How to NOT Gain Weight During the Holidays

Tis the season!

November is upon us and December is right around the corner –  this means quality time with friends and loved ones, cold nights wrapped up on the couch watching classic movies, awesome work and holiday parties, and an extra ten pounds of unwanted weight as a result of:

  • minimal exercise – it’s too cold!
  • maximum consumption of unhealthy delicious food and alcoholic beverages – why not!
  • hibernation due to the colder weather and shorter days – I can start January 1st!

Well, I say NOT THIS YEAR!

I’m not going to tell you to forgo drinking, skip anything the slightest bit unhealthy, or miss out on your parties; I still want you to have fun and do the things that make you happy with the people you love. I want you to do all of that, but without losing any momentum, flat out dominating these next two months.

Lets do the damn thing!

The problem with holidays

turkey cupcakes

I asked Nerd Fitness readers recently what their biggest struggle was with getting healthy.

OVERWHELMINGLY, I received two types of responses above all others:

  • “I know what I need to do, I just can’t get myself to do it.  I lack the motivation!”
  • “Once I get started, I fall apart after a week or two. I lack the dedication.”

Building new healthy habits is hard enough when the sun is shining and the weather is beautiful.  During this time of year however, you have to factor in crappy weather, shorter days, and a busy holiday schedule.  It’s very easy to get sidetracked and overwhelmed, saying things like:

  • “Meh, I’ll wait til January 1st.”
  • “Why bother starting now? Thanksgiving is next week!”
  • “Who cares! It’s a party!”

These types of thoughts are bad news bears. They allow you to rationalize bad behavior, “you know, because of the holidays.” Soon the problem with making bad decisions gets compounded like interest (banking joke ftw!): you get down on yourself, freak out about all of the weight you’ve gained, yell at yourself for being lazy, and then eat comfort food to make yourself temporarily feel better about the situation.

Last week, I had Rebels answer a quick survey.  Almost 60% of people admitted to gaining weight during last year’s holiday season:

Holiday Weight Gain Chart

This is what your fellow rebels are struggling with during the holiday season:

  • “Office ‘goody days’ are killers. Food is brought to the office and placed on tables right outside my cubicle. It is November 2nd and I’ve had to walk past piles of candy since Halloween. As soon as that’s gone it will be time for Thanksgiving feasting and then Christmas gorging.”
  • “One of the biggest issues I have during this time is when family comes to visit, there’s always tons of snacks just laying around the house. When things get boring, which they always do, there is a greater temptation to snack unhealthily.”
  • “Being home for the holidays and all of the associated outings and activities means a combination of two things: more eating out (very easy to eat too much with dessert every night, and less healthy options) and less consistent working out.”
  • “When staying with friends & family, it’s so hard to step away even for 20 minutes — since i only see those people a couple of times a year, there’s a lot of *guilt* associated with doing this selfish exercise thing.”
  • “Um…chocolate. And cookies. And candy. And pie. And ice cream. Anything and everything that has to do with sugar.”
  • “Familial pressure. I have a hell of a time saying no when everyone is all, ‘But! I made this just for you!’ Also, socializing in the extended family ALWAYS revolves around food.”

How to not suck at the Holidays

hannukah menorah

Here are some surefire ways to make sure you don’t suck at life during the next six weeks:

Half workout is a million times better than no workout - No more of this “meh, I only have 30 minutes, why bother?” Do you realize what you can accomplish in 30 minutes?  A quick Angry Birds Workout or Beginner Bodyweight Circuit or two can be completed in less than twenty minutes.  Guess how long the 20-Minute Hotel Workout takes?  Go on, guess.   Even if its push-ups  every other morning after your morning mile walk, it’s certainly better than nothing. WAY better.

And come on, it only took me four minutes to run around the world.

EVERY MEAL COUNTS!  Just because you ate a crappy breakfast this morning does NOT mean the day is ruined.  Just because you’re going to eat birthday cake this afternoon does NOT mean you get to say “**** it” and eat whatever the rest of the day.

  • If you’re going to eat ONE bad meal, that still gives you the opportunity to eat two really good meals.
  • If you are going to eat poorly, don’t also add in tons of liquid calories.
  • If you are going to eat a bad lunch and dinner, consider intermittent fasting the next day.

As soon as you eat ONE bad meal, the next meal becomes the most important meal of the week.  One bad meal does not make you gain weight. It’s when that one bad meal is followed up by a week of bad meals that things get ugly realllly quickly.  Eat a bad meal and move on!

Have a support team to keep you accountable - If you happen to be the only person in your family interested in being healthy, or the only one at a party that’s taking your own wellbeing into consideration, this is going to be a tough six weeks.  So don’t do it alone!  Have somebody that you can text or call each day, form an A-team, Justice League, Jedi council, or join the Nerd Fitness Community and check in daily with your supporters.   You’d be amazed what a simple text message each morning can do for you.  Yeah, you might get a few weird looks – embrace them.

Choose awesome - “Oh it’s the inevitable holiday weight gain” is the rationalizing attitude most people take as they funnel eggnog down their throats and eat enough mashed potatoes to make Mr. Potato Head put on his angry eyes.  Even worse, the, “It’s hopeless to try, I’m just going to deal with it in a few months,” is even worse!  Start by adjusting your expectations for the next six weeks.

There’s no reason you can’t kick ass instead, right? Yes, you can remain healthy AND have fun.  You don’t have to ride the Holiday weight gain train.  That train blows.

Choose to be awesome instead.

A Healthy Thanksgiving?

turkey legos

Can you eat a healthy Thanksgiving dinner that still tastes good? Absolutely!

Me personally? I’ll be eating a mostly healthy Thanksgiving Dinner but won’t turn down every unhealthy option (following my rules above). I certainly don’t blame you if you decide to take this day off too.  If you’re somebody that is interested in keeping Thanksgiving healthy without sacrificing deliciousness, here are some tips:

Are you a Paleo fan? Swap out regular potatoes for sweet potatoes – Sweet potatoes are a far healthier option for you than regular potatoes. If you’re craving mashed taters, make em sweet!  I’m a huge fan of sweet potato slices, drizzled in olive oil and baked in the oven for 12 minutes on each side at 375 degrees.

Eat turkey like its your job  - Meat is your friend on Thanksgiving, so eat it like there’s no tomorrow.  The more protein and healthy fats you have, the less room you’ll have for unhealthy sides like biscuits, stuffing, and so on.

Veggies should dominate that plate - Asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and whatever other veggies are on that table – go beastmode on those things! And no, corn is not a vegetable – it’s a grain; your body doesn’t process it very well (though you’ve probably noticed that).

Put some bacon on it - Nitrate-free, hormone-free, uncured bacon goes great on practically everything. Wrap your sweet potatoes in it.  Cover the top of the turkey with it.  Serve it as a side.  You can’t go wrong with bacon. And you’ll never hear anybody say “I wish we had less delicious bacon to consume.”

Hydrate, fool! No matter what you’re drinking at dinner, have a big glass of water as well.  Before you can get yourself another beer/glass of wine/motor oil, you have to finish your water. Deal? Deal.

Save the unhealthy stuff you want to try til the end - Unfortunately, things like rolls and stuffing are calorie dense but volume light, meaning you could eat ten rolls and not feel any less hungry. If you have a problem with overeating bad foods and stopping yourself after just one, save it til the end.  Stuff your face with the healthy stuff.  Seriously, I want you to literally stuff your face with the good stuff until there’s no room left in you.  Then towards the end of the meal, after you’ve finished your plate of healthy stuff, try some of the unhealthy stuff.

GET BACK ON TRACK THE NEXT DAY- Your body has no clue it’s Thanksgiving break, it’s just another day.  So the day after Thanksgiving, treat it like the rest of your healthy days.  Get up and go for your walk, make yourself a good breakfast, complete your workout and go about kicking ass at life. Deal? deal.

What about holiday parties?

Hopefully at this point in your life,  you’re in agreement that you don’t want to turn into Billy Bob in Bad Santa (language NSFW).

However, we all know holiday parties can get the best of us if we’re not careful…

Learn to love the 80/20 rule.  If you are going to attend your office and family parties and plan on eating and drinking whatever the hell you want, that means you need to be incredibly diligent in your normal days. No more, “okay just one” which leads to four or five.  Instead, aim for great week days – eat great breakfasts before work, bring your lunch in, and cook a great dinner.  Then, on weekends or holiday parties, eat what’s available.

Eliminate the term “cheat day” or “cheat meal” from your vocabulary.  “Cheat” implies that you’re doing something wrong or immoral and should thus feel ashamed afterward, which I don’t think is true.  Last weekend, I ate pizza, drank beer, and ate a dozen hot wings on a Sunday while watching football, and didn’t feel an ounce of guilt or shame about it – it wasn’t a “cheat day,” it’s just simply part my eating plan. Eating great 80% of the time and eating what I’m in the mood for during the other 20% allows me to feel good, look good, and have fun.

Now, after that “whatever” meal is done, I immediately go back to my normal healthy eating schedule – not because I was cheating or because I felt guilty, but because that’s just how I operate.  No momentum loss, because it’s business as usual!

Be smart.  Now, if you’re also interested in keeping things under control while at holiday parties, I’d start by reading “How to Eat Healthy At A Barbecue” and “A Healthy Nerd’s Guide to Drinking,” as a LOT of those principles will apply here.  However, here’s a brief rundown on how to get through the parties as well:

  • Bring something healthy – If you know you’re headed to a party with a bunch of unhealthy foods, BRING something healthy.  And healthy doesn’t = sucky.  You know people would be ALL over these bacon-wrapped sweet potato bites or bacon-wrapped jalapeno chicken bites.  Too much work? Steak tips!
  • Be okay with being the “weird healthy” one.  It’s okay to say no to cake, you know.  Nobody is force-choking you to eat it (see what I did there?).  Use the age old “sorry, I’m allergic” if you don’t want to hurt somebody’s feeling, or “I just ate, I’ll have some later!” If you’re trying to be strict with your decision making, you can be crafty in how you avoid eating really unhealthy foods.
  • Choose your alcoholic beverages carefully - It can be the difference between a handful of calories and a few hundred calories, which adds up significantly when multiplied by half a dozen cocktails (or a dozen? eep.) throughout the evening.  Alternate a glass of water and a drink.  Sure, the drinking is unhealthy, but more often than not it’s the 1,000+ calories you eat while drunk that lead to the weight gain.
  • Be awesome the next day - don’t let one night ruin your six weeks. After all, eating at the party was all part of the plan, right? Check in with your support team.  Eat great. Be awesome.

Go forth and dominate!

-Steve

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 photo source: Santa and Darth, Drunk Santa, Turkey Cupcake, hannukah menorah, lego pilgrims, mario mushroom

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