Thanksgiving is coming, followed closely by Christmas and New Years, but just because the holidays are fast approaching doesn’t mean you cannot remain focused on your fitness goals and maintain a lean, strong physique. Striking a balance between enjoying the holidays with friends and family while still staying on track with your goals doesn’t have to be as stressful or complicated as you might think. Use the following tips to help lay out a plan for yourself so that you can survive the holidays without packing on the pounds.
1. Adopt a flexible dieting approach
Even if you’re well intentioned when it comes to the holidays, the truth is the majority of people want to partake in eating holiday fare. For many of us there are foods served at the holidays that we simply don’t have the chance to enjoy any other time of the year. This is an example of an instance in which adopting a flexible dieting approach, or an IIFYM approach can really be beneficial. I encourage a lot of my clients to incorporate this method during the holiday season. Instead of setting yourself up for failure by heading to a party swearing up and down you won’t touch the food served, plan to enjoy yourself in moderation and adjust your diet accordingly.
For example if you know you can only have 150g of carbs a day and you plan to eat mom’s pumpkin pie and your grandma’s homemade biscuits at dinner, then reduce or eliminate carbs at the remainder of your meals during the day to account for the foods you plan to enjoy. I’m not a huge fan of this approach on a day to day basis but in the instance of the holidays it can be a great way to incorporate some holiday indulgence in moderation without having it lead to consuming a huge surplus of calories.
2. Never arrive to a party or dinner hungry
This tip works not just for the holidays, but for any instance where you’re going out to eat or attending a social event in which food you typically don’t consume will be served. Don’t ever arrive hungry. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when it comes to the holidays is to not eat anything the day of the big meal. Even though well intentioned, this method almost ALWAYS backfires. The end result is you wind up arriving to the big dinner famished and end up making poor nutritional decisions as result.
My advice is to have a small “meal” before you head out to eat, about an hour or so beforehand. I suggest some protein and/or dietary fat as both will help promote satiety. A protein shake and some raw almonds would be a great example. The protein and fat will help stave off hunger and fill you up before you head to the party or to dinner and as a result you’ll be less inclined to over indulge.
3. Keep yourself moving
The holidays wind up leaving most of us pressed for time when it comes to our workouts and so often time we have to cut corners- eliminate some training sessions or do less cardio to make time for other holiday obligations and responsibilities. But even if you can’t keep to your regular training schedule, focusing on simply “moving more” will help increase your overall caloric expenditure and keep unwanted holiday weight gain away.
Some good ideas would be to park further away from entrances to increase the steps you take when running errands or shopping or to take the stairs and avoid elevators and escalators. You can also add in some short walks or cardio sessions daily, whenever possible. Walk during your lunch break for 5-10 minutes. Do the same after work. Come up with some workouts that require no equipment and can be performed outside of a gym so that in the event you have to miss a workout you have some fast options that you can easily perform in the convenience of your own home. Don’t allow the holiday season to become sedentary season- keep moving.
4. Adjust your calories if needed
If you do overeat on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day, don’t be afraid to adjust your calories for a day or two after to counteract the negative effects of your indulgence. More important than daily caloric consumption is the amount of calories consumed over the course of the week, so if you wind up eating an additional 1000 calories at Thanksgiving dinner, it won’t hurt to lower your calories by 500 for the next two days to help offset this. Long term this method can wind up perpetuating a binge/starve mentality so this is NOT something I suggest doing on a regular basis, but in the event of the holidays it won’t have long term detrimental effects.
5. No leftovers for you
Leave the holiday food for the holiday itself. It’s one thing to enjoy some holiday favorites while celebrating with friends and family but it’s a whole other issue if you’re picking at the leftovers for the days and weeks following the holiday season. I’ve seen people EASILY pack on 20+ lbs by doing this. Do resolve to enjoy yourself during the holiday occasion, but immediately after the holidays are over get yourself back on track with your nutritional program and clean eating goals.
I recommend you don’t take leftovers home to your house if you can help it, but if leftovers do wind up finding their way into your fridge and freezer I suggest labeling them with post it’s or notes that help you refocus on your goals, such as “Remember you want to lose 10 lbs” or “Eat this and you won’t fit into your pants anymore.” Reading a note like that before you pile drive into the leftover stuffing usually gives you just enough of a gut check to make you rethink what you’re about to do.
Allison Moyer Fahrenbach, B.S/C.P.T/C.S.N
Allison is an IFPA Figure pro, motivational personality, competitive trail runner, crossfit athlete, professional fitness model and published author, she has currently worked with hundreds of clients both in and out of the U.S through Alli-Fitness Systems LLC. Be sure to follow her on Facebook as well at facebook.com/AlliFitnessSystemsllc for more great information and motivation.