Freshly baked warm, delicious cookies, family parties with wine … Christmas is approaching and so do huge amounts of food you would not normally eat.
Weight loss and holidays does not work, does it?
Ironically, this is supposed to be a time of relaxation, enjoying time with family and recharging energy. However, many people on a diet or living the healthy lifestyle stress about the food choices they are going to make.
In fact, I know that some of you would rather stay home than going to those parties where you know you cannot control your appetite and potentially sabotage all your efforts in the kitchen.
Today, I will share some of my tips to survive the holidays and enjoy spending time with your loved ones without losing your health and fitness goals out of sight. Enjoy reading!
Weight Loss and Holidays – your Guide to Survive
Tip 1: Plan, plan, plan
You could leave out all the other tips listed and just focus on this one – you would be good to go. Planning ahead is key when trying to balance a healthy lifestyle with work, school, kids etc. The reason planning makes us feel so secure lies in the way our brain works: The frontal part of the cortex (outer area of the brain) loves to plan everything that happens in our body. The fact that we are able to plan something is what makes us unique as human beings, compared to other creatures, like animals.
Planning means that we have goals in life and know what we want our future to be like. Every time you plan something ahead, you feel accomplished afterwards. Your brain rewards your actions with the release of endorphins that make you feel good. They also decrease stress and anxiety.
Thus, it only makes sense to apply this strategy to healthy living, right?!
♣ Plan your workouts
Let us assume you have a family party on Sunday and maybe your friends invited you on Friday or Saturday. Some people also go to work parties during the week. You should not cancel those and take part in social interactions. However, you can plan your workouts around those events. This way, you will still get in enough exercise to burn fat and not feel guilty when you are on a party.
I recommend Full Body Workouts for such a busy week. Even if there is only one event you are going to attend, don’t plan 6 workouts for that week. Because typically, as the week goes by, dates will change, new parties will be scheduled, maybe on the day you wanted to train legs. If you train your whole body in one session, it does not matter if you got in 3 days of workouts or 6 – you will still have activated all muscles in your body.
To sum it up, here is your workout schedule for the holidays:
Full Body workouts Monday – Wednesday – Friday (you can change the days)
If you have additional time: Add in 20 min HIIT workouts
You can keep this schedule for an entire month and still not lose progress. In fact, you will actually lose fat because total body workouts burn more calories and the additional HIIT will also contribute to more fat loss.
♣ Plan your meals on that day
Do not starve yourself before going to the event. That will only lower endorphins in your brain, which will increase your appetite and insulin spike once you have had the first bite.
Have a light breakfast that consists mostly of protein, vegetables and maybe some fruit. You want to make sure to get enough nutrients for that day.
For lunch, have a serving of protein, vegetables and 1/2 cup of carbohydrates, like brown rice. I would not recommend to go completely low-fat, low carb before such an event. Carbohydrates and fat are the main components of your food that trigger Leptin and Insulin release. These two hormones are key to regulate your hunger and appetite, so we want to keep them balanced.
Tip 2: Prepare a healthy meal
If you like to cook, why not prepare a healthy meal to bring to your event? You could bake healthy cookies, or a salad, a dip, sweet potato fries … . For example, I like to prepare an avocado dip and bake a healthy chocolate cake and bring those to family events. In fact, people cannot believe that healthy eating can also be delicious and my meals are always the first to be gone.
While people are enjoying your clean recipes, you can tell them about the ingredients and educate them on healthy living as well. Spread the knowledge!
Tip 3: Don’t count calories
If you are counting macros or calories to lose weight, I recommend not to track the meal you are having at the party.
You can track the other part of the day, your meals you are having at home though. This way, you will make sure to get enough protein and fiber. Most of the time, the food eaten at parties tends to be higher in fat and carbohydrates, so it is important to still reach your protein and fiber goals for the day. This will keep your hunger hormones balanced and prevent water retention.
Unless you are preparing for a photo shoot or spots event, you don’t need to bring a scale to the party. If you have been counting macros or watching your portion sizes (handful diet), you already know what a serving of protein, fats and carbohydrates looks like, anyway! You could still estimate the macros or calories in your head and try to guesstimate your intake for the day.
This is not necessary but if it makes you feel better, go ahead.
In general, I would think of that family gathering as a re-feed day. A re-feed day is one day per week or month where you eat a lot of calories. The purpose is to increase metabolism to get over a weight loss plateau. It will balance your hunger hormones and most of the time, people actually lose weight after a re-feed day … .
Tip 4: Fill your plate the right way
At the party, stick to your healthy eating.
Fill your plate with vegetables, healthy protein first. I would recommend to fill 1/2 of your plate with vegetables, 1/4 with protein and then the rest with carbohydrates and fats. The fiber and protein will fill you up quickly and you will not feel the need to go for seconds or thirds.
Tip 5: No restrictions
Have your dessert. If you have a sweet tooth like me, the dessert is the part I look forward to the most. Thus, I would fill my plate with vegetables and protein and eat a little bit of carbohydrates and fats. But not so much that I don’t have room for dessert anymore.
If you like savory food, then eat more of the main dish and maybe take only a little bite of dessert.
I don’t recommend to completely leave out any food on the table, unless you have food allergies. Don’t deprive yourself and take a little bit of everything, to get the taste. Also, many times people will ask you to take a bite of the food they made and don’t understand when you say “no”… .
Tip 6: Say “No” to seconds
Once you have tasted everything that is on the table, people will ask you to go for seconds or thirds. This is the time to stay consistent and stick to your healthy habits. You have not restricted yourself from anything but this family event is not an excuse to stuff your face and lose control. Explain kindly to the person that their food was delicious but that you are simply not hungry anymore. You can also say that you will take another serving later, that seems to work fine as well.
Tip 7: Take it slow
Especially if you are eating foods you would not normally eat on a daily basis, you tend to eat quickly. However, it takes a while for the food to expand in our stomach, so that vagal nerve fibers send a signal to our brain that our stomach is full. Thus, take part in conversations and put down your fork. Eat slowly and really enjoy the process.
Tip 8: Water
If you are planning to enjoy some wine, have 1 glass of water for every glass of alcohol you drink. Before you sit down for the main dish, have another glass. Then, have another one after you have finished eating and before dessert. Water will help to prevent water retention and even out the higher amount of sodium you might eat on that day. Water increases metabolism as well, which will decrease the chance of stored fat.
Tip 9: Play a game
If there are other fitness enthusiasts at your party, you can play this game I once did with my cousins:
For every cookie you eat, do 20 Squats (or Push ups, Lunges, Jumping Jacks). For a piece of cake, we would do 100 Jumping Jacks, followed by 20 Squats.
You can also do crunches, planks, glute bridges, skater jumps, the possibilities are endless. This is a very fun game but only if the people around you are just as much into fitness as you.
Tip 10: No punishment
Last but not least, do not punish yourself with starving or an extra round of cardio the next day. It does not work.
Simply go on with your meal plan and your workouts and look back at that meal you enjoyed with positive thoughts. Even if you lose control and binge – there is a lesson to be learned. Next time, you will try to control your appetite better and make a better experience.
A few untracked meals will not stall your progress. You might not lose weight that week but that will be probably because of water retention.
I strongly suggest not to weigh yourself during the holidays. Even a few weeks afterwards, don’t step on the scale. Simply continue with your eating and fitness regime and you will find that everything evens out in the end.
I hope this little guide is helpful for you.
If you have any other special tips to survive the holidays without stressing over every macro – share it below in the comments! I love hearing feedback from you.
Also, make sure to share this on social media, so others can survive as well 😉