So, the holidays are finally over? I know it sucks!! I don’t know about you, but I love the holidays! All that excitement, the time off work, catching up with friends, travelling to a new place, mouth-watering food and being impulsive (if you are like me!) is simply amazing. But all good things come to an end, and it can get stressful, for some, to get back on track after a holiday. So in this article, I will share some practical tips to help you get back to your usual dietary habits and exercise routine. But before we get to that, let me tell you something important.
YOU DID NOT SCREW UP!
All that delicious food and lack of structured exercise can give you an impression that you have derailed your progress and are back to where you started. Let me get that burden off your chest right away – YOU DID NOT SCREW UP!
This time you are NOT starting from scratch, you are starting from experience
If you do not believe it yet, read the above quote again and say it loud three times!
Remember that you have learnt quite a lot in your fitness journey and all that is still intact. All that you may have lost in the past couple of weeks is your usual routine and sense of moderation, and that’s completely fine. There is a high possibility that you may have still made progress, while on holidays. Here are some signs of progress during the holiday:
- Not gaining more weight during the holiday (especially for those with fat loss goals)
- Not overeating beyond the point of fullness, on most days!
- Consciously making healthier meal choices a few times during the holiday
- Getting in a couple of workout sessions, even if they are low intensity
- Walking more than usual – Remember to track your steps!
If you need more tips on how to stay healthy during the festivals or holidays, READ THIS
Vacations are for enjoyment! Not for meticulously tracking your calories and worrying about gaining a couple of kilos.
Even if you did not do any of the above, it’s no big deal. You deserve that break! Remember, the only way you can mess this up is if you GIVE UP! So, do not give up and get right back on track after the holiday. Hang on! That’s what this article is about right? Now that we have agreed that you did not screw up, let’s get to our main discussion.
#1 DITCH THE “DETOX” MINDSET
People often restrict or punish themselves, out of guilt, by fasting for a day or two to “make up” for a few days of over-indulgence and lack of exercise. There is no need to starve yourself or excessively restrict calories or get on unsustainable detox diets. Also, do not try to “cover-up” in the gym by pushing yourself more than usual. You might push yourself extra hard, become too sore or get injured, which can put you out of action for much longer. It will only make you feel worse.
A holiday is like a speed breaker in your fitness journey. All you need to do is slow down for a brief moment and carry on
Remember, consistency is the key! You make progress by being consistent over a long period, NOT by being excessively strict for a short duration. Being overly restrictive is unsustainable. So, ditch the short term mindset of “detox” and focus on getting back to your usual routine.
#2 START FROM DAY ONE
The most common mistake we all tend to make is procrastinating the process of getting back on track after the holiday. It makes us stay in the “holiday mode” for much longer and get used to that lifestyle, even after we are back. No wonder we continue to go to bed late, eat out and indulge more than usual and, find it hard to get back to our usual exercise routine.
Contrary to your personal life, notice what you do at your workplace. Do you take a few days off to “recover” from holiday hangover? Hell No! That is going to impact your leave balance or sometimes even daily wages.
So, what do you do?
You go back to work straightway and do whatever it takes to get back to your usual work routine.
You don’t take a few days to return to work and get started, you start from Day One. Why not do the same for everything else?
I am not saying that one needs to switch back in one-shot. You decide today that I am going to get back on track and BOOM! It’s done. Of course, it doesn’t work that way – it is hard and takes consistent effort. But it is the mindset that we must strive for. The mindset of starting small, but starting right away!
#3 TACKLE IT ONE AT A TIME
You don’t have to change everything at once. Once you are back, tackle the process of getting back on track with one thing at a time. I believe there are three elements of a healthy lifestyle that get impacted during holidays
I like to tackle them in the same order starting with sleep, primarily because it is the one thing that has a profound impact on our mood. I love my 7-9 hours of sleep and any deviation from that routine hampers the quality of life.
As soon as the holiday ends, the first thing I do is catch up on sleep and get back to my usual sleep routine.
Reset your internal clock as soon as possible. Most of us tend to overlook sleep schedule, but you’ll be surprised how consciously making that one simple adjustment can go a long way in helping you fix your routine.
As it takes a couple of days to fix your sleep schedule, parallelly start working on getting back on track with your nutrition. I start with breakfast because it’s the low hanging fruit for me. Also, getting the first meal of the day right will likely motivate you to keep going!
Read more about my approach to automating breakfast HERE
When it comes to nutrition, preparation is the key! Decide your meals for the week and start with making a list of grocery items. Once you have everything available in the kitchen, you are more likely to plan your meals.
The last thing I work on is getting back to my exercise routine as it requires a lot more effort and commitment. We often beat ourselves down by having unrealistic expectations from ourselves. If you are back from a two week’s holiday, it is unrealistic to expect you will be back to gym performing at full capacity from Day One.
Imagine getting back to work with a presentation to a key client stakeholder. How would you feel about that?
Not only are you likely to goof up in the meeting, but the stress and anxiety of performing well will most probably spoil the last few days of your holiday.
A better approach would be to spend the first couple of days reading your emails and catching up with colleagues to get up to speed.
Similarly, when it comes to exercise, ease into your workout routine gradually. Start with about 50-60% of your pre-holiday intensity and slowly work up to full capacity. Give yourself a couple of weeks, or even more, based on how you feel.
The order in which you tackle each of the elements discussed above is not critical – it is an individual’s preference. But it is essential to work on all three of them to revert to your usual routine.
#4 ACKNOWLEDGE THE CRAVINGS
Once you are back from your vacation, it is but natural to experience post-holiday blues and cravings. So, let me tell you the hard truth! It is unlikely that you will feel great about getting back to your usual routine. It is not going to be easy. You will inevitably go through ups and downs; it’s part of the process. However, acknowledging these feelings and working against the opposing internal force will make the process more bearable, and maybe enjoyable, eventually.
So, acknowledge your cravings and make a commitment that you will control that urge to devour chips, french fries, samosas, pizza, and amazing desserts for at least one week. Soon enough, you will realise you have gained back control over them.
Self-discipline is the strongest form of self-love. It is ignoring short term pleasures for long term benefits and rewards.
Here are some ways to exercise self-control and discipline to get past food cravings:
- Keep trigger foods out of sight and hard to reach: Identify foods you crave and keep them away from you. Try not to keep them at home or make them so hard to reach that you don’t make an effort to eat them again and again.
- Establish “bright lines”: “Bright Lines” simply refers to making firm and clear-cut ground rules. E.g. rather than saying “I’m going to eat less ice cream,” say “I will only eat desserts on Friday and Saturday nights and will limit myself to a maximum of 1 serving.” Bright lines such as these makes it significantly easier to hold yourself accountable.
- Practice conscious procrastination: Whenever you feel like eating something that would make you feel guilty, just say “I will have it later”. Give yourself 10-15 mins. Likely, you will not come back to it. And if you do, you already have some “bright lines” established.
#5 PURSUE OTHER HOBBIES AND SET GOALS
Do not sit around and brood over getting back on track. Get out and get busy! Throw some challenges at yourself so you can take your mind off exercise and diet. If you look back at your happy days, you would realise they were the times when you were doing something challenging and enjoyable. Be it work or personal life, everyone loves challenges, and continuously overcoming them to achieve our goals keeps us motivated.
The secret to motivation is stimulating the space between your ears. Getting back on track after the holiday should not be the only thing on your mind!
So, try something challenging and fun. Go for that pottery class or art exhibition you always wanted to attend. Read your favourite books and learn something new. Or simply get back to an old project you had put on hold. Set new goals and milestones, so you have something to look forward to. Trust me! It will be beneficial for your body composition goals too. A healthy mind in a healthy body holds both ways. Your exercise and diet shouldn’t hold you back from taking pleasure in everything the world has to offer.
Lack of exercise and overindulging on delightful food may make you feel guilty of derailing from the usual routine and screwing up your progress. Know that you have not screwed up at all! You have learnt quite a lot in your fitness journey, and a couple of weeks off will only give you that well-deserved break. Do not give up and get right back on track after the holiday.
Ditch the short term mindset of “detox” and focus on getting your sleep, exercise and nutrition on track one at a time. Do not procrastinate even for a few days. Develop a mindset of starting small, but starting NOW. Know that it will be hard and you will likely experience post-holiday blues, and food cravings. Focus on your long term goals and exercise self-control to get back on track with your usual routine. You can do it!
If you wish to read about 6 lifestyle changes to sustainably lose fat and improve long term health, click here
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