Heading into the holidays, we all have such good intentions. We swear to resist the pie, cookies and second helpings as we stick to our training plans.
Unfortunately, the season often doesn't turn out that way. Marathon shopping trips hijack planned workouts. The lure of festive whipped coffee drinks proves irresistible. By January 1, we end up with a more daunting list of New Year's resolutions than we had before the holidays.
Happily, the way back to your best running self is never far. Here are some easy solutions to quickly reverse the momentum and get back on track.
Give yourself one to three days off from sweets, salty treats or whatever kryptonite food consistently derails your diet. Just a small, simple change like this can produce noticeable results that will restore your confidence and motivation, says Lauren Antonucci, founder of New York-based Nutrition Energy.
"One big roadblock to weight loss is a feeling of defeat," she says. Avoid extreme measures and unsafe supplements or detox plans. And no need to make any grandiose diet declarations that are ultimately unsustainable, like swearing off sweets forever or vowing to consume 400 calories a day.
Just eliminate one food or eating tendency that is dragging you down, she adds. No matter what you take out, maintain a base of non-starchy vegetables, lean protein, and healthy unsaturated fats, Antonucci says.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Jackie Dikos, an Indianapolis-based sports dietitian and owner of Nutrition Success, recommends taking simple steps that make healthy eating more convenient—and ultimately more sustainable. Prepare and freeze big batches of brown rice so you'll always have a healthy carb that you can grab in a hurry, she suggests. And for lunch, rather than going for fast food, stop at the grocery and create a meal with produce, dairy, and other fresh options.
Try a short cutdown run, suggests coach Jeff Gaudette of Boston-based Runnersconnect.net. After a warmup of easy running, do the first mile at marathon pace, then accelerate to half marathon pace in the second mile. Log the third mile at a 10K pace, and run the final mile as fast as you can. Take no rest between the miles.
"Starting on the slower side helps you ease into the workout," says Gaudette. "This helps build your confidence throughout the workout. The last mile or two will really challenge you. By the end, it allows you to run quick and feel that exhilaration of pushing yourself and running fast."
Even the slightest bit of dehydration can cause a cascade of unwanted side effects, including headaches, GI distress and runs that feel more like slogs than workouts. What's more, dehydration can cause a feeling of fatigue that you're likely to mistake for hunger.
Studies have shown that dehydration can slow your pace and increase perception of effort—i.e. how hard each mile feels. So keep a full water bottle close at hand throughout the day and sip continuously. Aim to consume at least half your body weight in ounces of calorie-free fluids each day. So if you weigh 170 pounds, aim for 85 ounces.
Think Beyond the Calories
While there are many sound diet plans on the market, the most effective weight-loss strategy will be the one that best fits your lifestyle, temperament, tastes and needs.
Think about why, how, when you eat and when your diet tends to get derailed so you can map out strategies to stay on track. Are you good all day, then eat with abandon at night? Then try closing the kitchen after dinner and replacing late-night noshing with a non-food form of relaxation like a movie, a book, a game with the family or sleep.
Pick a calorie-form of relaxation that really diffuses the intensity if you're stressed, like stepping outside or taking a walk. Or vent in an email with a friend. If you let yourself get famished before your next meal, add a healthy, satisfying snack to your routine that doesn't make you feel so deprived.
Research has shown that beating yourself into submission will only further derail your weight-loss goals. In a study published in the March 2014 issue of Appetite, people who associated chocolate with guilt reported lower levels of control over eating and were less successful at losing weight compared to those who associated chocolate cake with celebration.
So don't let regret and shame drag you down. After all, if you stop trying, failure is guaranteed. "People feel guilty, defeated, and they give up," Antonucci says. "But it's just like training for a marathon. If you quit running, you know you'll never finish the marathon. But if you keep at it. You'll get there."
- Running Resolutions You'll Actually Keep in 2016
- Are You Making These Treadmill Mistakes?
- What Professional Runners Do in the Off-Season
Find your next race.