up during my Whole 30, and found that there are exponential returns on your health and energy levels when eliminating these food and drink groups. If you think of your trigger foods from above, I bet you a vast majority of them either have grain, or added sugar (or, you have a harder time controlling the trigger food if you have a few drinks).

Make the Weekend Winning Time! Use the weekend to get even more sleep, spend more time meal planning, and do some fun movements and exercise. If you party, drink, have treats, and stay up late on weekends (every weekend), you take away progress you are working towards.

Exercise on the Holiday! Even if you are going to have your favorite treats on the Holiday, make it a point to move and exercise. Do something that is fun and meaningful for you; walk, run, push up, pull up, lift weights. Make exercise and movement part of your celebration, you will feel great, and rev up that metabolism before your big day!

Theme your workout for the Holiday to give you extra motivation. If you like to run, go for a jog Thanksgiving morning and call it the “Turkey Trot”, for example. I used “Jingle (Kettle) Bells” and featured Kettlebell or Barbell exercises on all weight training days, as my theme for December.

Stick to your plan. You made a plan to be healthy during the holidays, make sure you stick with it! No late night snacks on Tuesday, no drinks and delivery Pizza on Wednesday before Thanksgiving Thursday (for example). If your plan is to dial in your nutrition every day except the Holiday, stick to your plan! Part two of this tip is immediately get back on your plan after the Holiday. Allowing the same habits to stick around for another week can be bad news for your goals, so get back to it!

On the Holiday, Eat what you like! What I mean by this is when you are deciding to enjoy a Holiday, or any particular meal, eat the foods you really like. You have already decided that it is ok to indulge a little bit and have some treats, but there is really no need to add foods to your plate that you consider to be just “ok”. For example, if you love Turkey and Mashed Potatoes, but can’t stand green bean casserole, skip the casserole! Do not worry about counting calories on the Holiday, but do consider that eating foods you don’t really love fills you up unnecessarily, can make you uncomfortable, and take away from the enjoyment of the day. Another example of this is eating things simply because they are there, like appetizers. Apply the same logic, if you really like the appetizer being served have it, if you don’t, skip it!

Exercise the Day After. No matter how you feel the day after a Holiday, get up and do something. Even if it is as basic as a walk, getting up and exercise the day after helps renew your commitment to health and wellness. The trick is, make a specific plan. In your plan, include what you will do for exercise, and when you will do it…if you leave it open ended “I will do some type of exercise the day after Christmas”, you are much less likely to follow through as compared to making a specific plan. I found from my experience that when I knew a workout was coming the next morning, I didn’t over indulge quite as much as I might have otherwise.

Sleep. Make sure you focus on quality sleep is part of your routine to be happy and healthy during the holidays. Sleep is low hanging fruit when it comes to getting some excellent benefits related to your energy levels and overall healthy. Strive for at least 7-8 quality hours per night.

How I made My Plan

To make my plan, I thought specifically about how I wanted to be performing, looking, and feeling on January 1. I thought about what I would need to do for exercise, and how I would need to eat to achieve the desired results.

Tips on Getting Started

(Adapted from a previous blog post)

  1. Make this winnable! I am using my plan as an example, not as a template for you. You may look at my routine and goals, and think “no way am I doing that, way too intense!” You also may look at my exercise routine and think “Dom, those lifts are weak sauce, need more  intensity!” Start with where you are, make goals to get better, execute your specific goals and plan so you can win.
  2. Write it down! You have to write down your goals, and write down your progress towards them. If you do not track goals and progress, you won’t have a sense of direction or accomplishment, and most likely lack motivation. You cannot hit a target that you cannot see.
  3. Make time! You need to make time in your week to grocery shop, meal plan, meal prep, and exercise. Add this to your calendar like you do a work appointment, or it will not happen.

My plan was to focus on maintaining my frequency and intensity of exercise through the Holiday season, and to not gain weight or belt loop holes in between November-January.

My Specific Goals

I made myself some specific, measurable, realistic goals to hold myself accountable during the Holiday season. These were goals I made back on November 9, which held fairly consistent from November 9-January 1 with a minor adjustment in the Cardio goal.

  1. Make sure that added Sugar, Grain, and Alcohol stay in the treat category (once per week max), focus on whole, unprocessed food being dietary staples.
  2. Keep weight on the scale, and belt loop the same, or improve them (I don’t want to have to loosen my belt on January 1, compared to November).
  3. Assure that my weekly frequency of cardio exercise stays the same, even when the weather gets colder.
  4. Add volume (reps and sets) to my upper body, body weight exercise routine of Pull Ups, Dips, and Push Ups.
  5. Assure to wear blue light glasses before bed each night, consistent bed time, strive for 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.

The plan also included a weekly check in on these major goals, to see how I was doing, and any adjustments I may have needed to make to stay on track.

My Daily Journal Structure

*A word about my daily journals and routine. The main reasons I include my daily journals in this series are as follows:

  1. To show an example of what a daily journal can look like and hopefully spark some creative thinking and ideas for readers.
  2. To hold myself accountable…writing down my food intake and exercise/activity on the internet is a big motivating factor for me to follow through on my goals.

My daily journals are not intended to be a prescriptive program for readers to follow, this is simply what works for me. Whether it be my exercise routine, what I eat, or when I eat…it falls under the umbrella of “this is what works for me”. If you are interested in any of my rationale behind my meal timing and planning, I would invite you to take a look at my Thanksgiving post, sub heading of “Dietary Strategies I Use“.

Below is a sample of one of my daily journal entries and the structure I followed:

Monday

Exercise: Nordic Track, 60 minutes, 3.70 miles (no “ski poles)

Food and Drink:

Morning: Coffee, water.

Around 7:30 am: Black coffee.

During work day: Plenty of water, 2 green teas.

Around 4:30 pm: Spicy coleslaw made with slaw mix, olives, chopped garlic, hot pepper, dressed with salt, pepper, avocado mayo, apple cider vinegar, sriracha sauce; 1 can sardines; 1 sliced avocado; 1 cup air dried kale chips.

My Before and After Stats

Timeframe of all stats and photos: Date of Before is November 9, 2020, after is January 1, 2021.

Photos:

Before
After

Weight:

Before-201.6 pounds

After- 198.0 pounds

Both photos and weigh ins were taken after morning cardio, to keep conditions similar.

Belt Loop: 

Before- 4th (4th is ok, 5th is better, 3rd is not good…higher belt loops=lower waist circumference)

After- 5th belt loop

Cardio Frequency: 

Before- At least 2 walks (or equivalent) at least 1 jog (or equivalent) per week. Best run of a 4.9 mile loop, 48:30

After- At least 3 Cardio sessions per week, 60 minutes in duration (Nordic Track Machine).

How did I do?

Overall, I was very happy with accomplishing the goals I set for myself during the Holidays. The week between Christmas and New Years had a little bit of slide when it came to diet (reflected on the scale), but I did stay consistent with my exercise routine.

During the Holidays, I found it very beneficial to have nutritional guidelines to keep myself on track, and also to have exercise goals for motivation and accountability. I hope this blog series was helpful, and gave you some ideas you could apply to a New Years Resolution, Summer Vacations, or Next Year’s Holidays!

Until next time, stay Healthy my friends!

Jingle Kettlebells-Week 3

Week 3 of a Plan to Break the Holiday Cycle and End 2020 Healthy and Fit

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Catching up on the Jingle

If you are brand new to my blog or this Holiday posting series, welcome! This post series is the final leg in a series about breaking the Holiday Cycle of adding pounds and inches to our waist from October- January 1, and making a New Year’s resolution to essentially undo the damage. If we are not careful, this can be an annual occurrence. For more information on this topic and ideas to make your own Healthy Holiday plan, please see my previous post.

Challenges This Week

Idle time was a challenge this week. This came in the form of time off of work, unstructured time. I find that whenever I have time off, if I am not careful to plan my routine, treats tend find their way in to the daily routine. At the start of the week, I made a plan to continue my exercise routine, and did my usual meal prep as if it were a work week. I also took an inventory of some household tasks and errands that could be accomplished during my time off, to add additional structure to my days leading in to the Holidays.

Tip of the Week

Don’t forget to hydrate! Even during the winter months when it is cold, if you are exercising or clearing snow outside, you still need to hydrate. It may not seem intuitive to hydrate when it is cold outside, but you still sweat and lose fluid through breathing the same way you do during the summer. Build in hydration breaks, and also have some water after you finish your exercise or snow clean up.

Hydration is important with any nutrition plan, but especially with intermittent fasting. Your body will sometimes send signals that indicate hunger, when actually you are thirsty and just need some water. And when I say hydration, I mean pure, clean water…you can have other beverages during the day, but the majority of your fluid intake should be water. Here is a helpful previous post on Hydration.

My Strategies for Healthy Holidays

As a reminder from week 2, I made myself some specific plans and strategies to keep myself on track this week. Here they are:

  • Continue nutrition and exercise plan through Wednesday.
  • A slightly longer period of fasting Wednesday going into Thursday, and also Thursday going in to Friday.
  • Morning Exercise Thursday, with slightly higher volume (weight training). This will be a themed workout, Ring those Bells! Featuring Barbell Deadlifts, Kettlebell Swings, and Kettlebell Push Presses.
  • Exercise on Friday, cardio. This will be a themed workout, the Jingle all the Way Holiday Trot! AKA, going for a run in the cold.
  • Morning exercise on Saturday (Kettlebell Swings, Push Ups). This will be a themed workout, Answer the Bell post Holiday Jingle.

Daily Journals

*A word about my daily journals and routine. The main reasons I include my daily journals in this series are as follows:

  1. To show an example of what a daily journal can look like and hopefully spark some creative thinking and ideas for readers.
  2. To hold myself accountable…writing down my food intake and exercise/activity on the internet is a big motivating factor for me to follow through on my goals.

My daily journals are not intended to be a prescriptive program for readers to follow, this is simply what works for me. Whether it be my exercise routine, what I eat, or when I eat…it falls under the umbrella of “this is what works for me”. If you are interested in any of my rationale behind my meal timing and planning, I would invite you to take a look at my Thanksgiving post, sub heading of “Dietary Strategies I Use”.

Sunday

Exercise: A few random sets of pull ups, push ups, dips (in between present wrapping and house chores), around 1 mile walk, stretch and foam roll.

Food and Drink

Morning: Black Coffee and water.

Around 8:30 am: Bulletproof Coffee.

During afternoon: 1 stout beer, 2 scotches.

Around 6:30 pm: Beef rib roast, mashed potatoes, roast vegetables.

Monday

Exercise: Nordic Track, 60 minutes, 3.53 miles, using “ski poles”.

Food and Drink

Morning: Black coffee, water.

Around 11 am: Black coffee.

Around 1 pm: Spicy Coleslaw Spicy coleslaw made with slaw mix, olives, chopped garlic, hot pepper, dressed with salt, pepper, avocado mayo, apple cider vinegar, sriracha sauce; pepperoni.

Around 5 pm: Ginger tea and water.

Tuesday

Exercise: Weight training. Pull up 6,7,7,6,5; Dip 7,8,9,8,7; Push up 10,9,8,8,7; Total Gym row 12,12,12,12,10; Ab wheel roll 10,10,10,10,10; Kettlebell Swing 53 lbs 12,15,15,15

For the above exercises, what I did is go through each exercise in the order listed, with very little rest in between each exercise, and then take a few minutes rest after Kettlebell swings before starting with Pull up again.

Food and Drink

Morning: Black coffee, water.

Around 9 am: Bulletproof coffee.

Around 1 pm: Spicy Coleslaw Spicy coleslaw made with slaw mix, olives, chopped garlic, hot pepper, dressed with salt, pepper, avocado mayo, apple cider vinegar, sriracha sauce; pork rinds; beef jerky stick.

Around 5 pm: Ginger tea and water.

Wednesday

Exercise: Nordic Track, 60 minutes, 3.60 miles, using “ski poles”.

Food and Drink

Morning: Black coffee, water.

Around 8 am: Black Iced coffee.

Around 9:30 am: Beef jerky stick, pork rinds, 10 olives, cheddar cheese 🧀.

Around 12:30 pm: Cold brew coffee, 2 spoons coconut oil.

Around 5:30 pm: Ginger tea.

Thursday

Exercise: “Ring the Bells!” Deadlifts-205: 3, 225: 3,3; Double Kettlebell Push Press 35s: 10, 44s: 6,7,7,7; 2 Hand Kettlebell Swing 72: 5,6,7,7,7; Hanging Leg Raise 10,10,10,10,10

*I performed the exercises in the order above after warming up on the Deadlift, taking very little rest in between exercises (a few minutes before each Deadlift set), probably about 40-45 minutes total time.

Friday

Exercise: “Jingle all the way Holiday Trot”, around 5 mile outdoor run, around an hour total time. The main challenge of this run was rain, rather than cold…it was in the 50’s and raining on Christmas Day.

*Saturday is posting day.

Included Saturday was a morning themed workout “Answer the Bell”. I needed to adjust this workout, I was a bit sore due to my run (I hadn’t run in over a month). I turned this “workout” into stretch, foam rolling, and walking.

My Weekly Progress Report

This is an update to see how I did on my goals/focus areas for the week, here is my check in for week 3:

  1. Sugar, Grain, Alcohol were treats only outside Holidays. I was particularly happy that I stuck to this plan Monday- Wednesday, especially being off work and having lots of access to snacks and drinks.
  2. Weight on Thursday (due to Friday travel was) 193.2 pounds, which is about half a pound lighter than last week. I’m not counting calories, but I suspect I’ve been operating at a deficit on my intermittent fasting days. That, combined with limited treats and my exercise routine are logical contributing factors to lower scale weight. Also, 5th belt loop, so waist circumference is staying steady.
  3. I met my goal of three 60 minute cardio sessions this week!
  4. I assured that each weight training day featured a kettlebell, and/or a barbell exercise, and added themed workouts for extra motivation!
  5. I wore blue light glasses every light at least 1 hour before bed, and was able to log 2 days of 7 hours of sleep. I also grabbed a few naps during the week due to time off.

Looking Ahead to Next Week

Next week has 1 Holiday, New Years Eve! I personally do not treat New Years day like a Holiday when it comes to eat, drink, and be merry…more like a day of reflection and planning for the upcoming year. It will be important for me to dial my nutrition plan back in after the recent Holidays to close 2020 on a high note!

Next week’s post will be a wrap up/summary of the entire Holiday season from November 9- January 1. This will be an opportunity to see how accountable I stayed to my plan, and also share my top tips for Healthy Holidays. For context, I’ll give you a window into my stats from January 1, 2020, when I did not make a plan.

Thanks for following along, see you in 2021!

Photo by Nicole Michalou on Pexels.com

Jingle Kettlebells-Week 2

Week 2 of a Plan to Break the Holiday Cycle and End 2020 Healthy and Fit

Photo by Oleg Zaicev on Pexels.com

Catching up on the Jingle

If you are brand new to my blog or this Holiday posting series, welcome! This post series is the final leg in a series about breaking the Holiday Cycle of adding pounds and inches to our waist from October- January 1, and making a New Year’s resolution to essentially undo the damage. If we are not careful, this can be an annual occurrence. For more information on this topic and ideas to make your own plan, please see my previous post.

Week 2 of my plan has been very successful when it comes to meeting guidelines and milestones I have set for a happy and healthy Holiday Season!

Challenges This Week

Well, we had a snow storm Thursday, which slightly threw off my perfect plan of the 5 day report to work week and the nutrition and exercise routine which accompanies. Thursday turned into remote work, clean up snow, and daddy day care. This added a slight bit of stress, and also some temptation related to having some nice dark beers after snow clean up, which is not part of my usual Thursday nutrition routine. I met this challenge by counting snow clean up as exercise Thursday (subbing out my planned weight training), and getting right back on plan Friday morning with my planned cardio and intermittent fasting. Unexpected changes in routine will come up, and it is very important that we think on our feet and make good decisions that support our goals when life happens.

Tip of the Week

Plan to exercise the day before, the day of, and the day after your Holiday! Making an exercise plan, and sticking to it will help affirm your commitment to your Health and Wellbeing. Even if it is going out for a walk the morning after your Holiday, the accountability and continuation of your fitness routine will go a long way towards ending 2020 on a high note. The trick is, make a specific plan. In your plan, include what you will do for exercise, and when you will do it…if you leave it open ended “I will do some type of exercise the day after Christmas”, you are much less likely to follow through as compared to making a specific plan. I will share my specific plans for next week at the end of the post, I hope you will consider making a plan of your own!

Daily Journals

*A word about my daily journals and routine. The main reasons I include my daily journals in this series are as follows:

  1. To show an example of what a daily journal can look like and hopefully spark some creative thinking and ideas for readers.
  2. To hold myself accountable…writing down my food intake and exercise/activity on the internet is a big motivating factor for me to follow through on my goals.

My daily journals are not intended to be a prescriptive program for readers to follow, this is simply what works for me. Whether it be my exercise routine, what I eat, or when I eat…it falls under the umbrella of “this is what works for me”. If you are interested in any of my rationale behind my meal timing and planning, I would invite you to take a look at my Thanksgiving post, sub heading of “Dietary Strategies I Use“.

Sunday

Exercise: Active rest (stretch and foam roll)

Food and Drink

Morning: Black coffee, water.

Around 9 am: Green tea.

Around 12:30 pm: Leftover greek salad with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Afternoon: 1 stout beer, 2 scotches.

Around 6 pm: Beef tenderloin, crab cakes, side of potatoes with cheese.

Monday

Exercise: Nordic Track, 60 minutes, 3.70 miles (no “ski poles)

Food and Drink:

Morning: Coffee, water.

Around 7:30 am: Black coffee.

During work day: Plenty of water, 2 green teas.

Around 4:30 pm: Spicy coleslaw made with slaw mix, olives, chopped garlic, hot pepper, dressed with salt, pepper, avocado mayo, apple cider vinegar, sriracha sauce; 1 can sardines; 1 sliced avocado; 1 cup air dried kale chips.

Tuesday

Exercise: Weight training. Pull up 6,7,6,6; Dip 7,8,9,8; Push up 10,10,8,7; Total Gym row 12,12,12,12; Ab wheel roll 10,10,10,10; Kettlebell Swing 53 lbs 12,12,12,12

For the above exercises, what I did is go through each exercise in the order listed, with very little rest in between each exercise, and then take a few minutes rest after Kettlebell swings before starting with Pull up again.

Food and Drink:

Morning: Coffee, water.

Around 7:30 am: Bulletproof coffee.

During work day: 2 green teas , plenty of water.

Around 4:30 pm: Spicy coleslaw made with slaw mix, olives, chopped garlic, hot pepper, dressed with salt, pepper, avocado mayo, apple cider vinegar, sriracha sauce; left over crab cakes; 1 sliced avocado; 1 cup air dried kale chips.

Wednesday

Exercise: Nordic Track, 60 minutes, 3.83 miles (no “ski poles)

Food and Drink:

Morning: Coffee, water.

Around 7:30 am: Black coffee.

During work day: Plenty of water, 2 green teas.

Around 4:30 pm: Spicy coleslaw made with slaw mix, olives, chopped garlic, hot pepper, dressed with salt, pepper, avocado mayo, apple cider vinegar, sriracha sauce; 1 can sardines; 1 sliced avocado.

Thursday

Exercise: Snow clean up, probably around 2.5 hours total time. Yes, physical activity counts as exercise!

Food and Drink:

Morning: Coffee, water.

Around 7:30 am: Black coffee.

During work at home day: Black iced coffee, green tea, some water.

Around 5:00 pm: 2 Stout beers.

Around 5:30 pm: Spicy coleslaw made with slaw mix, olives, chopped garlic, hot pepper, dressed with salt, pepper, avocado mayo, apple cider vinegar, sriracha sauce; 1 can sardines; 1 sliced avocado; 1 humus and pretzel.

Friday

Exercise: Nordic Track, 60 minutes, 3.92 miles (no “ski poles)

Food and Drink:

Morning: Coffee, water.

Around 7:30 am: Black coffee.

During work day: Plenty of water, 2 green teas.

Around 5:30 pm: Parmesan cheese crisps, humus and pretzels, guacamole and chips. *Not my usual spread, plans fell through for take out so needed to improvise.

Throughout evening: 1 stout beer, 2 scotches.

*Saturday is blog posting day.

My Weekly Progress Report

This is an update to see how I did on my goals/focus areas for the week, here is my check in for week 2:

  1. Sugar, Grain were treats only, had a little bit more alcohol than my standard week…not going to beat myself up, just staying accountable.
  2. Weight on Friday was 193.8 pounds, which is about a pound less than last Friday. Of note, there are a lot of factors that can influence weight on the scale. For my example this week, I may have been down some fluid (dehydrated) after the time spent clearing snow/ probably not enough water, 2 beers, and 60 minutes of cardio the next morning. Also 5th belt loop, so waist circumference is staying steady.
  3. I met my goal of three 60 minute cardio sessions this week! I will make sure to replicate this next week heading into the Holidays.
  4. I assured that each weight training day featured a kettlebells, and/or a barbell exercise…although I needed to sub out my planned Thursday weight training.
  5. I wore blue light glasses every light at least 1 hour before bed, I had 1 great night of sleep, over 7 hours. I had a few poor nights of sleep due to kid interruptions, so need to pay attention to his routine as well. Overall, kept a routine bed time of around 9 pm.

Looking Ahead to Next Week

Next week has 2 holidays! Yes, for me Christmas Eve counts as a Holiday. I will not include food journals for Thursday and Friday next week because they will be full of delicious treats, but will have exercise logged for those days and my fasting window. Here are some specific plans I have to set myself up for success, leading into the Holidays next week:

  • Continue nutrition and exercise plan through Wednesday.
  • A slightly longer period of fasting Wednesday going into Thursday, and also Thursday going in to Friday.
  • Morning Exercise Thursday, with slightly higher volume (weight training). This will be a themed workout, Ring those Bells! Featuring Barbell Deadlifts, Kettlebell Swings, and Kettlebell Push Presses.
  • Exercise on Friday, cardio. This will be a themed workout, the Jingle all the Way Holiday Trot! AKA, going for a run in the cold.
  • Morning exercise on Saturday (Kettlebell Swings, Push Ups). This will be a themed workout, Answer the Bell post Holiday Jingle.

I am so excited to enjoy some family time in the upcoming week, and also staying accountable to my plan! Thanks for following along with me, see you soon!

Photo by Candis Hidalgo on Pexels.com

Jingle (Kettle)Bells!

A Plan to Break the Holiday Cycle and End 2020 Healthy and Fit!

Photo by Any Lane on Pexels.com

Introduction

If you are brand new to my blog or this Holiday posting series, welcome! This post starts the final leg in a series about breaking the Holiday Cycle of adding pounds and inches to our waist from October- January 1, and making a New Year’s resolution to essentially undo the damage. If we are not careful, this can be an annual occurrence. For more information on this topic and ideas to make your own plan, please see my previous post.

Why Jingle (Kettle)Bells?

This is a wordplay off of the Christmas song “Jingle Bells”. Recognizing that there are many Holidays celebrated during this time of year, my family and I celebrate Christmas, so this is the theme that resonated for me and will motivate me. Additionally, I plan to theme my weightlifting routines around Kettlebells and Barbells during the month.

*Pro-tip, themed workouts can add meaning and motivation to your plan! I will include my themed workouts leading in to Christmas as examples of how you can have fun with the topic and motivate yourself.

Finishing Strong

If you are reading this post right now and are interested in breaking the Holiday cycle, here are the two tracks/trajectories I see you as most likely on:

  1. You have been crushing it! You made a plan in October or November, and successfully navigated Thanksgiving without it derailing your health and fitness goals. You are looking for motivation and ideas to finish 2020 strong.
  2. You did not make plan, you feel tired and sluggish due to over indulgence. You are already feeling like you will need a New Years resolution to start undoing some of the damage from the Holidays.

If you are in situation #2, DO NOT WAIT!! Make a December 12 resolution, you will be amazed what you can accomplish before January…you will also be amazed how much further behind you can set yourself by continuing to over indulge and not exercise between now and January 1, get after it now!

Make your Plan

When making a plan to end 2020 making improvements to your health and fitness, start with where you are. What are your current exercise/activity levels, what does a week of food journaling look like for you? Once you have established where you are, make some specific health and fitness goals you would like to accomplish before January 1.

Tips on Getting Started (adapted from previous post)

  1. Make this winnable! I am using my plan as an example, not as a template for you. Start with where you are, make goals to be better in certain areas, execute your specific goals. Make your plan realistic so you can win. If you drink soda every day and your goal is to eliminate soda by January 1, that is winnable and you should go for it! If you do not exercise and your goal is to run a marathon by January 1, if I were you, I would reassess whether or not that is realistic/winnable in the time frame you are working with.
  2. Write it down! You have to write down your goals, and write down your progress towards them. Make yourself a daily, or minimally a weekly journal to help you measure progress towards your goals. If you do not track goals and progress, you won’t have a sense of direction or accomplishment, and most likely lack motivation. You won’t hit a target that you cannot see.
  3. Make time! You need to make time in your week to grocery shop, meal plan, meal prep, and exercise. Add this to your calendar like you do a work appointment, or it will not happen. If you need help finding time for any of these important areas, map out your week on a calendar. Account for every hour of every day, and include everything you do, including sleep and TV (for example). You may need to make some sacrifices (like TV/screen time), but I bet you can carve yourself out an hour each day to take care of your health and fitness goals.

My Plan (as an example)

My plan is to focus on maintaining my frequency and intensity of exercise through the Holiday season, and to not gain weight or belt loop holes in between November-January (kept from my Thanksgiving plan).

My Specific Goals

I made myself some specific, measurable, realistic goals to hold myself accountable (goals made November 9, 2020).

  1. Make sure that added Sugar, Grain, and Alcohol stay in the treat category (once per week max), focus on whole, unprocessed food being dietary staples.
  2. Keep weight on the scale, and belt loop position (waist circumference) the same, or improve them (I don’t want to have to loosen my belt on January 1, compared to November).
  3. Assure that my weekly frequency of cardio exercise stays the same, even when the weather gets colder. For December, I want to set the goals of working my routine up to 1 hour sessions, 3 times per week.
  4. Assure that each weight training day features a Barbell, and/or a Kettlbell exercise, increase the total volume (weight moved/lifted) of these lifts during December.
  5. Assure to wear blue light glasses before bed each night, consistent bed time, strive for 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.

The plan will also include a weekly check in on these major goals, to see how I am doing, and any adjustments I may have to make to stay on track.

Before the Jingle

These are some stats I am going to keep track of weekly during the 4 week program to see how I am doing and stay accountable. Stats and photo as of December 4, coming off my Thanksgiving plan.

Weight: 196.2 pounds

Photo:

Belt Loop: 5th (for me, 4th is ok, 5th is better, 3rd is not good…higher belt loops=lower waist circumference)

Cardio Frequency: 3 Nordic track sessions per week; I have hit 2 one hour sessions, and one 47 minute session in a week as my high bench mark.

Lets Talk About the Jingle [Video]

Video discussion on the Holiday cycle, making a plan, themes and why you should make your own, trigger foods.

Jingle (Kettle)BellsTime Frame

This blog post is documenting the time period of December 7, 2020-January 1, 2021. My plan is to assure complete focus on Health and Well-being leading up to, and immediately after Christmas, which my family and I celebrate. In my previous blog post, I outline the importance of enjoying the Holidays themselves, and also immediately getting back on your healthy plan. No one day is going to disrupt your health and fitness routine and progress, but developing unhealthy habits and patterns day after day, week after week will.

I am committed to a post each week, to serve as an example of how you could make and execute a plan, and also to help hold myself accountable. Let’s see how I did week 1!

Daily JournalsWeek 1

*A word about my daily journals and routine. The main reasons I include my daily journals in this series are as follows:

  1. To show an example of what a daily journal can look like and hopefully spark some creative thinking and ideas for readers.
  2. To hold myself accountable…writing down my food intake and exercise/activity on the internet is a big motivating factor for me to follow through on my goals.

My daily journals are not intended to be a prescriptive program for readers to follow, this is simply what works for me. Whether it be my exercise routine, what I eat, or when I eat…it falls under the umbrella of “this is what works for me”. If you are interested in any of my rationale behind my meal timing and planning, I would invite you to take a look at my Thanksgiving post, sub heading of “Dietary Strategies I Use“.

Monday

Exercise: Nordic Track, 47 minutes, 2.92 miles (no “ski poles)

*Note on finding the time, I have developed my routine so that I get to bed early enough to wake up before work and exercise. I have all of the exercise equipment I need at my home, which is ideal during COVID times. If you do not have equipment at home, never fear, you can still accomplish a LOT with body weight exercises…you have to make the time and find the way.

Food and Drink:

Morning: Coffee, water.

Around 7:30 am: Black coffee.

During work day: Plenty of water.

Around 4:30 pm: Spicy coleslaw made with slaw mix, olives, chopped garlic, hot pepper, dressed with salt, pepper, avocado mayo, apple cider vinegar, sriracha sauce; 1 can sardines; 1 sliced avocado; roasted seaweed snack.

Tuesday

Exercise: Kettlebell bent over row 35 lbs- 10,10,10; Dips 7,9,10; Push ups 10,11,9; Ab wheel roll 10,10,10; Kettlebell Sumo deadlift 53 lbs- 10,10,10…with lots of hamstring and hip mobility work today.

Food and Drink:

Morning: Coffee, water.

Around 7:30 am: Bullet proof coffee.

During work day: Plenty of water, 2 green teas.

Around 4:30 pm: Spicy coleslaw made with slaw mix, olives, chopped garlic, hot pepper, dressed with salt, pepper, avocado mayo, apple cider vinegar, sriracha sauce; 1 can salmon; 1 sliced avocado; roasted seaweed snack.

Wednesday

Exercise: Nordic Track, 60 minutes, 4.01 miles (no “ski poles)

Food and Drink:

Morning: Coffee, water.

Around 7:30 am: black coffee.

During work day: Plenty of water, 2 green teas.

Around 4:30 pm: Spicy coleslaw made with slaw mix, olives, chopped garlic, hot pepper, dressed with salt, pepper, avocado mayo, apple cider vinegar, sriracha sauce; 1 can sardines; 1 sliced avocado; roasted seaweed snack.

Thursday

Exercise: Deadlift 135- 5,5,5 Double Kettlebell military press 35s- 10,10,10 Hanging leg raise 10,10,10

*Of note, had tightness in my lower back and hamstrings this week, so I needed to cut my workout short and do some stretching and foam roll in between sets.

Food and Drink:

Morning: Coffee, water.

Around 7:30 am: Bullet proof coffee.

During work day: Plenty of water, 2 green teas.

Around 4:30 pm: Spicy coleslaw made with slaw mix, olives, chopped garlic, hot pepper, dressed with salt, pepper, avocado mayo, apple cider vinegar, sriracha sauce; 1 can salmon; 1 sliced avocado; roasted seaweed snack.

Friday

Exercise: Nordic Track, 60 minutes, 3.94 miles (no “ski poles)

Food and Drink:

Morning: Coffee, water.

Around 7:30 am: black coffee.

During work day: Plenty of water, 2 green teas.

Around 5:30 pm: Take out Greek salad 🥗, 2 slices pepperoni pizza, scotch, 1 stout beer.

*Saturday is blog posting day, so will not appear in daily journals for the series.

My Weekly Progress Report

This is an update to see how I did on my goals/focus areas for the week.

  1. Sugar, Grain, and Alcohol were treats only, this strategy continues to help my overall energy levels and limit trigger foods.
  2. Weight on Friday was 195.0 pounds, which is about a pound less than last Friday under the same conditions (post morning cardio). Also 5th belt loop, so waist circumference is staying steady.
  3. I maintained my frequency of Cardio exercise, and worked towards my goal of 60 minutes, three days per week.
  4. I assured that each weight training day featured a kettlebells, and/or a barbell exercise.
  5. I wore blue light glasses every light at least 1 hour before bed, I had 1 great night of sleep, over 7 hours. Overall, kept a routine bed time of around 9 pm.

Challenges Faced this Week

You will always face challenges when trying to implement healthy lifestyle changes, so I have committed to include my weekly challenges as part of my journals each week. You will see notes on challenges, and how I addressed them (or, how I plan to address them next week). For week 1, my lone challenge was stiff, tight hamstrings and lower back. The way I addressed this challenge was to modify my exercise routine; I modified my routine so I was still able to exercise without aggravating the areas that bothered me. Another strategy I utilized was extra stretching and mobility work daily.

My suspicion is that my rapid change to the Nordic Track machine 3 times per week may have contributed to this challenge. I transitioned fairly rapidly from walking/running cardio to Nordic Track due to cold whether. This week, I did not use the “ski poles” part of the Nordic Track, as I felt it took some of the tension out of my back and hamstrings. I will monitor conditions next week.

Honestly, I did not face any challenges related to nutrition. I addressed a challenge from last week by making sure to spend time shopping and food prepping Sunday, so I did not need to rely so heavily on leftovers and my son’s snack foods.

Looking Ahead to Next Week

Looking at the calendar, I have one more week to dial in my routine before a Holiday week starts. My 5 day work week routine has been very consistent and reliable during the Holiday season, so I am going to take advantage and make even more progress towards my goals before the Holidays kick off. I’ll make sure to start the week off right on Sunday with meal prep, and plan for meals and exercise during the week. I will continue to focus on stretching and foam rolling, and will hopefully hit my goal of 3 one hour cardio sessions this week.

Stay tuned, see you next week!

The Thanksgiving Blitz- Wrap Up

Putting a Bow on a 4 Week Healthy Holiday Program

Catching Up on The Blitz

A reminder if you are just joining me for this blog series, Blitz is a Football term, this is when the defense sends extra pass rushers after the opposing team’s Quarterback. I chose this term because there is Football on Thanksgiving, and it is part of my strategy this year; I went out to Blitz Thanksgiving this year, it was not going to get me!

To catch up on the beginning and weekly updates from this 4 week program, please take a look at my week 1 post, and also weeks 2 and 3.

My Plan

A reminder, my plan was to focus on maintaining my frequency and intensity of exercise through the Holiday season, and to not gain weight or belt loop holes in between November-January. Part of my plan was focusing my nutrition on mostly whole food sources, and avoiding processed food (mostly products containing grain and added sugar). My Thanksgiving plan was a good test and gave me a progress report at the mid-point of the season.

My Specific Goals

I made myself some specific, measurable, realistic goals to hold myself accountable.

  1. Make sure that added Sugar, Grain, and Alcohol stay in the treat category (once per week max), focus on whole, unprocessed food being dietary staples.
  2. Keep weight on the scale, and belt loop the same, or improve them (I don’t want to have to loosen my belt on January 1, compared to November).
  3. Assure that my weekly frequency of cardio exercise stays the same, even when the weather gets colder.
  4. Add volume (reps and sets) to my upper body, body weight exercise routine of Pull Ups, Dips, and Push Ups.
  5. Assure to wear blue light glasses before bed each night, consistent bed time, strive for 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.

These goals were tracked weekly to see how I was doing, and if any adjustments were needed.

My Top Tips

During the program, I included a series of tips and strategies that worked well for me, I invite you to take a look at them below and hope they may give you some ideas or inspiration.

Intermittent Fasting: Put simply, intermittent fasting is going period of time without eating or drinking anything with significant calories (black coffee has some calories, but does not break a fast). There are potential metabolic benefits to fasting, and it is also a strategy to help manage your overall intake of food in a day. If you eat breakfast at 6 am, Lunch at 12 noon, dinner at 6 pm, and have late night snacks after dinner, your overall intake of food/calories will likely be higher than if you manage all meals within an 8 hour time frame each day.

The basic concept is to have a 16 hour fast, and an 8 hour period in which to eat your meals; this protocol can be adjusted to incorporate a longer fast and shorter eating period as well. The style I used this week was one meal a day (OMAD) intermittent fasting.

This is something I have in my dietary toolbelt because I spent some time building this metabolic flexibility while trying out the Keto diet for 30 days in September. If you started off trying to manage with one meal per day, it may be quiet uncomfortable if you have not spent some time trying out fasting and adjusting. If you wanted to give intermittent fasting a try, here is an idea:

  1. Eat dinner at 6 pm after a normal day, no late night snacks.
  2. When you wake up, do not eat breakfast, only have black coffee, tea, or water (no sugar or artificial sweetener.
  3. If you get hungry before 10 am, drink plenty of water.
  4. Eat your first meal at 10 am.

You have just fasted 16 hours!

Hydration: Hydration is important with any nutrition plan, but especially with intermittent fasting. Your body will sometimes send signals that indicate hunger, when actually you are thirsty and just need some water. And when I say hydration, I mean pure, clean water…you can have other beverages during the day, but the majority of your fluid intake should be water. Here is a helpful previous post on Hydration.

Eliminate Trigger Foods: Trigger Foods are foods that you are unable to stop eating once you have even a little bit, and they are different for everyone. It doesn’t matter if the food is “healthy” or not, what matters is your ability to control intake and stop eating the food. Mixed nuts may be considered “healthy”, but for me they can be a trigger food, so I avoided them during my Thanksgiving blitz.

Eliminate (or greatly reduce) Grain, Added Sugar, Alcohol: This is a strategy I picked up during my Whole 30, and found that there are exponential returns on your health and energy levels when eliminating these food and drink groups. If you think of your trigger foods from above, I bet you a vast majority of them either have grain, or added sugar (or, you have a harder time controlling the trigger food if you have a few drinks).

Make the Weekend Winning Time! Use the weekend to get even more sleep, spend more time meal planning, and do some fun movements and exercise. If you party, drink, have treats, and stay up late on weekends (every weekend), you take away progress you are working towards.

Exercise on the Holiday! Even if you are going to have your favorite treats on the Holiday, make it a point to move and exercise. Do something that is fun and meaningful for you; walk, run, push up, pull up, lift weights. Make exercise and movement part of your celebration, you will feel great, and rev up that metabolism before your big day!

Stick to your plan. You made a plan to be healthy during the holidays, make sure you stick with it! No late night snacks on Tuesday, no drinks and delivery Pizza on Wednesday before Thanksgiving Thursday (for example). If your plan is to dial in your nutrition every day except the Holiday, stick to your plan! Part two of this tip is immediately get back on your plan after the Holiday. Allowing the same habits to stick around for another week can be bad news for your goals, so get back to it!

On the Holiday, Eat what you like! What I mean by this is when you are deciding to enjoy a Holiday, or any particular meal, eat the foods you really like. You have already decided that it is ok to indulge a little bit and have some treats, but there is really no need to add foods to your plate that you consider to be just “ok”. For example, if you love Turkey and Mashed Potatoes, but can’t stand green bean casserole, skip the casserole! Do not worry about counting calories on the Holiday, but do consider that eating foods you don’t really love fills you up unnecessarily, can make you uncomfortable, and take away from the enjoyment of the day. Another example of this is eating things simply because they are there, like appetizers. Apply the same logic, if you really like the appetizer being served have it, if you don’t, skip it!

Exercise the Day After. No matter how you feel the day after a Holiday, get up and do something. Even if it is as basic as a walk, getting up and exercise the day after helps renew your commitment to health and wellness.

Challenges I Faced

My first challenge was getting started on this plan. I had a week off from work in early November, and did not make a great plan in regards to my nutrition and exercise routine, so I had some bad habits creep in. Getting started by dialing my nutrition back in, and exercising 5 days a week was a challenge for sure. Writing down my plan and having a strong motivation why I am doing it helped me overcome this challenge and get committed/started.

Another challenge was, you guessed it, sticking to the plan! There are a lot of tasty treats and temptations during this time of the year. My biggest pitfall in years past has been the week of Thanksgiving; drinks after work, eating a lot during the food prep day Wednesday. Building in accountability systems helped me stick to my plan; examples are writing down plans and goals, and telling someone about your goals who can help hold you accountable.

My third challenge to highlight is, getting back on your plan immediately after the Holiday. This started with setting an alarm for 5 am the day after Thanksgiving and making sure I got the hour of cardio in that I planned. Did I want to answer the bell that morning at 5 am? Not really, but I immediately felt great about my decision after finishing the workout. This gave me the momentum to get back on my plan heading in to the critical week after Thanksgiving.

Program Highlights, Tips, and Challenges [Video]

If you prefer video highlights, check out this you tube video where I talk through highlights, tips, and challenges from my Holiday plan.

Daily Journals

I am including daily journals for my final week, to illustrate the importance of getting right back to your healthy lifestyle following a Holiday. Overall I am very happy with my efforts getting back on the plan, the only adjustment I would make is better grocery shopping and meal planning the weekend after Thanksgiving, so I did not lean so much on leftovers Sunday-Thursday and pick at my son’s humus and pretzels. This blog series has been a wonderful illustration for me that one day will not derail your progress! Our day to day, week to week habits and routines are what ultimately will determine how we look, feel, and perform.

Sunday

Exercise: Stretch and foam roll.

Food and Drink:

Morning: Coffee and water.

Around 8 am: Iced coffee (black).

Around 12 noon: Leftover Lobster mac and cheese,1 IPA beer.

During afternoon, 2 Scotches, water, seltzer.

Around 6:30 pm: Leftover stuffed mushrooms, asparagus, carrots.

Monday

Exercise: Nordic Track, 47 minutes, 2.92 miles.

Food and Drink:

Morning: Coffee, water.

Around 7:30 am: black coffee.

During work day: Plenty of water.

Around 4:30 pm: Leftover turkey taco bowl with taco sauce, pinto beans, shredded cheese, sour cream; humus and veggie chips.

Tuesday

Exercise: before work, weight training. Pull up 7,7,6,5,5; Dip 8,8,7,7,5; Push up 11,10,8,7,5; Total Gym row 12,12,12,12; Ab wheel roll 10,10,10,10, 10; Kettlebell Swing 53 lbs 12,12,15,15,15

For the above exercises, what I did is go through each exercise in the order listed, with very little rest in between each exercise, and then take a few minutes rest after Kettlebell swings before starting with Pull up again.

Food and Drink:

Morning: Coffee, water.

Around 7:30 am: Bulletproof coffee (see week 1 for recipe).

During work day: 2 green teas , plenty of water.

Around 3 pm: 2 oz. Bison jerky

Around 4:30 pm: Leftover turkey taco bowl with taco sauce, pinto beans, shredded cheese, sour cream, pickled garlic; humus and potato chips.

Wednesday

Exercise: Nordic Track, 60 minutes, 3.79 miles.

Food and Drink

Morning: Coffee, water.

Around 8 am: Black coffee.

During work day: 2 green teas , plenty of water.

Around 4 pm: Leftover turkey taco bowl with taco sauce, pinto beans, shredded cheese, sour cream, pickled garlic; guacamole and pretzels.

Thursday

Exercise: Deadlift 205- 3 Double Kettlebell push press 35s- 10,10,10 Hanging leg raise 10,10,10

*Of note, had a spasm/tightness in my upper back/shoulders, so I needed to cut my workout short and do some stretching and percussion massage. Could be my body telling me to take it a little easier after a decent training week last week, so I listened.

Food and Drink

Morning: Coffee, water.

Around 8 am: Black coffee.

During work day: 2 green teas , plenty of water.

Around 4:30 pm: Bowl with 2 cans herring, 8 olives, pickled garlic, 2 hot peppers; 1 bag air dried kale chips.

Friday

Exercise: Nordic Track, 60 minutes, 3.78 miles.

Morning: Coffee, water.

Around 8 am: Black coffee.

During work day: 2 green teas , plenty of water.

Around 4:30 pm: Mixed bowl with olives, pickled garlic, cheese cubes, green powder, olive oil; Bacon Cheeseburger salad.

Before and After The Blitz (Progress Report)

Time frame of this plan was November 9- December 4, 2020.

Photos

Before
After

Weight

Before: 201.6 pounds

After: 196.2 pounds

*Goal was met! In my case, I do not consider this “losing weight”, because I am back to where I started before my week off and bad habits in early November. I mentioned in post one that I had put on a few pounds on the scale after taking a week off from work and letting some poor habits creep in. This plan really helped me get back on track and “Crush it!”

Belt Loop 

Before: 4th (4th is ok, 5th is better, 3rd is not good…higher belt loops=lower waist circumference)

After: 5th! *Goal was met!

Cardio Frequency

Before: At least 2 walks (or equivalent) at least 1 jog (or equivalent) per week. Best run of a 4.9 mile loop, 48:30.

After: 3 Nordic Track sessions per week 40-60 minutes duration.

*This goal was met! Had to make the transition indoors due to colder whether, I am happy with cardio frequency.

Best Body Weight Set

Before: Pull ups 6,6,6,6; Dips 4,5,6,6; Push Ups 7,8,8,7 (done as a circuit, 1 exercise after the other)

After: Pull up 7,7,6,6,5; Dip 9,8,8,7,5; Push up 11,10,8,7,6

*The goal to add volume (sets and reps) was met!

What is Next?

Coming soon, I’ll be featuring a new blog series to keep the healthy momentum going through January. A month is plenty of time to crush some health and fitness goals, and also plenty of time to allow unhealthy habits and patterns to creep in, IF you let them. This blog series will feature tips and strategies to make your own healthy holiday plan, and I’ll also include my plan to follow along with.

Jingle Bells everyone, see you soon!

Photo by Any Lane on Pexels.com