“It’s the most, wonderful time, of the year!”
I hope you sang that in your head, rather than just reading it – have some fun! However, if you didn’t sing it, it may be because you don’t associate this time of year and the holiday season as being a wonderful time of the year, at all. Rather, you associate this time of year and the holiday season with over-indulging, food anxiety, and weight gain. Assuming this is you, you’re not alone! Traveling, weekly holiday parties, family get-togethers, kids are on holiday break from school – your schedule is nuts and your routine is thrown completely out of whack. For most people, it’s hard enough sticking to a diet when all things are ‘normal’! On top of the challenges from a lifestyle perspective, what is the center point of all social functions this time of year? FOOD AND DRINKS! And, no, I’m not talking veggie platters, chicken breast, and lemon water. I’m talking pies, cookies, brownies, hors d’oeuvres, fatty cuts of meat, and alcohol. That’s the double-whammy… However, with all that being said, I’d like to help you make this year different! Instead of saying, “Screw it! There’s no way I can stick to my nutrition and exercise plan with all this madness going on – I’ll start back up in January,” this is a time you should lean into your diet. When every other aspect of your life may seem out of routine and control during the holidays, find solace and stability in your nutrition and exercise. Here are six tips to breaking the cycle, this year, and avoiding the dreaded holiday weight gain.
1. Adopt a nutritional plan (‘diet’) that fits your lifestyle and is as easy as possible to stick to.
As I pointed out, above, this isn’t the time of year where a traditional diet that restricts you from all sugar, alcohol, and the foods you enjoy is going to be advantageous. Not sure what I’m referring to or don’t believe a nutritional plan like that exists? It’s called tracking your macros with a flexible dieting approach.
No foods are off limits – Say what?! A diet that let’s you eat whatever you want. Imagine how this can work in your favor during the holidays. No more anxiety or guilt when Grandma Jean asks if you’d like a slice of her famous pumpkin pie.
You can structure your week however you’d like – Have a work party on Friday night? Great – sounds like you need to make sure Friday’s macro targets are higher that day to allow for more flexibility and fun. Christmas falls on a Tuesday this year? Looks like you should make Tuesday, maybe also Monday if you also do something for Christmas Eve, your high day.
If this intrigues you, but you have no idea how you’d do this on your own, fill out the contact form on my website. I’m more than happy to have a FREE conversation to explain how macro tracking works and how you can use it in your favor this holiday season.
2. Fill up on nutrient-dense, whole foods prior to going to any holiday party or get-together.
Have you ever gone grocery shopping when you were hungry? I bet you got to your car and realized you bought everything you laid your eyes on. Ever done it while thirsty? I bet you left the store with enough water and beverages to get you through a natural disaster.
My point is, go to a party hungry, and one that will have nothing but delicious sweets and less healthy food options, and the temptation to over-indulge will be stronger than ever. Cover your bases early in the day by getting in your micronutrients and protein, and leave some wiggle room at the party to have a treat or two.
3. Manage (notice I didn’t say ‘eliminate’) your alcohol intake.
It is perfectly fine to have a drink, heck, even a few, when you’re at a holiday party, but give yourself a limit before getting there and then stick to it! There’s nothing wrong with having 1-3 drinks and then switching to non-alcoholic beverages from there on out. Don’t want to be that person at the party who doesn’t have a drink in their hand throughout the night? Fine – alternate every alcoholic beverage with one bottle of water. This way you’re staying hydrated, while also spacing your drinks out, instead of reaching your limit in the first hour.
“But my friends are huge partiers and would never let me only have 1-3 drinks!” First off, if they’re really your friends, they should be just fine with whatever you do. Second, drive to the party. The easiest excuse when someone asks, “Hey, why aren’t you drinking?”, or, “Come take another shot with us!”, is, “Sorry, I can’t – I’m driving or else I totally would!”
Lastly, when you are choosing your alcoholic beverages, opt for hard liquor over beer and wine, and go with no/low-calorie chasers and mixers. Diet soda, diet tonic, Crystal Light powder, and soda water are my go-to’s.
4. Don’t skip the gym/your exercise.
It is incredibly easy to use the, “I don’t have time,” excuse during the holidays and on some level, you may be right. You likely are busier during the holidays, so you may not have time…for your usual 1-2 hour gym trip, that is. But, you do have time for a 30-60min workout, or a 15min at home workout, or to take your dog on a walk? Damn right you do – KEEP MOVING! The longer you stay away from the gym and stray from your normal exercise routine, the harder it will be to get back to the gym and on your normal routine, once the holidays are over.
Remember when we talked about energy balance? Calories in vs. calories out? Well, if you know the holidays are typically a time where your calories in are higher than usual, it’s in your best interest to make sure your calories out are also higher than usual.
5. Pre-track your macros as much as you can.
If you know you are going to your aunt’s house to bake and decorate holiday cookies later that night, pre-track a couple cookies in MyFitnessPal when you wake up, that way you know how much you have left to eat the rest of the day. If you know you have a work holiday party to attend, pre-track a few drinks in MyFitnessPal when you wake up, so you know how much you have left to eat the rest of the day.
Both these instances are going to be high carb (plus fat for the cookies scenario), so you can stick to low-carb, high protein, nutrient-dense food sources throughout the rest of your day. Don’t leave it up to chance! There is nothing worse than mentally planning on having a few cookies or drinks, only to get there and realize you don’t have the macros left for them.
6. Most holiday parties are potluck style – use this to your advantage and bring your own, macro-friendly dish.
Nobody has to know that you brought your specific dish simply because you knew it fit your macros, perfectly. Bring something that YOU enjoy eating, that fits YOUR macros, and then stick to loading up on mainly YOUR dish while you’re there. If you’re a social butterfly and like hosting, you can take this one one step further and volunteer to host the party at your house. This way you can make sure you have food and drink options on hand that work well within your macro targets, and again, no one will be the wiser.
At the end of the day, the name says it all – holiDAY It’s not called a holiWEEK or a holiMONTH, so don’t let it turn into either one of those. It’s okay to splurge a little on each given holiday, but don’t let it spill over into the rest of the week or month. That New Year’s resolution to finally lose the weight is going to be a lot harder to achieve when you add another 5-15lbs on top of it during November and December! And, remember what the holidays are truly about – spending time with your friends and loved ones. THE PEOPLE, NOT THE FOOD! While the food may seem like the focal point of the get-togethers, it’s people wanting to spend time together and choosing to do so around food, not people wanting to eat food and choosing to invite people to join. Make the people the priority, enjoy a plate of the delicious food, and get right back to your nutritional plan the day after.