Here it is again, holiday season! Filled with everything from lean turkey meat and salads to breads, pies, sweets, a ton of butter, and all sorts of things you usually try your best to steer clear of. Oh, and drinks. Lots of -yummy- liquid, empty calories.

The mentality is usually “It’s ok, it’s the holidays!” but that is dangerous thinking! You will only regret it later and will have a harder time losing it come the new year. Instead, let’s talk about how to enjoy the holidays and the treats they bring while keeping a healthy balance between indulgence and a fit lifestyle. You can have your cake and eat it while feeling good too! I promise!

Keeping Holiday Weight Off. (Or At Least Under Control).

1. The “holidays” are specific days, not 2 straight months. 

Once Thanksgiving hits, most Americans go into “holiday mode”. Every day after that tends to include more processed carbs and fat -among other things- than the days preceding it. And it continues until New Year’s Eve. Then guess what the new year’s resolution is?

Whatever you celebrate, stick to overindulging only on the actual holidays and not every day in between. For example; only Thanksgiving, then Christmas Eve/Day and then New Year’s Eve. Only overindulge on those days. Regular indulging can be done within predefined boundaries which we’ll discuss below.

2. Stay active

Being on vacation, the cold weather, the overeating the night before…. There are many reasons why we might want to hang our sneakers for the holidays, but if you want to minimize the effects of holiday treats, you best stay on the same gym schedule you were on, or even start a workout regimen if you haven’t already!

Don’t skip the gym if you already exercise, and if you plan on overdoing it, maybe even add an extra mile to your run or an extra cardio session per week. If you don’t exercise, start going out for a walk/run every day or join a gym. You can even work up an appetite by getting a good workout in the morning before a feast!

Don’t wait until January, start exercising before the holidays and keep it up!

3. Treat yourself but lay some ground rules

The thing about the holidays is that there are constantly treats everywhere for over a month. There are cookies and donuts in the office every day, relatives come to visit and bring meats and cheeses, we lose all self-control when a certain someone bakes… You can’t just say no to everything, it’s delicious! We believe in enjoying life just as much as living a healthy life, so it seems like a waste to miss out on all the goodies that only come once a year. That’s why we need some guidelines to help us balance enjoyment with a healthy, happy lifestyle throughout those festive weeks.

  • Keep a clean, low-calorie diet (not too low, make sure you are eating enough calories) every day except on the main eating holidays. This means continuing your healthy lifestyle (paleo/primal/low-fat/etc..) or even starting a healthier lifestyle before and during the holiday season. Which you should definitely keep afterwards too!
  • Keep the indulging to a minimum during the week (to zero if possible!) and indulge (not over-indulge!) on weekends only. Most holiday parties are on the weekend anyway, so save your less-than-healthy choices for then, and refer to entry #4 below for help navigating work parties and such since they are very much like the main hoidays; full of food, sweets, and booze.
  • If there are constantly treats at work and/or home, remember: just because someone brought/baked something, it doesn’t mean you have to eat/drink it! Choose your treats wisely. Not everything is worth it. If you decide you do want a particular treat, indulge in small portions. For example: only half a donut or less instead of a whole one,  1-2 cookies instead of eating straight from the box (which is a terrible idea any time of year), a sliver of pie instead of a full slice, etc… But never give up on your healthy choices the rest of the day! In fact, if you had a slice of pie at work, you should definitely have a lean, clean dinner later at home!

No grains!? Ha! Pass the rolls and the stuffing! This is why I’ve been eating clean and running all week!

4. Have a game plan for D-day

While you could simply throw all your usual dietary rules out the window (this is why you’ve been avoiding the pies at grandma’s all month!), you could also, if you so choose, minimize the shock to your system by having a plan on the big day and keeping it as clean as possible.

  • Keep snacking light: When snacking before dinner, don’t overdo it and keep it as close to your usual diet as possible. For example: Meats, cheeses, fruits, and veggies for the primal crowd that wants to save all the grainy goodness for baked goods and/or dessert; hummus and veggies and crackers for those limiting meats and fats, etc…
  • Dinner-time strategy. Survey what there is before serving yourself (if it’s that kind of dinner). Load up on lean meats and vegetable dishes before adding small portions of the higher-calorie sides to your plate. As usual, your plate should be mostly veggies. For our Mexican readers, tamales are a must in many Mexican households, but they are loaded! Try to fill up on other lighter fare (bacalao, romeritos, salad) and then have a couple of tamales. Maybe even split them with someone if you want to try all the flavors! Again, not everything is worth it! Don’t get anything you normally wouldn’t eat but will just because it’s there. Only eat what you truly want and will really enjoy! And if that’s a little bit of everything, that’s fine too! It is a holiday after all! 😉 Just make sure to go back to normal the next day.
  • Avoid getting seconds! If you do, use a smaller plate if possible and don’t fill it up.
  • Take it easy on the sweets. Avoid, or get smaller servings of the high-calorie/high-sugar content desserts like pecan pie (while you could eat a whole pie, stick to a sliver no wider than your index finger), ambrosia salad, etcetera.
  • Drink wisely. Both alcoholic drinks and non-alcoholic winter beverages are very high-calorie and usually high in sugars as well. Some even have added fat because they’re made with milk or whipped cream, and don’t get me started on marshmallows! Remember these add up too so keep a close eye on how many times you refill your cup. Stick to non-creamy beverages, wine, beer, and 2-ingredient mixed drinks (1 liquor, 1 mixer). I recommend Fireball and soda! Or fireball with apple cider if you want to go all out. Such great holiday drinks!
  • Choose the healthier choice when you have it! Nowadays, many people are conscious of the importance of healthy eating and so you may find some healthy options when at Auntie’s. Maybe there’s a pumpkin pie with whipped cream and one without, go for the latter. Someone brought (maybe you!) a healthy ambrosia salad made with fresh fruit, honey, and greek yogurt instead of whipped cream and sans marshmallows, go for that one instead of the sugar-filled traditional one! Vegan cookies, coconut flour cakes; there are a ton of healthy alternatives, and you can even be the person to bring them and introduce friends and family to a new healthy holiday tradition!

Final Thoughts

Remember our 80/20 conversation? That’s why this works. If you go 100% into overeating highly processed, high-calorie foods and not exercising for a month, it’s silly to expect something other than weight gain and self-loathing come January. However, if you eat clean and stay active as usual (or even a bit more strict!) throughout the holidays and only indulge in special situations, you will minimize the holiday weight gain, or even avoid it altogether! And if you barely added physical activity during the holidays for the first time, you will likely continue to lose weight and will definitely change your body composition if you stay active after the holidays! That sounds like a great Christmas gift to me!

I hope you find this helpful during this holiday season. And remember you can apply this to any other holidays, birthday weeks/months, or vacations. It’s a great way to indulge without ruining all our progress!

Have you healthyfied any holiday recipes?? Please share in the comments, we’d love to try them!

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Stay healthy and happy!