As I write this, Thanksgiving weekend has just passed. Typically this gluttonous holiday is followed by a 3-4 pound increase. The same is true for the Christmas holiday weekend as well.
In fact, with many holidays, get togethers, and events, food and alcohol are the centerpieces that everything else revolves around.
But for me this holiday weekend, I actually ended up losing two pounds.
Nothing special, but I call it a win in an otherwise health crushing holiday.
How? Here are five simple tips to avoid packing on the holiday pounds.
Don't Drink Calories
This is a pretty simple concept. At the very base of the weight gain equation is:
Calories in - Calories out = weight loss or gained
Sure there's a bit more to it than that, but for the sake of this argument, let's keep it simple.
What many people don't realize is that a lot of beverages have a massive amount of calories in them.
A typical 12 oz soft drink has 150 calories. Have two of those and that's an extra 300 calories. This is the same for lemonade, sweet tea, and many other sugary beverages that are often served at these events.
A typical beer also has around 150 calories. Drink 4-5 of these and you're looking at 600 calories more.
This isn't to say you have to avoid these altogether, but it's not a bad idea to understand what you're taking in.
If you want an alternative, water and unsweet tea are your friends here.
Enjoy Food, but in Moderation
With the incredible amount of savory options available during typical holiday meals, it can be tempting to pile on a serving of 8-9 different types of food.
This can result in a plate that is 2-3x what you normally eat in a typical meal, and then you might have seconds!
I'm all about variety as well, but have learned that if I want to try everything, to take just a little bit of each item - maybe a 1/3 or 1/2 serving of each. This satisfies my desire to try each dish, and also keeps the calorie count in check.
Track What You Take In
It's no secret that tracking physical activity can be a solid motivator to make sure you're staying accountable to your fitness goals. This can also be true for meal tracking.
By far the best meal tracking app that I have found is Under Armour's MyFitnessPal, which is available for iOS and Android, and has an incredible intuitive and simple interface.
You can save frequent meals, scan barcodes, look up popular dishes, and even create your own recipes.
In just about 90 seconds a day, the result is a complete calorie and macronutrient breakdown of what you put in your body each day.
Through making this a habit, you'll learn a lot about exactly how many calories are in certain types of foods, which is very helpful for what will help you with your goals and what will not.
For example, those two rolls you ate are probably about 400 calories. That quarter plate of green beans was probably about 40. Big difference!
By doing this during holiday meals, it can help keep you on track for how you may need to adjust the rest of your day and weekend to compensate.
Leave the Leftovers Behind
How many holiday parties have you been to where there was no food left over?
Zero? Yea I thought so.
The worst thing about trying to stay healthy during holidays is the guilt that is placed upon you by your relatives for not taking leftovers home with you :)
Sure. A turkey leg and some stuffing might be awesome for breakfast, but it's not doing much for helping you keep the pounds away.
Leave the leftovers for those who really want them, or better yet, donate them to a local shelter for those who may not be as fortunate.
Be Accountable to Someone, or Something
One of the reasons I was able to actually lose a couple of pounds is because I had quite a bit of manufactured motivation from several forces.
- I was in a health competition with some co-workers
- I wanted to keep the pounds off for my own personal health, pride, and vanity
- I was using an app called "Pact" that punishes me monetarily (to the tune of $5 per missed activity) if I do not track my food intake and do at least 4 workouts per week.
By combining these internal, external, positive, and negative forces of motivation, it wasn't all that difficult to stick to my commitment to health.
Remember, You Are in Control
You're going to be tempted by all of the deliciousness around any holiday event, but just remember that if you have a strong motivation and reason to stay healthy, coupled with the helpful tactics above, it's a lot easier to do so.
And either way, it's still a good idea to get some activity afterwards. Odds are you are probably going to be operating in a calorie surplus.
Or you could just skip the holiday parties altogether, but that just makes you a dick.
Stay Active my friends!