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Holiday health, fitness and weight loss

Waiting until January to get your health and fitness back on track? Here, Chris Richards, general manager of Ultimate Performance (UP) Singapore, explains why getting on board with a weight loss plan before the holidays is better than starting in the New Year.

Woman stretching
Get a head-start by hitting the gym before your Christmas feasting

Temptations lurk around every corner. With the festive season upon us, it’s all too easy to put health and fitness on the backburner and surrender yourself to yuletide indulgence. So, why not ride out December in a chocolate-induced stupor and hit the gym in January with everyone else? Here’s why (and it’s a scary thought): statistically, you’re currently likely to be the lightest you will weigh all year.

That’s right, seasonal weight gain is a real “thing”. Your body does a good job of regulating its metabolism throughout the year, without too much weight fluctuation. Yet, while it can cope with a couple of hundred calories above or below your maintenance requirements, even the human metabolism has its limits, and it simply cannot cope with the excessive amounts of calories that we subject it to over the festive period.

The thing is, your body tries. You know how you heat up when you’ve stuffed yourself with food? That’s your metabolism trying to generate heat to burn through the extra energy you’ve consumed. However, when it just can’t keep up, the extra fuel goes into storage. Put simply, the pounds you add over the festive period tend to stick around for the long term; and a short-lived health kick or a dry January are just not going to cut it, despite the good intentions.

So, what better time for a fitness initiative than December? You’ll be starting with a mindset of making progress rather than regaining lost ground. And, you will inoculate yourself, to a degree, against those extra calories – you might not lose much weight, but you’ll be stronger and fitter come the New Year, confident in a gym environment and able to handle yourself amongst the crowd of new pretenders. What’s more, gyms in December are less crowded than in January: it will just be you and the seasoned pros, the veterans, the people for whom fitness isn’t merely a seasonal pursuit.

The other way doesn’t work so well. By starting in January, you stack the odds against yourself; you miss out on a running start, and you have to overcome the inertia brought on by the holidays. Finally, an often-overlooked bonus is that working out will give you something else fun to do besides opening presents and eating!

Stick to one beverage to better keep track of how much you drink

Tried and tested tips

Here are Chris’s top five tips for getting the most out of December.

1. Learn to say no

Don’t dive into every Christmas party or happening; rather, be selective. If you get invited to multiple events, just remember that you don’t need to go all-out at every single one – chances are that no one will notice you’re discreetly sipping soda water with lime.

2. Choose wisely

Go to events where there will be people whose company you fully enjoy, rather than the ones where you need to drink to survive the company!

3. Pick your poison

Sticking to one beverage is generally your best bet. You’ll have a better idea of how much you’ve drunk and, if you do drink too much, the hangover will be less debilitating.

4. Pay attention to weekly rather than daily calorie totals

If you’re facing a couple of festive blowouts, then plan ahead to remove some of the more energy-dense foods from your diet so as to aim for a weekly calorie deficit rather than a daily one. A sensible approach might be to adopt a “modified fast”, while allowing the seasonal events to provide sporadic “re-feeds”. In other words, try to consume fewer calories so as to establish a baseline against which you can then occasionally indulge without repercussions. But note, a low calorie count doesn’t mean low food volume: consume as much food as you need; but restrict your food choices – lean proteins, vegetables and certain fruit are all fair game.

Woman with dumbbell
Keep in shape by doing some basic lifts and conditioning

5. Conditioning and lifting

If you’re new to training, you’ll likely have a limited workout capacity. So, learn how to do basic lifts (track your performance in a logbook and progress the lifts each time you train!) and add some conditioning to your routine.

Here’s a beginner’s conditioning workout to do once or twice a week; it’s best performed on a bike or other low-impact machine. Note: Start off at an easy pace and then progress in each session by cranking up the resistance and sprinting levels.

  • Warm-up: five minutes at an easy pace
  • Session 1: 10 seconds “on” (as fast as you can), then 50 seconds “off” (a slower-paced recovery mode); do this five times.
  • Session 2: 10 seconds on, then 50 seconds off; do this seven times
  • Session 3: 15 seconds on, then 45 seconds off; do this five times
  • Session 4: 15 seconds on, then 45 seconds off; do this six times
  • Cool-down: five minutes at an easy pace

Special offer:

Expat Living readers get a UP goody bag and five free group class sessions (worth $350) when they sign up for one of UP’s holiday specials: choose between the two-week “Super-intensive” package (10 sessions for $1,300) and the five-week “Focused” package (16 sessions for $2,400); offer valid from 1 December to 15 January, 2017. All training programmes include lifestyle management advice, in-gym training with a professional trainer, tailored diet plans and workout programmes customised to your own metabolism and goals, a personalised supplementation plan, ongoing endocrine profiling and hormonal modulation to ensure that you make swift and continuous progress.

This article that first appeared in the December 2016 edition of Expat Living. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!

Check out more in our Health and Fitness section.