Lately I’ve been trying to save more and spend less, all the while trying to exercise more and eat less. I’ve learned that even though I’m trying to accomplish two different goals, the principles to succeed are very similar. And these two goals are hard enough to take on during the year, but throw in the Christmas and holiday season and it seems almost impossible. The good news is that it is possible to succeed during the holidays. The bad news is that it is hard work. Here are some principles that can help keep you in moderation this holiday season.
Plan Ahead: Do Thanksgiving and Christmas always tend to sneak up on you? Isn’t that weird when they are at the same time every year? People seem to get blindsided year after year when the holidays come around, only they’re only blindsided because they were closing their eyes. It’s time to face it: Christmas is coming – presents need to be bought and delicious food will be everywhere. You can try to ignore it, but it will still come. So once you face that fact, it’s time to start to plan your success. There are many events that you know are coming, Thanksgiving dinner, that holiday party, black Friday shopping, holiday baking, and the list goes on and on. Decide ahead of time how you are going to stay strong and disciplined in the midst of these temptations and you are more likely to make it through them without regret.
Set Limits: Off-limits and set-limits can make or break you. When you make things off-limits, you’re putting rash restrictions on yourself like “I can’t spend any money on myself for these two months” or “I will not eat any holiday desserts or snacks at all!” You know what happens when you make these “vows” – most of the time you end up blowing a bunch of money on yourself or eating everything in sight because you felt so deprived that you just snapped. Unless of course you are extremely disciplined, in which case you aren’t likely to be reading this article. Now set-limits (simply a limit you set for something) are a different story. You can spend money on yourself (there are so many good deals at Christmas time) or you can eat holiday desserts, only in moderation.
How far are you going to indulge in your favorite Christmas foods? Studies show that you get most of your satisfaction out of the first few bites of what you eat – the rest is just filler food. Maybe you’ll have some eggnog, but you’ll drink the light or dilute it with milk. What is your Christmas gift budget? Choose an amount that you can afford and won’t be stuck paying on for months to come. Decide who you will buy presents for and an approximate amount to spend on each person and stick to it.
Track It: If you don’t track what you eat and what you spend, there will be no way for you to know if you’re close or if you’ve exceeded your limit. You have to keep a record of the money you are spending and the food you are eating. The reason most people overeat and overspend during this time is mindless spending and eating. A piece of candy here, a latte there, an extra present here, and before you know it you’ve spent twice your budget and gained 5 pounds. Every penny you spend and every bite you eat should be written down. You become more accountable when you’re faced with the extra piece of pie you ate each day for 5 days or the daily peppermint mocha and eggnog lattes you’ve been alternating every day of the week.
Monitor Yourself: What do you do with the long list of everything you’ve eaten and every penny you’ve spent? You look it over and determine how you are doing. Weigh yourself weekly to make sure you aren’t gaining weight and look at your current spending to see how much you’ve spent so far and how far on or off track you are. If you monitor your progress along the way, you are more likely to catch yourself before you get too deep.
Be Creative: So what if you look at your budget and the amount you can spend is less than what you want to spend? Or what if your favorite holiday dessert is loaded with more calories than you should eat in a week? Look outside the box. Christmas presents don’t have to be expensive or even bought from a store. Some of the best gifts are handmade personal gifts. You can do something like decorate and personalize a picture frame and insert a special picture inside. If you are crafty the sky is the limit. If you are not, find what you are good at and find a way to make it a gift. If someone gets upset with you for not spending more, just realize what they really need is more Christmas spirit. You can be creative in your eating too- find your favorite recipes and make them with lower fat ingredients. I love pumpkin – pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin bars – you name it. But your typical pumpkin dessert purchased at the store is loaded with fat. So I make my own with low fat cream cheese or Splenda or without crust (which I don’t even like, but has most of the fat). Bring your own low fat dessert to a holiday party and share it with others who are trying to eat less. At least you know something at the party is good for you because you brought it.
Increase: Normally when you think of losing weight and saving money you think of decreasing your eating and spending. But if decreasing these things is too daunting of a task for you right now, then increase the opposite actions. If you eat more, you can offset that by exercising more. And if you spend more, you can combat that by getting a part-time job during the holidays to pay for all your shopping. So go ahead and spend some extra money on yourself if you’ve picked up an extra source of income. And go ahead and have that second piece of pie – as long as you work out tomorrow for an hour.
The last thing you want is to have the holiday season run you over and leave you overweight and overspent. You can take charge of your spending and eating for this next month and half and still reach your goals.
Image courtesy of cardamom