For many, the holiday season is the most important time of year to spend quality time with family and friends. It is a time of loving, giving and cherishing with those you love. The problem is… the average American adult packs on 0.5kg (1.1lbs) of body fat every year between November and January.
The last thing you want in the back of your mind is worry about weight gain when you are to be enjoying quality time. The unfortunate reality of this is, the majority of people worry about gaining weight over the holidays far more than they should.
You see, this “average” weight gain does not have to be your reality. It does not have to be inevitable for you. All you need to do is take some precautionary steps, some physical and some mental, heading into the holiday season.
I’ve written out a comprehensive guide on effectively avoiding the seasonal holiday weight gain whilst still being able to enjoy the holidays to their fullest.
No more worry. No more stress. No more weight gain.
More happiness. More loving. More cherishing.
Walking, especially in the morning, has endless benefits. If you don’t already, I suggest walking 30 minutes per day as a staple in your daily routine. And over the holiday season, I strongly suggest getting up, moving, walking, and being more mobile than usual.
During the holiday season, your energy intake (food) goes up significantly, resulting in not all energy being burned, and the excess being stored as fat. The goal with walking and moving more is to increase your energy expenditure to help combat the increase in calories. When I say walk more, I literally mean walk as much as you possibly can over the holidays.
Not only will it make you feel great, it has so many health benefits and above all else, it is exercise that won’t ramp up your appetite like most others.
The other most important thing on this list is to strength train. While this is great for energy expenditure like walking is, it provides a whole other bucket of benefits that you most certainly should be taking advantage of.
With the increase in food intake over the holidays, this provides a prime opportunity to fuel your muscle growth. I strongly recommend increasing your training intensity for the duration of the holidays. The goal here is to tear down your muscle fibers and refuel them to grow with the food you eat, rather than let the food turn into fat in your body.
Now, I know many people’s gyms are closed due to COVID-19 right now. However, you do not need a gym to get into good shape. You can bodyweight train at home and it will work if you apply fundamental training principles.
A temporary increase in walking everyday + high intensity strength training = a lethal combo that you NEED to be using over the holidays.
If you don’t already know about it, intermittent fasting may become your new best friend when trying to shred body fat or maintain a new weight. It is a very effective tool to help reduce caloric intake while remaining satisfied with your diet. Learn more about the benefits and how to practice 18/6 intermittent fasting.
By fasting throughout most of each day over the holidays, you will push your first meal back to around 1-3pm typically. This gives you a bit of leeway in your diet for when you want to eat dinner later on. If your body requires 2,200 calories to maintain its current weight, and you fast until 3pm and then eat a 1500 calorie dinner (large serving!) followed by 300 calories of alcohol and 400 calories of sweets later on, and BOOM, you’ve consumed 2,200 calories and you will not gain weight.
Extremely useful tool to reduce calories yet still be able to enjoy your meals.
The longer you wait to plan out your strategy for the holidays, the more likely you will be to fail and get off track. At the time of this writing, it is a few weeks out from Christmas, and as such, it is the perfect time to develop how you are going to approach the holiday season to avoid weight gain.
Things to plan now:
-Your big Christmas (or holiday) meal (what’s in it, what do I need to be wary of, what is my food weakness?)
-Your daily walks. How often are you going to walk? How long? Where? When?
-Your strength training. How are you going to train? What style? Where? When?
-Your diet prioritization. Do you prefer alcohol? Sweets? Second serving of dinner?
I strongly recommend avoiding any and ALL nutrition-less drinks. Things like soda, juice, etc. are all a complete waste of your daily calorie intake. If you want to avoid holiday weight gain, you must drop these immediately. Sticking to water throughout the holiday will have a profound reduction effect on your caloric intake over the span of a few weeks. As for drinking alcohol, we will talk about this a little later in the article.
Inattentive snacking is one of the fastest ways to rack up calories without ever feeling full. Combine this with slugging down Coca Cola’s for 2 weeks, and boom, you’ve put on weight.
Personally, I remove snacking from my diet all together but I am not much of a snacker to begin with. However, this may not be possible for everyone. So, if you are an avid snacker, you can try avoiding all together, but at the very least, pay attention to how much you are consuming before dinner/after dinner. You may not even realize that you’ve consumed 500 calories of chips before dinner is even served. And snacks like chips will NEVER fill you up.
This should be a staple expression in EVERY meal you ever eat. Protein is the most satiating macronutrient. It also happens to be the most important for developing and retaining muscle. Therefore, you should prioritize the protein portion of your meal before all else.
This will help you feel more full on less food plus if you are strength training… the protein will be put to good use by your body.
For many, their poison is either alcohol, sweets, or both. This is a very common issue I see with clients. My response to them? Choose ONE “poison” that you enjoy best. Holidays are supposed to be about living and enjoying yourself. Therefore, it would be silly to abstain from everything simple from the fear of weight gain.
Instead, adopt a strategy such as intermittent fasting and choose which poison you enjoy most.
Holidays with some booze? Avoid the sweets and snacking then.
Enjoy snacking and delicious dessert over your holidays? Avoid alcohol and drinking your calories then.
If you choose dessert as your poison… keep things simple. Have one solid serving and you’re done. Constantly grazing and going back for seconds will add up those extra calories extremely fast. Avoid.
If you choose alcohol as your poison… try to pick up some low calorie options. Avoid the sugar-blasted garbage that gives you a two day hangover at all costs. Binge drinking should be avoided as much as possible for rather obvious reasons too.
Have a handful of low-cal drinks and enjoy yourself.
But remember to always draw a line.
Some examples of low calorie drinks include:
Now this suggestion is not something I would normally recommend to a person. If all else on this list fails you, and you simply cannot control your food intake… sometimes using optical illusions is a good way to trick your mind into thinking you’ve eaten more than you actually have.
Simply use a smaller plate for your meals. Fill up a smaller plate and do not allow yourself to go back for seconds.
Like I said, this is more of a backup and last resort temporary solution.
Avoiding processed food is important for a handful of reasons. The first being, the food is low quality and high calorie and will often leave you hungry soon after. Low quality food = low satisfaction from eating.
The second being processed food increases inflammation in the body. High inflammation is a leading cause of cancer, heart disease and other life threatening (or ending) diseases.
There are many more reasons why you should not be eating this junk, which you can read here.
Last but certainly not least… the rule of thumb. This should be stapled onto your hand and into the back of your mind at all times. If you get off track one day, simply get back on track THE VERY NEXT.
The more days you miss in a row, the less likely you are to get back on track. Therefore it is essential that when you have an off day (which we ALL inevitably do), you force yourself back in routine the next day.
The Holidays are supposed to be a time of living, loving and enjoying time with the ones you love. It is NOT supposed to be a time to stress about weight gain and factors unrelated to the moment in which you are in.
Use these steps to help guide yourself away from the holiday weight gain:
-Walk every chance you get to
-Strength train to put the food to good use
-Use intermittent fasting to help reduce calories
-Plan your approach now, not later
-Avoid nutrition-less drinks
-Avoid snacking (or at least monitor your snacking)
-Protein is the most important macro on your plate
-Pick your poison: alcohol or sweets/food?
-If you prefer dessert, have one solid serving
-If you prefer alcohol, drink low calorie options
-Use a smaller plate if all else fails
-Avoid processed garbage
-Always remember to never miss a day twice
I hope this guide helps you on your journey over the Holidays.
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
See you in 2021!