Eat the Cake - SANE Strategies for Holiday Season Weight Maintenance

Yep - you read that right.  If you're going to make it from now til New Year's with your sanity intact, a few treats are in order.  More here on common sense strategies for enjoying the holidays - minus the battle of the bulge.

Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is barely two weeks away, and then it's a fast-forward to Christmas.  According to this article, your lowest weight of the season has come and gone: the onslaught of festive calories translates into extra pounds that linger way past New Year's.  Yikes.  

Before you resign yourself to control Spanx and sweatpants for the next two months, here are five SANE trainer/RD approved strategies for weight maintenance during the holiday season.


I'm leading with this one because the holidays are filled with enough guilt and anxiety.  The last thing you should lament is dessert.  But here's the caveat: choose that piece of cake, slice of pie, or other sweet creation wisely.  Example: at Thanksgiving, are you going to forgo your sister's legendary, once-a-year Pumpkin Bread Pudding Brûlée?  HELL NO.  Get yourself a cup of that goodness and ENOY EVERY BITE.  Skip the run-of-the-mill chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and other common fare that's available year-round in favor of special, seasonal treats.  But hey, if that brownie is calling your name from across the table, have a bite of that, too.  The more you deny yourself something you really, really want, the more it will haunt you.  The spookier the "food ghost," the harder you'll try to fight the craving with other foods.  So, what could have been a portion-controlled serving of something crave-worthy quickly morphs into a calorie bomb.

The takeaway: TREAT YOURSELF.  Just do it wisely, and enjoy mindfully.  


In layman's terms: put down the drink.  Sorry to be a party pooper, BUT...

Dietary guidelines recommend drinking no more than one alcoholic beverage per day for women, two for men. With a whirlwind of office parties, happy hours, and holiday dinners on the calendar, it's easy to throw back a surplus of libations - and empty calories.  This doesn't mean you have to forgo the tipple altogether, but strategizing is in order.  

1.  Know your weakness.  If champagne goes down a little too easy, lay off of it - especially at professional functions (no one wants to be THAT guest whispered about in the break room the next day).

2.  Go dark.  Brown liquor gets a bad rap due to its calorie content.  In the scheme of things, it's a negligible difference between amber-hued booze and vodka - around 100 calories vs. 64 calories.  The difference?  It's a lot easier to suck down a few vodka tonics!  Wrap your tastebuds around a warming scotch or bourbon, and nurse ONE through the evening.  Not sure where to start?  Check out Poet in the Pantry's classic Manhattan

3.  Water, water, water.  For every alcoholic beverage, drink AT LEAST one glass of water.  It'll fill you up AND combat the dehydrating effects of alcohol.  Bye-bye, morning cotton mouth.


Write it down, add it to your calendar, and hold yourself accountable.  My best personal training clients are the ones who take our time together very seriously - 12 months a year.  Would you skip a meeting with your boss to wrap presents?  Um, no.  THIS is the time of year to stick to your training schedule, whether you train alone or with a fitness pro.  Prefer working out in a group setting?  Treat yourself to a non-refundable month-long membership at a studio of your choosing, then find a buddy and stick with it.  

Sure, regular exercise will help offset some of the extra inevitable holiday treats, but more importantly, endorphins can help relieve some of the seasonal stress.  


Forget starving yourself all day to "save" calories for later.  While it's OK to lighten up on lunch once in a while in favor of an indulgent dinner, consistency is key during the holiday season.  Fill up on natural sources of fiber (fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains) and lean proteins, and partner them with a healthy fat at every meal.  Psssssst...this is a fairly reasonable way to eat most of the time.  But during the holidays, it's especially important to ward off stress-eating, cookie binges, and other regrettable food decisions.

A word on protein: a registered dietitian can help determine your personal protein needs based on height, weight, activity level, age, and other factors.  A general rule of thumb?  Don't skimp - aim for 20-30 grams at every meal.  It's not rocket science: top a Greek yogurt with nuts in the morning, add grilled chicken to your lunch, and bust out a can of sardines at dinner.  You can read more about my preferred high-quality protein source here


The frequency is up to you - daily, weekly, or biweekly - doing it is non-negotiable.  You're reading a post about weight maintenance, so I'll assume you're open to the idea.

Here's my take on the scale, take it or leave it: it can be your friend or your foe, and your mindset makes it so.  You can fear and loathe it, or enlist it as an ally in accountability.  I personally choose the latter!  

Let's do some math: there are nine weeks between Halloween and New Year's Eve.  Left unchecked, a half pound weight gain per week could result in almost five holiday season pounds. Would you rather step on the scale on January first and see that increase, or dutifully weigh yourself consistently throughout the holidays?  Just remember the golden rules (pun intended) before getting on the scale: same time every time, preferably in the morning, and after you pee (and poo).  If you tend to wear forgiving clothing (re: knits and spandex), consider a waistline tape measure check-in, too.  

Enoy the holidays.  Enjoy your life!