As much as we enjoy the holidays, they can be stressful. The stress seems like it is coming from all directions sometimes, too: money issues, making travel arrangements (and then actually traveling), the presents, the tree, the meals, the traffic, the constant frustration. With the holiday stress and all that goes along with it, the last thing you want to worry about it your weight on top of everything else. But you kind of should.
There’s so many factors that contribute to weight gain during the holiday season that if you want to make it through as fit as you were when you started (or even fitter), you need to pay attention to how the holidays affect your routine and adjust accordingly. But how can you do it with all the distractions and stressors that go along with the holidays?
We’ve got one idea… apps.
We compiled a list of our favorite apps that directly combat the major sources of holiday weight gain to help you make it through the holidays healthy, on track, and feeling good about yourself.
While arguably the only contributing factor to winter weight gain that almost nothing can be done about (apart from wintering somewhere warm), it’s important to understand why our bodies pick up extra pounds during the holiday season…
Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence to prove that our bodies are biologically predisposed to carry more weight in the winter months (unless you are a bear or another hibernating animal). We do tend to be less active in the winter months (might as well be a bear, right?). And then there are those of us who suffer from seasonal depression (SAD) who benefit from a little extra vitamin D in the wintertime.
Getting past the cold-weather-road-block to the gym (or the grocery to get healthy food) is key to getting shape and/or staying fit in the winter.
Remember: the weather is not in your control, but your health and fitness is!
Lack of sleep
In order to be performing at your best, you need to be getting good rest. Studies about sleep and performance highlight it again and again – getting a proper night’s rest is important to your weight and your overall health.
The reasons behind why lack of sleep affects our ability to lose weight has a lot to do with our hormones. The two hormones that are a part of this process are ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the “go” hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you are sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin. Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, and when you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin.
Basically, more ghrelin plus less leptin equals weight gain. So, if you’re losing sleep this holiday season, chances are it’s not helping your waistline.
How could a mobile app help you get better rest? Well, there are a few options…
Sleep Bug App
Sleep Bug is a free app (iOS and Android) that helps you get to sleep through the use of ambient scene sounds and music. With options that allow you to customize each scene, for example, you can add or take away tiger, monkey, and other sounds in the jungle scene, Sleep Bug allows for a more personalized experience than other ambient sound programs. Sleep Big offers a “Pro version” upgrade for $1.99, as well as a kid-friendly version (Sleep Big Kids) that is targeted to toddlers. If members of the family have difficulty falling asleep, Sleep Bug has an app to help.
Sleep Cycle App
The Sleep Cycle app is an alarm clock app (iOS and Android) that works by monitoring your sleep cycles while you’re sleeping. You can set a range of time that you need to wake up within, and the app will wake you up at the point in your sleep cycle that is least likely to leave you feeling groggy. Pretty cool, huh? With only a $0.99 price tag, Sleep Cycle is worth every penny knowing that you’ll be waking up on time, and as refreshed as possible.
For many, visiting friends and family over the holidays requires travel, and travel requires that you’re removed from your typical routine. Travel derails diets. Travel kills regular training schedules at the gym. Travel is the devil. Just kidding… kind of.
It really doesn’t matter if you are flying or driving, eating healthy food on the go is tough. Most airports don’t have healthy options, and neither do truck stops. And then when you get to where you’re going, you have too much turkey, drink too much wine, have no idea where the nearest gym is, and next thing you know it’s time to go home. It’s not the greatest recipe for weight loss.
Apart from packing your own healthy snacks for the road, what can you do?
The HappyCow app (iOS and Android) is a on-the-go no-brainer for vegans, vegetarians, and health enthusiasts alike. The app allows you to search online for nearby vegan/vegetarians restaurants and health food stores, so whether you want to sit down and dine in, grab something to go, or pick up some healthy snacks or groceries, you’re covered.
Also, don’t forget about apps like Yelp and OpenTable that we commonly use at home, but can be invaluable resources for finding healthy food on-the-go.
It’s nearly impossible to make it through the Thanksgiving to New Years hustle without some major stress. Unfortunately for all of us, studies have shown that while stress initially may suppress the appetite, chronic stress actually increases the appetite, leading to weight gain. So how can apps help decrease stress?
What’s in a name? The Calm app (iOS and Android) delivers on its name, offering a range of guided meditations to help you stay centered through the madness that is the holiday season. “There has never been a more important time to rediscover your pause button,” and that’s what the Calm app offers – for free. Recommended for meditation newbies and gurus alike.
Yoga Studio App
The Yoga Studio App (iOS and Windows, $3.99) is a fantastic way to squeeze in a bit of exercise when you’re on the road, as well as combat stress with the relaxation that comes with practicing yoga. The app offers over 24 hours of ready-made HD video classes as well as the ability to design your own classes, with challenging instruction for beginners and experienced yogis, too.
Lack of exercise
We all know that getting enough exercise is essential to general health and a key tenet in weight loss. If you already exercise regularly, you know that you have to make a purposeful decision to do so, and it’s not always easy. When you are removed from your regular day-to-day, traveling, on the road, doing the holiday dance, it’s even more difficult to find and make time to exercise.
Luckily, there are a number of fitness related apps on the market that offer a variety of features that help you get or stay in shape.
Nike+ Training Club App
The Nike+ Training Club app (free on iOS and Android) is our most highly recommended app for fitness on-the-go. With over 100 workouts of different lengths for all fitness levels, the Nike+ Training Club app is there for you in your hotel room/guest bedroom in your time of need this holiday season. No gym? No problem.
The MapMyFitness App
MapMyFitness (and it’s components, MapMyRun, MapMyRide, MapMyWalk, etc) is a wildly popular fitness app (for iOS and Android) that is used to monitor one’s run, ride, walk or hike. While we appreciate it’s ability to monitor exercise, track food, and share with friends and followers, it doesn’t help those who are adverse to the cooler climate in the wintertime. If you’re lucky enough to spend the holidays somewhere warm, map the hell out of your morning run on the beach (and share it on Facebook), but those of us spending the holidays in the cold may want to stick with Nike+ and/or Yoga Studio.
This is a big one for weight gain (no pun intended), especially around the holidays. Generally speaking, Americans tend to over consume food, and the holiday season is definitely no exception. With gatherings centered around large meals, it’s incredibly hard not to overeat. Good luck if you have more than one Thanksgiving or Christmas celebration to attend – immediate family, extended family, significant other’s family, “Friendsgiving,” etc… Sweets are everywhere. Even if you are actively trying to avoid unhealthy food, sometimes you can’t turn down a piece of grandma’s famous Christmas fudge, and then it’s all over from there.
And then there’s alcohol. How many of us wish that alcohol had no calories? Yeah, me too. For some people, alcohol is the the answer to how to make it through the holidays. Unfortunately, over consuming alcohol is unhealthy and just as likely to make you gain weight as overeating. Sad face.
But what are the holidays without a little eggnog and fudge? We don’t recommend abstaining (from anything – ha!), but we do recommend moderation (in everything).
The key is moderation. Don’t be a perfectionist; be persistently moderate this holiday season.
MyFitnessPal is the most overwhelmingly preferred mobile app (iOS and Android) for logging food and counting calories. While the idea of counting calories may immediately put a bad taste in your mouth, counting calories during the holidays can open your eyes to how much more you actually consume during those big family gatherings. And it makes a difference. Whether you intend to use MyFitnessPal to keep your intake under a certain number of calories or scale up your workouts when you eat too much turkey, monitoring caloric intake has been proven to improve weight loss efforts. It’s not just for the ladies anymore, fellas! MyFitnessPal allows you to track workouts as well, making it one of our readers’ top picks this year.
Other Helpful Health Apps for the Holiday Season…
Wearable devices like FitBit, Jawbone, et al. provide pedometers, heart rate monitors, and sleep tracking functions that connect to corresponding mobile apps that integrate multiple previously discussed functions. For example, the Jawbone connects to the Up app, that has meal tracking, fitness tracking and functionality similar to the Sleep Cycle app. Depending on your routine and whether or not you can manage using multiple apps, an activity tracker with a corresponding app may be the right choice for you.