The holiday season is in full swing, and that means that the average American will gain approximately 1.3 pounds before the calendar flips to 2017 - pounds that generally remain with us throughout the new year. To avoid "being average" this holiday season but still enjoy all of the festivities that this time of year brings, I have 3 simple steps you can follow for the entire month of December to avoid holiday weight gain without sacrificing fun with family and friends.
Step #1 - Establish your Daily Bare Minimums and stick to them every day in December, no matter what. Most diets fail because they are too restrictive to follow long term, and certainly the holiday season is not the time to try to enforce overly stringent diet and fitness rules. Daily Bare Minimums (DBMs) are simple, healthy habits that you do on a daily basis, regardless of how hectic and chaotic your life is. It is critical that your DBMs are easy enough that you are 90+% certain that you will be able to successfully complete them every single day. They should focus on areas of your life that need improvement so that they help you progress on your health and fitness journey. I recommend choosing three DBMs and no more - one that focuses on nutrition, one that focuses on fitness/movement, and one that focuses on lifestyle. My December DBMs, for example, include eating produce (a fruit or veg) at every meal or snack, engaging in purposeful movement for at least 20 minutes every day, and limiting my daily to-do lists to only 3 items. Once you check the box on your DBMs, regardless of what happens the rest of the day, consider that day a resounding success!
Step #2 - Create a rule around alcohol consumption. One of the biggest culprits of holiday weight gain is alcohol, not only because alcoholic drinks can be calorie bombs in themselves (one cup of spiked eggnog can add up to more than 400 calories, which is a quarter of the daily calorie allotment for the "average" woman), but also because drinking can lower your inhibitions and cause you to munch (and munch, and munch) on lots of high-calorie foods (and consume greasy and fattening breakfasts the next day to "cure" your hangover). This holiday season, I recommend creating a "rule" for yourself when it comes to alcohol consumption. That does not have to mean avoiding alcohol completely (although it could), but it may mean limiting yourself to 1-2 drinks per day (which is what is recommended from a health perspective, by the way). Or drinking a glass of water after each drink before having another. Or only drinking at parties and never at home. Or having no more than 7 drinks each week. Pick your poison and follow your self-designed rule for the entire month, and you will save yourself hundreds - if not thousands - of calories, and probably a hangover or two (which makes sticking with your fitness DBM much easier, too!).
Step #3 - Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. As a new mom to an infant and a puppy who is trying to start up a blog, training for her kettlebell instructor certification, and keeping a household in (somewhat) working order, I can fully relate with those of you who find getting the recommended 7-8+ hours of sleep every night a challenge. With the stress and chaos of the holiday season, however, there is likely no other habit that will benefit your health more than getting your zzz's. The studies are clear - the more sleep-deprived you are, the more weight you are likely to gain, not only because sleep deprivation causes your body to release cortisol and hold onto fat, but also because getting insufficient sleep causes you to eat more (some 300 calories more a day - which adds up to a 2 1/2-pound weight gain during the month of December!) because it increases your hunger hormone (ghrelin) and decreases your satiety hormone (leptin). It is also unlikely that you will be as physically active during the day if you did not get enough sleep at night, so if there is one thing you can do this month to help stave off the holiday weight gain, it is to ensure you get at least 7 hours of sleep every single night. No matter what.
There you have it. 3 simple steps to avoid being average this December. Here's wishing you an amazing (and weight gain-free) holiday season!
Until next time, be happy and healthy,
Since giving birth to Beautiful Baby A (BBA) this summer, I have found myself frequently saying "I can't wait until she [INSERT EXCITING DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONE]..." or "I look forward to [INSERT FRUSTRATING ASPECT OF BEING THE MAMA OF AN INFANT] to be over" - focusing on the promise of the future rather than appreciating the beauty of the moment. When I catch myself thinking these thoughts, I consciously stop myself in my tracks, remembering what I have been told by many friends and family members and have read in all of the baby books - "enjoy every moment because they grow up too fast." Looking backwards on life, it is easy to recognize the nuggets of joy in even the most trying moments, and I do not want to regret wishing away all of life's little blessings, even if they are hidden behind a mask of displeasure.
I have always disliked fall. Not because of the characteristics of the season itself, which actually are quite lovely, but because the cooler days of fall always remind me that winter is just around the corner. Cold weather, snow and ice, dark and chilly mornings and equally dark and chilly late afternoons. All of the things my warmth- and sun-loving self despises.
Life has its seasons, just like the weather. And each season has its ugly, challenging, and trying moments, and each season has within it a magnificent beauty if you choose to focus on the moment at hand and take a closer look. This morning, as I walked BBA on this gorgeous fall day - her 5-month "birthday" - I embraced one of those moments, which inspired me to write this post despite the fact I had almost finished a completely different blog for the week. The air today was unseasonably warm, the trees were seasonably colorful, and I was happy and grateful for having this moment with my amazing child. I was not thinking about my to-do list. I was not thinking about my future. I was not thinking about the season that is to follow. Because we really don't know what the next season of life will have in store for us. All we can be sure of is what we have right now, and the right now is perfectly amazing if you open your eyes to its wonder.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I challenge you to take time each day to focus on the wonder of your life right now at this very moment - and on the nuggets of joy and happiness for which you are grateful. And in the depths of winter, when the winds are whipping and the air is frigid, remember that without the dormancy of winter, trees would never know the grandeur of sprouting in spring.
Until next time, be happy, by healthy - and be grateful,
My early experience with kettlebells was not a love-at-first-sight fairy tale. In fact, I can't even remember the first time I picked up a kettlebell, a somewhat primitive-looking, cast-iron cannonball-like piece of fitness equipment with a handle. But after experiencing my second knee injury in 2012, a stress fracture in 2014, burning out from running numerous marathons and half marathons and becoming pregnant at the age of 42, I turned to kettlebells to help keep me in shape when high-impact workouts and heavy barbells were banned by my doctor due to the high-risk nature of my pregnancy.
I worked out with kettlebells up until the day before Beautiful Baby A (BBA) was born, and I credit kettlebells for keeping me in good shape during my pregnancy and for allowing me to return to my pre-pregancy weight within just a few weeks after giving birth. By that point I had already decided that I wanted to share the power of kettlebells with others, and so I committed to preparing for the Russian Kettlebell Challenge (RKC) instructor certification, one of the most highly respected and grueling kettlebell certifications around. That means I get up at the crack of dawn before baby awakens, 5 mornings a week (beginning at just 2 months postpartum), throw on my workout clothes and head to the garage for an intense, 45+-minute training session. I am often tired, having been up much of the night nursing an infant. Now that autumn is upon us, it is dark and cold when I descend upon the garage, and there is usually nothing I would like better than to stay under the warm covers and snooze for another hour or two. So what is it that keeps me training so hard, day in and day out, using up the only real "me" time I get right now - and why should it matter to you?
Here are the top 5 reasons why I believe kettlebells are the solution to just about everyone's struggles, whether you want to get fit, stay fit, or just get in a good workout every now and then; whether you are old or young, a highly-drive career-person, a stay-at-home mom, a retiree, an athlete, a workout newbie or something in between.
#1 Kettlebells are ACCESSIBLE. In early 2015, I participated in a 12-week course at my CrossFit box that focused on building strength using the traditional barbell lifts. While I thoroughly felt like a bad-ass bench pressing and deadlifting, once the class was over, I did not keep up with the training, since setting up a squat rack at home with a barbell, weight plates and a bench was not feasible due to the expense, the amount of space required, and the need for special flooring in case you drop the bar (which I frequently did when I was increasing the weight of some of my lifts). Kettlebells, on the other hand, are relatively cheap and take up virtually no space, and with just one or two kettlebells, you have an entire gym's worth of strength and conditioning workouts at your fingertips. This makes kettlebells accessible to just about anyone, particularly those of us who may be too busy to head to a gym on a regular basis or who live in an itsy-bitsy apartment or condo.
#2 Kettlebells are PORTABLE. Last summer, The Man and I went on vacation for a week during the time I was doing a 100-Day Challenge, during which I completed 100 different workouts and made 100 different healthy meals in 100 days. I was able to continue with the Challenge during our trip without missing a beat by simply packing a kettlebell into the car, which enabled me to get in both cardio and strength training workouts outside with a view of a gorgeous lake. Kettlebells are highly portable, and for that reason, they are the perfect tool for anyone who is on the go or on the road.
#3 Kettlebells are VERSATILE. Treadmills, elliptical machines, rowing machines, and stationary bikes are great (but expensive) pieces of equipment for getting in a solid cardio workout, and dumbbells, barbells or resistance bands are wonderful tools for toning muscle and building strength. But invest in 1 or 2 kettlebells, and you have the makings of an entire gym's worth of cardio and strength workouts, at minimal cost, and you can tuck them away in a corner in even the tiniest of apartments. Because of the shape of the kettlebell, it is not only perfect for strength moves like squats, presses, rows and deadlifts, but it is also a cardio conditioning powerhouse with ballistic moves like the swing, clean, snatch and jerk. Additionally, because kettlebell workouts are non-impact (in other words, no jumping or plyometrics), kettlebel weights range from just a few pounds to several hundred pounds, kettlebells can be used by just about anyone regardless of age or fitness level. When it comes to fitness tools, I have found kettlebells to be the most versatile piece of equipment in the gym.
#4 Kettlebells are EFFECTIVE. Whether you want to build strength, lose weight, tone muscle or achieve a combination of the above, kettlebell workouts just flat out deliver results. In a study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), a 20-minute, kettlebell interval workout was found to burn 20.2 calories per minute (over 400 calories in just 20 minutes), which is the equivalent of running a 6-minute mile pace for 20 minutes straight and a higher calorie burn than any other form of exercise with the exception of cross-country skiing UPHILL at a fast pace (and who does that?). During my pregnancy, I worked out almost exclusively with kettlebells, and they helped me stay in shape, gain a healthy amount of weight (22 pounds), deliver a beautiful 7 pound, 8 ounce baby, and bounce back quickly postpartum (my doctor cleared me for light cardio only 4 weeks after my C-section). Since having BBA, I have also focused on kettlebell workouts since I am training for my RKC certification, and without dieting (I am still breastfeeding - and I am eating a bowl of almond milk ice cream right at this very moment...), I am in better shape than I was before I was pregnant and weigh 8 pounds LESS than I did prior to pregnancy. Ultimately, kettlebell workouts are highly effective in helping you reach your fitness and weight loss goals without the need to spend hours in the gym.
#5 Kettlebells are FUN. It's virtually impossible to stick with a fitness routine long-term unless you are enjoying yourself, and I find kettlebell workouts to be a blast! Perhaps it is because of their versatility and the ability to switch between strength and cardio moves with the same piece of equipment (because variety is the spice of life). Or maybe it is because swinging and throwing around a heavy metal object after a long day in the office or at home with baby is incredibly therapeutic. Regardless, kettlebell workouts are fun and keep me coming back for more, which is critical since consistency is the most important thing when it comes to creating a healthy lifestyle.
Kettlebells have become my personal, one-stop-shop for all things fitness, and I encourage you to give them a try, too. As with any other piece of fitness equipment, I highly recommend that you meet with a trainer experienced with kettlebells to learn proper form before you begin swinging away at home on your own. If you have any questions about anything kettlebell-related, please let me know. Happy swinging!
Until next time, be happy and healthy,
Hello, friends! I’m Kathleen, the Kettlebell Mama. Welcome to bells & peppers – a blog dedicated to all things related to fitness, nutrition and healthy living. As an athlete, trainer, nutritionist, cooking instructor, attorney, senior executive and new mom, I have learned how to balance my personal health and fitness goals with paying the bills, spending quality time with family and friends and pursuing a demanding career – without losing my mind! My goal is to inspire, empower and provide you with simple strategies to help you become your healthiest self in a balanced, realistic and sustainable way. Feel free to read more about my story here. Thanks for visiting bells & peppers!