How to Avoid Weight Gain Over the Holidays

I like to eat. Thought I’d get that out of the way in case you were wondering.
I also love the holidays and this time of year in general. And as you know, the holidays and food go hand in hand. But I also like to look great in a bikini and try to avoid setting back myself too far back throughout a few short weeks. That being said, there is no way in hell I’m going to give up my slice of pecan pie and gnaw on celery sticks while everyone else is happily enjoying themselves.
The good news is you can have both. You can have your Christmas cookies and eat them too. And if you haven’t figured it out by now, this isn’t going to be your typical “5 tips for starving staying in shape over the holidays” article. I’m going to show you exactly how to avoid weight gain over the holidays and enjoy yourself in the process!
So let’s get into it.
I was having a conversation the other day with a client about her upcoming time off for the holidays. She was rather concerned that all her hard work would come undone. I pressed a bit further asking what she was really afraid of beyond the obvious of gaining weight. What she originally said was “concern” turned out to be a much larger issue. In fact, she admitted to dreading the time off. In the past, she had felt powerless to control herself around all the extra food.
Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Are you stressed as the holiday’s approach and fearful that you’ll pack on extra pounds, rendering your hard work useless?
If so, let’s address the real cause of weight gain during this time of the year.
(Hint: it’s not just because you’re overeating)
What the magazines will tell you is to practice self-control, avoid desserts, do extra cardio… blah blah blah. This kind of advice only sets you up for failure and further fuels the habits that are causing you to overeat in the first place.
It’s not the holidays that are “bad”; it’s the nutrition habits that you’ve been building on a daily basis.
So if it’s not just that extra slice (or two) of pie, what is it?
Reasons why you gain weight over the holidays:
#1. You try to diet and sabotage yourself
How to avoid holiday weight gain 
Let’s set one thing straight – if you haven’t been able to successfully manage your weight over the holidays (or the rest of the year), don’t try dieting through them. Focus instead on maintaining your weight and enjoying yourself.
Think about it… would you try running a marathon if you hadn’t been able to successfully complete a lap around the block? No.
So why would you try losing weight over the holidays (when the temptations are even greater), if you haven’t been successful at losing weight the rest of the year?
Maintaining your weight during this time of the year is the equivalent to losing a few pounds any other month.
#2. You don’t practice moderation
How to avoid holiday weight gain
You tried to avoid all the tasty appetizers and desserts, but instead went completely haywire and binged your way through several pounds of stuffing & pumpkin pie for not one meal, but for several days.
Now you feel completely guilty, not to mention as bloated as that giant turkey roasting in the oven. Sound familiar?
The better choice would be to enjoy a small bit of everything instead of avoiding it completely. This way you’re much less likely to end up bingeing or going overboard.
While you hear moderation preached all the time, it can be a hard task to master. If you follow a strict diet year round and never allow yourself to eat foods that you enjoy, don’t expect to start now.
Moderation is a learned task. And most of us who’ve ever fallen victim to stringent meal plans will find that it takes more than one day to master it.
#3. Cardio, Cardio, Cardio…
How to avoid holiday weight gain
Remember all that stuffing and pumpkin pie you binged on and then tried to make up for by doing a ton of cardio? Well, it’s not going to help. Sorry to be blunt.
I’ve harped on this point before, but it bears repeating. You can’t out-exercise a bad diet.
Instead of spending all day on the treadmill, focus on what you can do right today and move on. 
#4. You starve yourself to “save calories” for the big meal or event
How to avoid holiday weight gain
While it may seem logical to save all your calories for a big meal this strategy usually backfires.
Have you ever gone grocery shopping when you were hungry and ended up coming home with all kinds of sugary crap that looked way too good to resist? *Guilty*
It’s the same thing when you avoid eating all day and then have a plethora of delicious food in front of you. You’re going to want it ALL & lots of it! Your brain will tell you to eat, eat, eat and before you know it you’ll feel uncomfortably full.
Instead, eat your regular meals throughout the day and you’ll avoid going overboard at the big dinner.
#5. You don’t prioritize protein and veggies
How to avoid holiday weight gain
Protein is the most filling macronutrient, so fill up on it and load up with lots of fibrous veggies. I don’t know about you, but I love meals with volume. Must be the foodie in me, but regardless of a food’s caloric density, sometimes having a full plate makes me feel like I’m eating more.
And if you can combine this with tip #4 above, you won’t go into that big holiday meal feeling ravenous. Load up your plate with whatever protein is being served, a generous portion of veggies and of course, some smaller servings of the good stuff! 😉 
You’ll consume fewer calories and you won’t feel deprived. Now that’s a win-win!
#6. You’re not prepared
How to avoid holiday weight gain
The holidays aren’t just about one meal. It’s all the scrumptious appetizers, the cookies on your coworkers desk and those boozy events that add up.
Instead of being at the mercy of your host whose love of butter rivals Paula Dean, why not volunteer to bring a dish of your own? There are so many healthy (and delicious) options out there that don’t require a stick of butter and a cup of sugar.
Remember, you can still have those things but in moderation.
Another benefit of bringing along your own dish is that you’ll have something healthier to eat in the event that you don’t have time to eat beforehand.
The holidays aren’t a time to be hiding away.
There’s no point to being lean year round if you can’t live life and enjoy those special moments with the people closest to you. You’re never going to get them back.
And I promise, 10 years from now you’ll be more upset about that holiday party you skipped than the piece of pecan pie you ate that didn’t fit into your macros.
The mark of a truly successful “fit lifestyle” is being able to enjoy food without obsessing over it. It’s about living life and finding a balance that works for you.
If you aren’t there yet start taking the steps to get there. Take it one day at a time and work on finding your balance. If needed, hire a coach like myself who can guide you. You’ll be so glad you did!
 Now go enjoy the holidays and fear not! =)

About Melissa

Melissa Wilson is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through NSCA and received her Bachelor’s degree from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo. In addition to in-person training, Melissa is the founder of ProShape Fitness -- a healthy living company, which specializes in online fitness and nutrition coaching for individuals who want to get back into shape and adopt healthier lifestyle habits.

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