‘Tis the season filled with festive joy, mulled wine and mince pies.

For many, it’s the month of frantically grabbing last minute gifts, finishing deadlines and trying to wind down for the holidays. If you read last month’s article, chances are it’s also the season whereby you fall under the amber light in pursuit of your health and fitness goals.

Many of us tend to put ‘getting in shape’ on the back foot because we know January is around the corner and it’s the typical New Year’s resolution. We also don’t want to feel like a social hermit at the Christmas work party or sat at the dinner table on the big day turning away a piece of Christmas pudding because we are pursuing a flatter stomach.

Now I’m not here to tell you what you can or can’t do, ultimately it is your choice. Neither am I going to provide you with impractical advice, which might sound great on a piece of paper but is never going to happen in real life. You know, the usual “avoid all alcohol”, “eliminate sugar” and so on and so forth? I’m not going to tell you to ditch the alcohol, chocolate or carbohydrates, because that would be naïve of me to believe people would actually commit to that (I know I’ll be enjoying all three myself). I am a firm believer in getting ahead of yourself now rather than later and that you shouldn’t really wait until the New Year to think about your goals.

This is because we are inherently good at putting things off we don’t really like in the hope that the problem goes away. Sadly, what happens is well nothing actually and life proceeds to go on until someone makes a comment about your appearance or you read something that resonates with you and you decide that you want to get in shape again. It’s a vicious cycle that is easy to succumb to, but it doesn’t mean that we have to accept it as finality.

Getting in shape from a physiological perspective is simple. It’s simply a case of calories in versus calories out. I know there will be personal trainers and other members of the public showing outrage at the thought it can be as simple as this, but in truth energy can neither be created or destroyed and therefore if you’re eating too many calories, you’re going to put on weight. Unless you fall within a medical population then you do not need to worry about your hormones and their influence upon your body shape. If you do fall within a medical population then seek advice from your GP or a dietician and not from a personal trainer or even a nutritionist whose scope of practice falls well out of that realm.

Ultimately, the number of calories you consume should be one of the main things you focus on. I’m not saying that you need to meticulously calorie count or use my fitness pal (although both are useful in the beginning), but there are going to be days where you are likely to be consuming a high number of calories, whether it’s at a Christmas work party or a massive festive dinner. We are creatures of habit, so whilst we continue to do our usual routines at work, home and so on and so forth, new habits around the festive period creep in and we forget to adjust accordingly.

It’s important to know though, that in the same way you can’t lose weight in a day, you can’t get fat in a day either. It’s all about consistency whichever end of the spectrum you look at it. So rather than look at your journey day by day, look at it week by week. I am not advocating starving yourself during the week just so you can enjoy an extra couple of glasses of wine at the weekend, rather I am talking about getting the focus in during the week, being mindful of your calories by less self-indulging and getting in plenty of homemade meals.

From the exercise front, this is the time of year where things are getting pretty frosty and it means that our motivation to walk, cycle or jog outdoors, whether as a hobby or part of the journey to work, is diminished. Less activity means (yes you’ve probably guessed it) less calories burned and it also means that your energy balance tips even further into the excess calories bracket. It’s worth noting that exercise goes way beyond burning calories though and is a significant contributor to improved sleep, mood and general health, so it isn’t something we should switch off when it gets a bit colder. Instead we need to look at alternatives we can partake in to tip the energy equation back the other way. Perhaps you could look at doing an indoor class that’s caught your eye before with your partner or friend? Maybe you could try a new sport or even commit to being accountable to someone else, like a personal trainer? Whatever you do, consistency is important and it doesn’t have to take up your entire day or life for you to reap benefits. Develop a routine that you can get comfortable with and focus one or two things at a time.

This month isn’t about getting things perfect or going cold turkey or even going full throttle, rather it’s about committing to positive action on a frequent basis. It’s getting the good days outweighing the bad. If you’re doing something, you’re ahead of most and will see results, just don’t get bogged down in the minutiae and give up because you went a bit too hard at the Christmas do one night. You do have a certain amount of responsibility to yourself though, no one else can make the decisions for you.

Want practical ways to get in shape prior to the New Year? Contact me via jake.gifford@phitlifestyle.com for a free strategy call or check out our website to learn more about how we can help you.

Personal trainer Jake Gifford