‘Tis the season!
At least that’s what the Christmas music playing inside the coffee shop right now is telling me.
My dislike for Christmas music aside (I know, Scrooge, right?), the holidays are a great time of the year. Being with loved ones, sharing stories, laughs, and exchanging gifts is a great way to spend the cold winter months.
But, for dieters, the holidays are often filled with stress and dread. From the end of November through the first of January, we are constantly bombarded with threats to our diet. Large family dinners, holiday parties, nights out, and leftovers…oh the leftovers!
For someone who may be trying to lose weight, these are not joyous, happy occasions. Instead, they are hurdles; potential obstacles on the road to meeting our goals.
But don’t worry, Jorden’s got your back!
As someone who has navigated the holiday labyrinth while losing weight the last few years, I’ve developed a few tricks for making it through this time of year while being able to enjoy yourself.
Here are seven dieting tips for de-stressing your holiday season:
As someone who is trying to lose weight, two staples of your diet should be protein and vegetables. The good news is these are often staples of most holiday meals as well!
Most meals are centered on some sort of protein, be it turkey, chicken, ham or otherwise. Many of these meats are also fairly lean (as long as you hold the gravy). Consuming adequate protein will help keep you satiated, meaning you will stay fuller longer, and be less likely to overeat.
Many people also serve multiple kinds of veggies as well, although sometimes these are disguised as high-fat casseroles. If you have an in with the cook, request mixed veggies instead. Not only are these easier and faster to make, but are a lot more diet friendly. And like protein, these highly fibrous veggies will slow digestion and keep you full.
You’ve heard me harp on the importance of counting macros for dietary success and flexibility before, so I wont go into it too much.
What I will say however, is that counting macros will give you the dietary freedom to enjoy all of your favorite holiday foods. It’s just as simple as making them fit into your daily macro numbers (I show you how to do that here). And since most people only eat one or meals on these days, you will have a little more to work with at each meal.
Want potatoes or stuffing? You got carbs for that!
A little butter or gravy on those potatoes? Use your fat macros, no problem!
Want another helping of meat? Protein, bro!
The great thing about counting your macros is you can literally eat anything as long as it fits into your daily macronutrient total. It’s this flexibility that will allow you to enjoy the holidays while staying on track.
This may not be an option for everyone since some gyms may be closed on a holiday, but if your gym is open, make sure you try and arrange your schedule so you are getting a workout in.
Hitting the gym will allot you a few extra calories to play with during the day, because your body will need those calories to help recover from your workout.
And while I don’t normally condone using exercise as an excuse to overeat, in the case of the holidays, this can be a useful method for avoiding excess fat storage.
This is a method I like to use as a way to quell cravings and try everything at the table while not overeating.
All of that food sitting at the table in front of you can be a major temptation, so instead of wasting willpower trying to resist it, go ahead and have a little bit of everything.
If you’re craving potatoes or stuffing, have a spoonful. Have a small slice of pie when you’re done. It’s not sexy, but portion control works. It allows you to responsibly give into your cravings.
Often times, our cravings cause us to overindulge in something, and eat more than we actually want, or need. By reducing these portions, we can still give into our cravings while not overeating. And usually you will find that these smaller servings are plenty big enough to fulfill these cravings.
It doesn’t seem to matter how many people there are at the meal, there are always leftovers.
Leftovers are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, your meals for the next few days are taken care of! On the other hand, this can lead to your holiday indulgences spilling out into multiple days. This is what we want to avoid.
If you are the one cooking the meal, try your best to limit how much you make. Not only will this save you money but will reduce the amount of leftovers you have as well. If you do end up with leftovers, be a good host and see if your guests would like to take anything home.
Similarly, if you are a guest, there is a good chance the host will offer you leftovers. You can either politely decline or ask for items such as whatever protein you may have had, or vegetables. Steer clear of things like stuffing, casseroles or pie, as they are not only calorically dense, but the macros can be hard to track because of the number of ingredients.
Holidays are a great time to implement some sort of intermittent fasting protocol. Outside of the many other benefits of IF (which I discussed here) intermittent fasting can be used as a way to help control your caloric intake during the holidays.
The first way you can do this is simply by skipping breakfast. Chances are you won’t be eating your big holiday meal until at least noon, so forgo breakfast and wait for the big meal.
Even if you’re not eating until later, your holiday lunch or dinner will usually be large enough that you wont need the extra calories breakfast would provide anyway. Stick with water, coffee or tea until its time to eat.
Another way to utilize IF to help control calories is a 24-hour fast the day after. Once you are done with your last holiday meal, simply do not eat for the next 24-hours. So say you finish dinner at 6pm, your next meal would not be until 6pm the following day.
What this does is help balance out your caloric intake. Since you are more likely to over-consume calories on a holiday, under-consuming the following day will help avoid any excess fat storage.
While any of the first six tips will go a long way towards making the holidays less stressful for dieters, this one will go the furthest.
And that is simply to just relax! Enjoy it!
What you do on a few days a year during the holidays is not going to derail your progress. It’s what you do the other days of the year that will determine whether or not you are successful.
To be honest, I don’t remember the last holiday where I tracked my macros, or even really concisely watched what I was eating. And guess what, it didn’t hurt my progress one bit. That’s because the rest of the year, I do track my macros, measure my portions and make good food choices. It’s that consistency that allows me the occasional inconsistency.
One day of overeating and indulgence is not going to instantly make you gain ten pounds of fat overnight. Consistently overeating will. So have your day, enjoy, and get right back on track the next day.
The holidays can be stressful for dieters…if you let them be. But having a plan will go a long way towards allowing you to enjoy yourself, which is ultimately what the holidays are about. By utilizing these seven tips, you can formulate a game plan that will keep you on track, and still let you crush a slice or two of pie!