The holiday season is the hardest time of year to stay on track with our goals. Daily routines are put on hold, stress is usually a bit heightened, food temptations are everywhere, the list goes on...
What I’ve realized over the years is that if we try to be too restrictive during these times, it can often backfire and cause a cascade of bad decisions. So, instead of having a restrictive mindset going into the big day, I like to focus on having a strategic mindset.
Strategy is EVERYTHING when it comes to reaching and sticking to your goals.
So whether you’re planning to stay low-carb or not, these 8 tips (or strategies) will ensure you’re not completely falling off the wagon when it comes to the big day!
Just because it’s a holiday, doesn’t mean you should use this as an excuse to sit on your butt all day. Yes, you should be relaxing and enjoying quality time with your family, but I PROMISE that if you wake up and get a workout in or go for a 30-minute walk, you will feel MUCH better as the day goes on. Your gym may be closed, but you still have your body and a living room. Here’s a quick workout you can do from anywhere:
Alternate through the following exercises, working as hard as you can each minute.
40 seconds on/20 seconds off
You should also be conscious of your movement throughout the day. Going for a pre and/or post-meal walk is the easiest way to get some extra steps in. Make it a family affair and take a walk around the neighborhood.
And stop sitting! Make a conscious decision to stand up more throughout the day. Enjoying appetizers or a drink around the kitchen counter? Ditch the stool and stand up.
Don’t think this makes a big difference? Here's a quick example:
Let’s say the average person burns 1 calorie per minute sitting and 2 calories per minute standing. While that jump from 1 calorie to 2 calories seems pretty small, it actually equates to burning an extra 60 calories per hour.
Stand the majority of the day (let’s say 6 hours) and you’ve just knocked out an extra 360 calories (roughly equivalent to a slice of pie or a few cookies). This is of course just an example, but as you can see, small variations in daily movement (one of the easiest being standing vs. sitting) can definitely add up and make a difference!
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a great tool, especially when it comes to the holidays. Fast for most of the morning so that when you go into the main meal, you haven’t already crushed a ton of calories.
OR, if everyone is enjoying a holiday breakfast and you want to partake, plan on fasting for some period of time the day before and/or after.
There are a ton of different ways you can go about incorporating IF. The key is to find a way that is realistic for you and won't cause too much extra stress.
I hate to break it to ya, but the calories you eat each day don’t just ‘reset’ overnight. You should really be thinking about your caloric intake on a weekly basis. The average weekly intake (and even monthly intake) is what really matters when it comes to losing, maintaining, or gaining weight.
The reality is, you will probably be eating more than normal on the big day. In order to balance that out, you’ll want to cycle your calories for the week. This isn’t rocket science. Eat a few hundred calories less on the days leading up to the big day and/or a few days after.
Remember, strategy is KEY. Make it happen!
Before you touch ANY other type of food, make sure you’ve eaten at least 2 to 3 palm-sized portions of protein.
Protein is the most satiating and filling nutrient, so if you get a good amount in before eating anything else, you will naturally feel fuller, faster.
I dive deep into the different mechanisms of why protein is SO important in THIS post.
Unless you’re following a carnivorous diet, I’d recommend loading up on non-starchy veggies along with your protein. This will ensure your keeping your belly full and naturally help you to eat less of the higher calorie foods around.
If you’re not in control of the groceries for the big day, no problem. Get your butt to the store the day before and pack a big ziplock bag with celery, cucumbers, snap peas, and cherry tomatoes for appetizer dips and bring a bag of spinach or other green veggies to have alongside your main meal. This brings me to #6...
YOU are in control of what YOU put into your mouth. Just because you may be celebrating at a relatives or friends house, doesn’t mean you have to eat only what they serve. Take control, stop caring what other people think, and plan to bring food that you know fits within your goals (you may not end up eating it, but having it there to fall back on is a MUST!).
Pack extra veggies as mentioned above and don’t forget to bring some extra protein just in case. Deli meat, jerky, tuna packets, and hard-boiled eggs are great options to ensure you’re getting that protein in!
This also goes for alcoholic beverages. If you know you want to enjoy a few drinks, make sure you have low-sugar, low-calorie mixers on hand (flavored seltzers, zero-sugar drinks like Zevia, and flavored electrolyte packets such as Ultima Replenisher are my go-to options).
Additionally, you can plan to bring a recipe that you know fits into your goals but is still super tasty. I put together a few of my favorite Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes for you that are great low-carb, lower-calorie options.
This is another ‘volume’ hack and will help fill up your belly.
Make it a goal to down 8 to 10 (or more) big glasses of water throughout the day. Make sure you have non-caloric, fizzy drinks on hand as well (the bubbles and carbonation will help with that ‘fullness factor').
I don't normally advocate diet sodas on a regular basis, but if we're being completely honest, I indulge in a diet coke every once and a while, especially on the holidays. Yes, it's a chemical shit-storm (excuse my language) but I like the taste and I make sure it's not a regular occurrence.
Obviously choosing less chemically drinks is preferred -- I try to stick with the majority of my bubbles coming from seltzer or sparkling water.
If your family is anything like mine, there are probably 10 different types of appetizers, side dishes, and desserts staring you in the face the entire day.
Instead of letting yourself pick and snack throughout the day, find a small plate (for appetizers and desserts) and a large plate (for the main meal). Allow yourself ONE plate per course. This gives you the freedom to taste test everything without going way overboard.
For example, you want to try out the 8 different types of dips, 7 different side dishes, and 4 different pies? No problem, fill up your ONE plate for each course and walk away. But remember, eat that protein first!
One plate rule, make it happen!
Surviving and ENJOYING the holidays without going overboard is all about being aware of these different strategies and tools.
Do you have to implement every single one? Not at all. But just by reading through this post, you're now more aware of how to maneuver the big day and be in control of your choices.
Happy Holidays! 😊