One of the hardest things to do is to stay on track. Think about it: whether we're talking about developing positive daily habits, or just getting all of our errands completed during a given day, checking off all the boxes on our to-do list is a daunting task, rarely completed with total accuracy. We prioritize our lives based on the perceived importance of a given deadline and stack up all of our action items accordingly. Where do healthy eating and exercise fall on the list for you? It likely varies based on the nature of your activities, other deadlines, work, family, stress, and of course, the holiday season.
Perhaps you typically eat healthy plant-based whole foods and usually exercise four or five days a week, but those holidays just keep coming and throw a wrench in your routine. What would normally be a healthy and active week could quite easily turn into an overindulgent, inactive, high-stress week, month, or months. This not-so-healthy outcome can be avoided if addressed head-on. What's the number one reason for not doing something? You guessed it: “I don't have time.” Well, we all have 1,440 minutes in a day, so the time is there, but the priorities might not be. One sure way to include exercise on a regular basis so it doesn't get missed during the holiday season, is to complete some form of exercise as soon as you wake up to start your day. Before your list of things to do gets too long and time gets squeezed, check off that box by performing some morning exercise. Go for a walk, a jog, or hike in your neighborhood. Head to the gym, or hop on a stationary bike in your basement, garage, or home gym. Join a team, a league, a running group, or other athletic community. Get your family and friends involved if they are willing, and bond through health and sport.
When it comes to the food, eat healthy whole foods to start your day, such as a bowl of oatmeal with fruit and nuts following your morning workout. The more plant-based whole foods you consume, the less room there is for unhealthier options. Of course, it is the holidays, and you likely want to celebrate the season of harvest and bounty, and you certainly can. As long as you engage in regular exercise without having a significant drop in activity level, and make a solid effort to have the foundation of your diet comprised of plant-based whole foods, there is plenty of room for holiday cheer in the form of a vegan cupcake or some chocolate vegan fudge, or whatever suits your fancy.
Every year I write about how January 17 is the most common day for people to give up on their New Year's Resolutions. And every year I encourage readers to not wait until the New Year to set goals, but to find meaningful reasons to pursue goals right now. The best way to avoid January 17 happening to you, is to develop positive, consistent habits that compound, leading to desired results. Our actions and inactions compound and develop into behaviors and habits that define our success or lack thereof. If we exercise every morning most days of the week, and build a nutritional foundation of whole plant foods, those actions compound leading to positive health results. If we skip out on exercise for days or weeks at a time because the holidays are too busy or stressful for us, and we resort to eating high calorie/low nutrient foods, those actions compound too. And we know what that can result in: a mid-January exit from our goals, and an 11-month hiatus from setting new ones.
This year, my advice is simple: pick one new healthy food habit and one new exercise habit to develop into consistent behaviors. Determine your level of consistency to engage in each activity, be it daily or a few days a week, and document your progress. An example would be to eat three different types of fruit each day and to try one new exercise a week that you've never done before.
You don't want to miss out on the goals you didn't set, because of the time you didn't have, because of the priorities you didn't make, because of the holidays that didn't need to be quite so stressful. Start your day off on the right foot with a nice morning stroll and a bowl of whole foods for recovery so you can do it all over again tomorrow. Happy Holidays!
- Robert Cheeke, best-selling author of Shred It! and Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, 2-time champion bodybuilder, and founder/president of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness — www.veganbodybuilding.com.