Do you enter this time of year with a mix of dread, procrastination and resignation to an inevitable 15lb weight gain? It doesn’t have to be this way. Let me tell you how I hack the holidays every year to stay on track.

  1. EAT BEFORE YOU EAT. If you show up to a party hungry, you will eat too much. In your “pre-game” meal, focus on protein, healthy fats and fiber, all of which will satiate you so you can make less emotional choices in the moment.

  2. PLAN YOUR MEAL ahead of time. If you’re going to grandma’s for Thanksgiving and you know there will be pie, sweet potato casserole (which is basically pie) and more pie, make your “order” ahead of time (mentally or a note on your phone): turkey, small scoop of mashed potatoes, green beans, water, one small piece of pie. And if you have one item that you “have” to eat (for me it’s pumpkin pie) just plan for it by limiting other things (you don’t have to eat some of everything, you’ll be ok).

  3. KNOW WHAT TO SAY TO FRIENDS AND FAMILY: Don’t try to defend or explain why you’re eating intentionally and according to your goals. It will only bring up arguments and you’ll more easily cave to the “come on, it’s just one meal” pressure. Simply say, “I just feel better when I eat this way.” It’s hard to argue with that.

  4. FAST BEFORE BIG EVENTS. Skip breakfast on Thanksgiving, Christmas, before parties, etc. It’s an easy way to regulate caloric intake. Another key with this is not to break your fast with the event. Eat something protein-centric an hour or two before the big meal or party.

  5. MINDSET: Don’t beat yourself up if you get off track. After the first bite of Thanksgiving pie or pile of cookies at a holiday party, many people say “screw it” for the rest of the year. Don’t get derailed by one meal or night out. You are always only one meal or workout away from being back on track. Consistency and habit building is much more important than what you eat at any one given meal.

  6. POSITIVITY: OPPORTUNITY TO BUILD MUSCLE. Embrace the extra holiday calories and build some muscle during the holidays. Emphasize strength training. Lift heavy. Lift often. Then when your body fat percentage drops during that January nutrition challenge, show off those guns!

BONUS from Abby Cooper, CFSH member and certified Precision Nutrition coach: “People often think of the holidays as a “season” of eating—when in reality, it might be 3 or 4 meals that are more indulgent than normal—so part of it is a mindset shift. Also, when at holiday events, ask yourself is what you are putting on your plate actually worth it—example, if it’s your grandmother’s famous chocolate pie that she makes once a year, it’s probably worth it. Pre-bought sugar cookies from a grocery story bakery, likely not worth it. Lastly, I like to emphasize that even if you do indulge, it doesn’t mean you have to forgo basic habits like drinking plenty of water or going a walk after you eat. The little things add up!”


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