Stop Holiday Parties From Wrecking Your Fitness and Exploding Your Waistline

As the Arctic Blast thoroughly chills a large portion of the nation, you might need some added motivation to stick with your training. What if I told you that you can wake up on January 1st without the spare tire you normally strap on during the Holidays?

It’s much harder to lose weight than it is to gain it, because you can burn off a few hundred more calories in an hour, but you can eat the same calories in a matter of seconds. The holiday season is only a few weeks long, but many people are still dealing with its impact on body weight and fitness up to six months later. However, you don’t have to lose that which you don’t gain, and the CTS Coaches have used the following guidance to help thousands of athletes navigate the holiday season without gaining unnecessary pounds or sacrificing fun.

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The Top 6 Things You Should Do

  1. Step away from the buffet table: The closer you stand to the food, the more of it you’re going to eat. You’re at the party to socialize with friends and family. Visit the food, and then find a good location away from it for people watching and catching up.
  2. Shorten your workouts: Just because you’re schedule is packed, that’s no reason to forego exercise. Even short workouts are beneficial. On top of burning calories to keep weight off, workouts that are even 30-45 minutes help keep your fitness from eroding out from under you.
  3. Seek healthy food options: Cranberries are packed with antioxidants and sweet potatoes are full of beta-carotene and quality protein. Want a simple dish to take to a party? Slice sweet potato wedges, spray lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and cayenne pepper before baking at 350 degrees until soft in the middle and crispy on the outside (about 20 minutes).
  4. Find the bacon: Strong flavors go a long way. Used well, high-fat foods like bacon and blue cheese can add a lot of great flavor to a dish without adding a lot of calories. The same rarely holds true with high-sugar foods, or high-fat foods containing a lot of butter or other low-flavor fats. In other words, if you’re going to indulge in rich and fatty foods, go with dishes that feature bigger flavors; it will take fewer bites – and fewer calories – to reach the point of being satisfied.
  5. Drink wisely: Beer has fewer calories per ounce, but wine is served in smaller quantities. A four-ounce glass of wine has about 90-95 calories. Beer has a range, since light beers are about 100 calories for 12 ounces and craft beers are about 160-180 calories for 12 ounces, which can bump up to about 240 for a full pint. There are about 95-100 calories in a typical 1.5 ounce shot of 80-proof (40% alcohol) spirits. If you’re having mixed drinks, try to choose low-calorie or no-calorie mixers like seltzer/sparkling water instead of tonic water. And nurse your drink; people won’t try to get you a new drink if there’s already one in your hand.
  6. Fill your plate: Go through the buffet line and fill a small plate. Even completely full, that one small plate will likely contain fewer calories than you’d accumulate with several small trips, especially if you reserve about one-half of your plate for vegetables.
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The Top 5 Things You Shouldn’t Do

  1. Don’t go to the party hungry: Having a snack or a small meal before heading out to the party will keep you from gorging yourself. The best foods for this snack are high in fiber or low on the glycemic index, because these are the most filling. Think vegetables and hummus rather than cookies.
  2. Don’t let stress wear you down: People make poor decisions when we’re tired and stressed out. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture of the holiday season. Find the days and weeks that will be tough because of schedules, parties, and travel; as well as the days where you can recuperate and pencil in time for yourself.
  3. Don’t keep leftover sweets: Make your home your refuge from the holiday dessert overload. Give the extra pie and cookies to someone else. Take them into the office the next day, but don’t keep them in your house. If no one will take them, toss them.
  4. Don’t close down the party: Make a memorable appearance at the party, socialize, eat, drink, thank the host, and then find a reason to leave. The longer you stay, the more you will eat and drink, and the later it gets, the more you’re likely to overindulge, in a variety of ways.
  5. Don’t skip your favorite treats: The holidays bring out foods specific to the season, including favorites you’ve been waiting all year to have again. You shouldn’t deprive yourself of your favorites, but don’t waste calories on sweets and high-fat dishes you don’t really like at any time of year. Choose your indulgences wisely.
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It’s important to keep the holiday season in perspective and do your best to maintain your normal routines. Continue exercising, but don’t obsess about every calorie you put in your mouth or burn off with activity. And even if you start to gain weight, it’s not the end of the world; just keep your gains under control. Three to five pounds will melt off within a few weeks after the holidays, but it could take well into the spring to shed 15. Above all, stay safe and enjoy the opportunities this season presents to spend more time with friends and loved ones.

Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach of CTS

Comments 7

  1. The first 6-8 months of healthy eating and eating less are the hardest because you’re used to eating large portions and eating lots of junk. Once I got through this period, the rest was relatively easy – I just couldn’t eat as much as I used to, I no longer ate until I was full, and my internal food censor steered me towards fruits and veggies and away from cookies and other sweets.

    I also figured out a formula that worked for me. We’ve all heard the old “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” saying. The problem was, when I ate a big breakfast it piled up too many calories in at the beginning of the day. By the end of the day, I was too hungry to satisfy myself with a pauper dinner and I would end up overeating. I found that eating a balanced, but relatively small breakfast and lunch piled up a big enough calorie deficit that I could eat a moderate dinner and still stay under by 1600-1700 daily calorie budget.

    This runs counter to most diet advice, but it works for me.

  2. You need to get as lean and fit as you live longer. But you may as well turn your identity into a great cyclist! Counting calories is tough. So is exercising just because you’re supposed to. Choosing healthy foods and training for events is more effective and rewarding.
    1) Eat plant based foods, not processed. Follow the Mediterranean diet and snack on nuts. (The most clinically proven diet for preventing heart disease, cancer and weight gain)
    2) Sign up for an event or several and learn how to train with Chris at CTS. (I was healthiest the three years I just signed myself up for the Leadville MTB race since I was scared into getting lean and fit!)
    3) Fear not the statin. They’ve saved more lives than any stents or bypass surgeries. (I take atorvastatin 80m daily without any risk factors because they work, and I know my muscles ached as much from doing intervals way before I started the statin.)
    Cardiologist, Boise Idaho

  3. Do you have any holiday suggestions for someone whose doctor has told them that his/her blood pressure is 150/70 and either cut out the sodium or go on statins? That his/her H1ac is 6.4 and that to prevent in increasing to diabetic levels, he/she should avoid sugary food and drink? That his/her LDL is 155mg/dL and that if it increases, he will prescribe statins?

    So, no bacon, no cheese, no fired potatoes, no butter, no fruit juice, only 1alcoholic drink

    What are your recommendations?

    1. I’m diabetic, with cholesterol issues and allergic to statins. Frequent exercise, with a good dose of intensity, is the best possible thing for controlling A1c, cholesterol and blood pressure. Reasonable dietary choices are important, but cutting everything “bad” out is a recipe for disaster. You’ll feel deprived, and resentful and won’t stay “clean” for long. Then you’ll feel guilty for “cheating” and swear off the “bad” stuff. Repeat ad nauseam.

      Have the chocolate covered bacon, just not often, and not a lot. Explore new foods or new preparations of familiar foods to break the habit of a high fat/starch diet. And if a goal helps you stick to a fitness regimen, enter a race, or a gran fondo, or a big charity ride.

      Above all don’t think of the dietary and exercise changes as something you’re doing because your doctor (or someone else) said to. It’s something you’re doing because you want to, and it’s not a “diet”, it’s changing the way you think about food. It’s not “exercise”, it’s training. Either for an event, or just because you want to.

      Good luck!

    2. You have a lot going on as we head into the holidays. The majority of the advice still applies to you. Continue to exercise as this improves your body’s insulin sensitivity and will help not only your blood glucose but your blood pressure and cholesterol. Go heavy on the vegetables, as stated, making up half of your plate. Avoid the obvious high sugar items and ask your doctor for a consult to a dietitian. And take a friend or your spouse with you so you get the most out of it and someone else can understand and be supportive. Best wishes.

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