Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy, Healthy Holiday Attitudes

As we are approaching the holidays, I need to talk about an unhealthy attitude that tends to permeate the traditional proceedings. You may have heard someone say, (or you may have said) “I ate so much last night, I need to work out extra hard today.”
I even see fitness professionals falling into this trap, by advertising a “Burn off Your Turkey Workout Class” for the day after Thanksgiving. 
I resent this paradigm.  I always tout healthful living; which includes a healthy attitude towards eating and exercise.  The holidays celebrations are a part of life and I believe they should be fully lived and enjoyed. But I also have a deep respect for moderation, which should also be practiced within the context of these celebrations.
Keep in mind to start with, you don’t HAVE to overeat at holiday meals.  You don’t HAVE to get drunk at the holiday party. You can eat and drink and be merry without going nuts. I have enjoyed many holiday meals and had a few bites of everything in the spread and was able to walk away from the table without feeling stuffed. Very satisfied, but comfortable.  I allow myself one plate and I don’t go back for seconds. I’ve also had a drink or two at the Christmas party, but not enough to make me sick or to get me to dance naked on the buffet table. (I don’t need to be drunk to do that, but that’s another story).
The bird should be stuffed, not the pilgrims. 
But that isn’t even what really disturbs me.  What rubs me the wrong way is this attitude that people have that they need to be punished for their binges by exercising extra hard. 
First of all, it doesn’t work that way.  You can’t exercise away bad food choices.  You just can’t. Exercise is no match against gluttony.  The number of calories you consume at a full-on Thanksgiving meal is in the thousands!  At an average of 300 calories/hour, you’d need to be on a treadmill all day just to burn that many calories. But even if you did that, that’s still not how it works.  You don’t exercise just to burn off the calories you ate.  You exercise to condition your body.  When your body is conditioned, it burns calories more efficiently. 
Secondly, I don’t like the mindset that exercise is a penance.  It is a wonderful thing, when done correctly.  It can be a treat for your body, mind and spirit when done with the right attitude.  Paying for your sins is NOT the right attitude.  That is a Fear motivation. Exercising out of fear is going to prevent you from getting many of the benefits that it offers you in the way of a healthy, relaxed mind and a boost of self-esteem hormones and endorphins.
Exercise should be a reward for your mind and your body, not a punishment for holiday eating.
So instead of bingeing and punishing, switch your thinking around for the holidays.  Allow yourself to go off your ‘diet’ and enjoy Grandma’s pies.  And then have fun doing your regular type of exercise on your regular schedule, whatever that may be.   
It might not seem like a big deal, but changing that mindset from Fear to Love will go a long way towards helping you live a happy, healthy life-- all year ‘round.