With Thanksgiving just days away, you may be getting worried about how the hell you’re going to survive these two big holidays (Christmas is on deck) and not gain the typical 5 to 10 pounds of body fat.
When you think about it, that’s 5 to 10 pounds of body fat added in just a short 6 week period.
Kind of scary when you think about it.
And with the anticipation of having to put your workouts on hold for holiday travel, parties, time constraints, etc…plus all of the delicious holiday food calling your name with an irresistibly sexy tone, you start to worry.
Maybe even panic.
I don’t care how much willpower you have…sometimes the food is just too sexy to resist.
But don’t panic just yet. The holidays are meant to be enjoyed and you should do just that. You should go to holiday parties. You should hang with your friends. You should eat “bad food” and maybe even have an adult beverage or two.
Here are five holiday damage control tips that will help you stay lean throughout the holiday season. These tips will help you avoid feeling like a guilty failure, and also empower you to stay on the right track. Trust me it won’t be easy, but it’s definitely do-able.
Five holiday damage control nutrition tips
TIP #1 Don’t Bank Calories
It may make perfect sense to skip meals earlier in the day to gear up for a big holiday meal later in the evening, but this strategy is doomed to fail from the start and here’s why.
Skipping meals to save calories for a big meal at night can increase your appetite, which can increase the probability of you overeating at that big meal. Have you ever arrived at a holiday party absolutely starving and just CRUSHED every morsel of food in sight? Did you find yourself going back for seconds and even thirds and wondering how you turned into such a pig. Super embarrassing.
By calorie banking you end up missing out on an entire days worth of protein, vitamins, minerals, and a ton more nutrients that are important to your overall health and well being. Plus, the psychological ramifications of this sort of eating behavior can be borderline eating disorder according to some dietitians. Not good.
Instead of throwing your blood sugar into a tailspin and increasing your appetite by starving yourself all day and then pigging out at night like a sumo wrestler, I suggest you stick to your regular eating plan of 5-6 smaller meals made up of healthy foods and eat that throughout the day just like you would normally. The holidays are no excuse to starve and binge because YOU WILL suffer the negative consequences of following this type of plan. Keep it business as usual, stay disciplined, and stick to your regular nutrition plan.
TIP #2 Don’t Skip Meals To Compensate Calories
So you just pounded a giant holiday dinner, and as you head to the car feeling like a hot air balloon you say to yourself…“wow, I ate way too much food, so tomorrow I’m going to skip a couple meals tomorrow to balance out my calories and do some cardio on an empty stomach”
This strategy would also fall under my “borderline eating disorder” category because the of the yo-yo crash and binge aspect. Remember, being lean is all about consistency, and a big meal is nothing more than either a strategic cheat, or perhaps an unplanned bump in the road. Either way, you MUST go back to your regular eating plan asap.
After a large holiday “fail meal” you need to get back on the horse immediately and begin eating your regular 5-6 healthy, smaller meals per day. If you do feel like a stuffed sausage though…when it is time for your next meal just be sure to eat some protein and maybe even some veggies, but you may want to eliminate any sugars and starches.
The bottom line is, your goal is to keep your metabolism burning strong and if you fall into the binge, starve, binge, starve trap you will take one step forward and two steps back and never actually reach your goals. With that being said, I recommend you try to avoid really large meals as much as possible and never binge. Portion control is very important and even more so during the holidays.
TIP #3 Don’t Cheat Yourself, Treat Yourself
Temptation is everywhere during the holidays, and if you want to stay lean…you need to have discipline. But you know how it is…when grandma’s home made strawberry cheesecake is sitting in front of you on Thanksgiving day, with the cake saying “hey baby, who are you with tonight, come get some!” it takes every ounce of strength and willpower within you not to declare it a cheat day out of the blue and pound some cake.
Having a planned cheat meal or treat meal (whatever you want to call it) can actually be good for you though. Not only has research shown that strategic cheat meals can help you actually lose weight, but they also have a positive psychological effect which can help you stay on your program better in the long run.
Keep in mind that it is very important to keep those nasty feelings of guilt at bay when eating a tasty treat or cheat. Regardless if you’re having a holiday treat or cheating strategically like Joel Marion teaches in his Cheat Your Way Thin program, be sure to enjoy that treat to the maximum, but just don’t go overboard.
Here’s what I do. I’ll schedule my holiday dinners so they can become my cheat meals. And when grandma offers me some of her irresistible cake I’ll have a slice. One slice! I won’t pig out and go crazy, and I won’t deprive myself either. Instead I’ll savor every single delicious bite and remind myself that as long as I stick to the plan, my abs are safe.
And the next day I’m back on track, hitting the gym, and eating my normal 6 healthy meals per day. Crisis averted. Which leads me to the next tip…
TIP #4 Don’t Get Off Your Normal Eating Schedule
If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I first got ripped for the first time and claimed my six pack abs it’s that you’ve got to be consistent. You’ve got to keep plugging away without falling completely off the wagon. Even if you are taking baby steps, make sure those steps are going in the right direction.
You can’t allow the crazy holiday season completely derail your fat loss plan so if your goal is to be lean…you need to stick to your 5 or 6 meal per day schedule and avoid binging and snacking whenever you can. I mentioned this tip up top but just wanted to reinforce it again because it is that important.
What you want to try to do is stay in the habit of eating healthy and use that momentum to carry you into the holidays and beyond. If you quit, and fall into the holiday giant meal at the end of the day after a full day of “snacking” trap you’re doomed to fail because it is so hard to break this cycle and get back on track once the holidays are over.
So stick to your regular meal frequency and just think of that giant Thanksgiving or Christmas meal as meal number whatever and count it as one of your regular meals for that day.
TIP #5 Don’t Be Controlled By The Low Standards & Expectations Of Your Friends & Family
“Don’t you ever eat anything NORMAL?”
“Come on it’s the holidays!”
“Are you too good to eat my food?”
“OMG you are such a health freak…”
If I had a nickel for each time I heard these lines from friends and family during the holidays!
And if you start to crack you can find yourself rationalizing:
“Family is more important”
“It’s only one meal, I’m going to enjoy myself for once”
“I’ve worked hard…I deserve this”
“Why should I deprive myself”
“It’s not like I will ever be in a fitness magazine anyway”
“I’ll start being serious on January 1st”
Thus setting yourself up for holiday failure.
I’m not going to sit here and lie to you. Losing fat is hard. Building muscle is hard. Claiming your six pack abs is extremely hard. With that being said, if you have any of those goals or even similar goals, you need to keep your personal standards and expectations extremely high.
You aren’t on the same page as Uncle Joe, Cousin Sally, or your buddy Timmy who have already planned in advance that they will be failing on their fitness plan over the holidays. And you know what most failures try to do? They try to drag down the strong because it makes them feel better. Hey if everyone fails, it’s not that bad right? Wrong! Stay strong. Haters are gonna hate.
So don’t get guilt tripped into being “normal” and having two or three desserts and pounding a bunch of alcoholic drinks. Remember what your goals are and what you’re trying to accomplish. If these people are actually your friends they’ll get it. And if they don’t, screw em…let them do their thing. Just continue to remain focused on what the big picture is.
Bottom line: you don’t need to let the holidays ruin all of the work you have put in for the entire year. And there’s also no reason to let the “fitness freak mentality” prevent you from enjoying the holidays either. Remember, moderation is key, and consistency is paramount. Put these five tips into action and go enjoy the holidays with your friends and family.
Do you have any holiday survival tips of your own? I would love to hear them so please post them as a comment below.