It’s Christmas, so it’s feasting time—here’s how to navigate all the fitness myths and health advice you’ll be hearing this season
Lead photo by Benoît Deschasaux/Unsplash+
We’re neck-deep in the holidays now, and the more fitness-conscious of us are likely already starting to strategize about how we’re approaching all the food we’ll be eating and the exercises we may (or may not) be getting done over the break.
That’s all well and good, but that means you’ll be running to this and that source to find the best fitness advice to guide you over the season. A lot of places will spout a bunch of information—and some of them may be bro science—so it’s best that you know the real deal.
Here are some fitness myths we think are a bunch of baloney:
Myth: It’s best to start a new fitness journey in January
In the US, 12 percent of gym signups apparently happen in January, thanks to the power of New Year’s resolutions. In my experience here in the Philippines, though, gyms just feel like they’re crowded year-round, which means a lot of people are really committed to being fit no matter the time of year.
You don’t have to wait until the new year to turn over a new leaf
That said, you don’t have to wait until the new year to turn over a new leaf. If you’ve got the means and the time, and you really want to start getting fit, just sign up. The only good reason to wait is if there’ll be a promo that makes it cheaper or more rewarding to wait to sign up, but the real perk is you’ll reach your goals sooner. If you start before the Christmas break, you’ll have a jump on all the eating you’re going to do.
Myth: Eat less now to eat more later
As we all know, losing weight (or not gaining too much of it) depends on your net calorie intake every day. The math is simple: the less you eat, the more you’ll lose or the less you’ll gain. Some, especially the calorie counters, may think of “starvation” before a big holiday meal just to eat more without all the guilt.
You’ll be putting your body through hell just to reward it with a nice dinner, and it’s really not worth it. The best way to go about big party days is to… eat how you want to, especially if you’ve been good on the days before and after big feasts. If you’re counting calories, get a workout or thousands of steps in—not to make up exactly for what you’re about to eat, but just to have an indeterminate buffer to soften the blow of all the food.
Half a myth: It’s best to look for lower-calorie alternatives
While yes, it’s generally a good idea to make smarter food choices, you shouldn’t do that at a time and place where there aren’t any to begin with. Unless you’ve got a major health concern that you need to be maintaining, it’s best to simply not be that person at the get-together. It’s Christmas—have the soda, the lechon, the potato salad, the holiday ham now. It’s okay to live a little with the rich and indulgent stuff, but also still be mindful of how much of it you’re eating.
While yes, it’s generally a good idea to make smarter food choices, you shouldn’t do that at a time and place where there aren’t any to begin with
Myth: Work out as much as you can to offset the calories
This one is related to number four, and it’s for the hardcore fitness devotees—you may find yourself scheduling a little too many or extra longer workout sessions to counteract all the eating you’ll be doing.
If you’re not just a weekend warrior or casual athlete, then by all means, go for it. But if you’re ramping your usual intensity up just so your waistline doesn’t balloon, you may want to think twice about it. It’s okay to keep at the grindstone if you can handle it, but if you’re giving up some rest and relaxation or tearing up your body to the point of neurosis, please come back down.
Just exercise the way you normally would outside the holidays, enjoy all the good times, then go back to being disciplined after the break.
Myth: You’ll gain so much weight if you eat a lot
Assuming the major indulgence you’ll be doing is at a bunch of holiday parties and get-togethers over December, you won’t be adding 5 to 10 pounds on the scale. The number is actually closer to two or three pounds, according to a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Both permanent weight gain and weight loss are results of consistent action, so the only way you’ll put on 10 pounds is if you overeat that much every single day for an extended period
The same study says that fitter people are more likely to gain a reasonable amount of weight over the holidays, while those who are obese showed higher weight gain. Both permanent weight gain and weight loss are results of consistent action, so the only way you’ll put on 10 pounds is if you overeat that much every single day for an extended period—like in a proper bulking process.
Basically, all of it comes down to this: Don’t stress out about the big Noche Buena, the big Christmas lunch or dinner, and the Media Noche. It’s okay to not overthink the way you’ll be handling the holidays because it’s supposed to be you taking it easy on yourself.
May the last days of your 2023 be merry and bright!