I love the holiday season. And when I say “love,” I mean I’m a little obsessed. I love the decorations. I love the snow (in moderation). I love Christmas trees and ornaments. I love having my whole family together in one place — even when it’s stressful. And I love, love, love the food.
I’m an online personal trainer, so my clients usually expect me to put a strict moratorium on holiday treats. But I can’t. In my family, cooking is part of our holiday tradition. Honestly, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without my mom’s apple pie — or the beer my husband brews. As far as I’m concerned, the meals that we share together is an important part of the season. Depriving yourself completely is a great way to (a) be miserable, (b) set yourself up for failure.
It’s okay to indulge during the holiday, but do it mindfully. Holiday weight gain is a real thing, though it’s probably not as drastic as you think. According to a 2016 study, people gain a little over a pound during the holiday season. Not too bad — though it takes most people until around Easter to get back down to their pre-holiday weight.
Still, if you’re working on fitness goals — gaining even a few pounds can feel like a setback. If you’re worried about undoing the progress that you’ve made, here’s a few tips to help you stay on track (without feeling deprived):
Holidays are stressful enough without freaking out about your macros. Save your energy for managing your in-laws, not tracking every single calorie you consume. You can indulge in a cookie without blowing up your goals.
Work on eating mindfully, not mindlessly. Instead of grazing on appetizers all day, take actual breaks between meals or snacks. Give your brain a chance to tell your stomach that you’re full. And listen to that feeling. Your aunt’s pimiento cheese ball will be there when you’re hungry again.
Don’t obsess about your weight over the holiday season, but do keep an eye on it. Step on a scale every week or so and monitor your weight. Keep in mind, health and wellness is a lifelong journey — not a sprint. A little fluctuation is natural. However, if you find that you’ve gained more than you’re comfortable with, make some adjustments to your eggnog intake and work in a few more workouts.
I am firmly in the “eat, drink and be merry camp” when it comes to Christmas. A few glasses with dinner isn’t necessarily the enemy of health. (In fact, there is some research to indicate that light and moderate alcohol consumption may have some health benefits.) But moderation is important. Let’s be clear, white wine ain’t no protein shake. Alcohol is empty calories, and most cocktails are loaded with sugary mixers. So set a limit to the mugs of mulled wine you have with dinner. (You’ll thank me tomorrow.)
Our standard holiday fare isn’t exactly known for being calorie-conscientious. I mean, a single piece of pecan pie has over 500 calories in it. Still, you can find ways to prioritize healthier options. Grab the turkey (sans skin) instead of the ham or the prime rib. Load up on veggies and skimp on the mac n’ cheese. Roast your yams with a little olive oil instead of candying them. Instead of pouring gravy over everything on your plate, limit yourself to a single serving.
You can still treat yourself to a great meal without overindulging on foods that’ll leave you feeling like you need to unbuckle your belt and roll away from the dinner table.
You’ve probably got a cornucopia of relatives camping in your living room right now. Lots of people + limited space = ideal conditions for uncomfortable arguments about politics. You know what’s better than that? Getting all your relatives outside! Plan an afternoon hike, a family football game or a snowball fight. You’ll burn calories, keep everyone entertained, and work up an appetite for dinner.