Believe it or not, the holidays are once again upon us. And that means endless social gatherings with family and friends to exchange gifts and good wishes, and of course, lots and lots of food. From Aunt Carol’s famous chocolate chunk cookies you just can’t turn down to the ever-growing collection of treats at the office, holiday treats seem to be impossible to avoid.
Often, we go into the holiday season with the anticipation that we’ll come out the other end a few pounds heavier. But you don’t have to let holiday treat temptation sabotage your plans for fat loss! Here are my top 4 tips for embracing the holidays with confidence to come out the other end in good spirit and good health.
1. Fill up on lean protein
Protein is one of the most important macronutrients for maintaining a healthy body composition. It supports lean muscle mass and a faster metabolism, and it helps us feel fuller longer. Simply put, protein is your friend, and it can play a large role in keeping your holiday cravings in check. Whether it’s a single holiday meal or your day leading up to an evening social gathering, don’t forget to prioritize lean protein at each meal to make sure you’re not leaving too much room for a splurge.
2. Be mindful and make it worth it
Ok, ok, so protein may not be your favorite holiday treat, so how do you deal with the good stuff, then? Well it’s actually pretty simple. Eat what you really want, and enjoy it. “Uhhh, great advice, Jen,” you’re probably thinking. Here’s what I mean. There are sooo many holiday treats around us that sometimes we find ourselves reaching for things just because they’re there, and we keep eating them just because they’re there.
Instead of going all in on the mindless munching, practice being mindful about what you consume. If you don’t absolutely love that cookie, don’t finish it. If you’re going to eat dessert, eat your favorite dessert. Slowly enjoy it and be satisfied, then move on.
Now, if you find yourself making headway on a pan of brownies because you’re actually hungry, stop. And make a beeline to the nearest plate of lean protein and veggies. Hunger deserves real food.
3. Desensitize yourself to the “off limits” foods
If something is off limits, it’s much more likely to be on your radar. You know that tin of chocolate truffles you’ve been avoiding? Of course, you do. The thing is, holiday treats are a reality (that’s why I’m writing about them), and putting them on the “bad” list is no fun way to go through the holiday season. In fact, you’re much more likely to eventually adopt the “oh, what the heck” attitude towards these foods that you’ve deemed off-limits, because will power is a limited resource.
And let’s be honest, are you really planning on making it to January 2nd without eating any holiday foods? Probably not. So instead of practicing rigid avoidance, be mindful about the foods you enjoy, and allow yourself to eat them in moderation. Remember, no food is inherently bad. It is the over-consuming of food in general that causes weight gain.
So forget the all-or-nothing mentality; you don’t have to be super restrictive in order to maintain your ideal body composition. Good health is about more than just your waistline, and your diet should not isolate you from social gatherings or cause you to feel guilt. Enjoy your holiday treats, but don’t get carried away. Have a few bites, savor the taste, and move on. That apple pie isn’t going anywhere.
Now, in the event that you do lose your head and over-indulge, fine. What’s done is done. Tomorrow is a new day. Ask yourself how you can better keep things in moderation next time. But feeling guilty about what you’ve eaten surely takes the fun out of it.
4. Leverage the extra energy in the gym
If you’re going to be eating a few extra hundred calories here and there, you might as well take advantage of the extra energy. That’s all it is really. Energy. So don’t forget to get in the gym and crush that set of back squats. Have fun moving weights around and setting PRs. You will feel much better once you get moving.
If you’re out of town and can’t make it to the gym, get creative with bodyweight workouts or even go for a walk. The key is to stay active.
Here’s a simple bodyweight workout to try:
16 Rounds, On The Minute:
Odds: 10 Air squats + 6 No-Pushup Burpees Evens: 10 Air squats + 9 Pushups
Every other minute complete either [air squats + burpees] or [air squats + push-ups] for a total of 16 minutes.
But here’s what I’m not saying. The gym should not be punishment for the five-course meal you had last night. Again, enjoy what you’re eating, and don’t forget to move!
The original version of this post was originally published for Crossfit Praxis.