IT’S THAT TIME of year again: the holidays!
The holidays are my favorite time of year. It always reminds me of the best times in my childhood. Playing hardcore hide-and-seek with my cousins, hearing stories from my uncles, unwrapping presents, eating the pecan-cornbread stuffing that my dad used to cook.
It’s an important time of year. Especially in the U.S. where we don’t get a lot of holidays during the year, the end of year festivities is the time we use to spend quality time with our families.
Do you gain weight during the holidays and feel like you can never get it off?
It’s a common complaint I hear from my clients and something I’ve struggled with personally as well.
Have you wondered why it’s such a phenomenon and whether the “holiday weight gain effect” is even real?
A 2016 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine set out to answer this exact question: How does someone’s body weight change over the year?
To discover the answer, scientists recruited nearly 3,000 volunteers in the United States, Germany, and Japan. They used wireless scales connected to collect daily data about the participant’s body weight.
After crunching the numbers, an eye-catching pattern emerged:
“No matter where you live in the world or what you celebrate, the holidays are when you’re most likely to gain the most amount of weight.” - Click to tweet
After the New Year, many of us don our workout clothes and Nike shoes (or minimalist training shoes if you’re like me) and hit the gym in an effort to burn off the extra flab.
Here’s the problem…
Many of us only lose half (or less) of the weight we gain during the holidays.
The ugly truth is that for most of us, every holiday season leads to a permanent increase in our weight.
This means that after several years, we find ourselves overweight or obese as our health declines and conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes start to emerge.
In other words, we turn out like this guy below. LOL
Although it’s nice to have science confirming that the holidays make us fat, it’s been a well-known phenomenon for many years.
That’s why we’re bombarded with tips to avoid holiday weight gain from magazines, fitness gurus and health experts every year.
“Control your portions.”
“Take the skin off of turkey.”
Although their advice is correct, it’s hard to do—especially when your spending time with family and emotions are running high.
On top of that, “avoiding desserts” doesn’t sound like any fun at all.
Do you really want to tell Grandma that you can’t have any of her homemade pumpkin pie?
I don’t think so…
The good news is that in this article I’m going to explain how you can have your cake (and eat it, too). And I’m also going to give you some healthier alternatives to your usual Christmas cookies and variety of pies.
Why We Overeat During The Holidays
If you’re a regular reader or listener to Legendary Life, you already know the reason why we gain weight over the holidays. If not, check out my fat loss master class. You’ll learn exactly what causes fat and how to get rid of it.
Simply put: we overeat.
But why do we overeat? Answering that question can help us come up with a plan.
Here’s my take:
- Family Drama. When your family is together, it’s only a matter of time before some drama happens. Don’t you hate it how you can be a mature, responsible individual and spending an hour with your family makes you feel like you’re 13 again? It sucks! Then that jug of rum-spiked eggnog looks especially appealing. Once your defenses are weakened by alcohol, the emotional eating ensues.
- Social Pressure. Maybe your family isn’t that dysfunctional. Not likely but a possibility. Maybe they’re cool for the most part but they don’t get why you’re not eating like everyone else. Maybe they’ll question your decision to eat an ancestral diet or eating superfood salads. They may say what you’re doing isn’t “normal” or “healthy” and you should relax and “live a little”. I’ve heard this from so many clients that I’ve lost count over the years. Don’t let yourself get bullied but don’t get too stressed over it either. Just know that it’ll probably happen.
- Stress: Sometimes it’s not the family drama or social pressure that causes us to overeat. It’s the stress. Maybe you’re trying to do too much to create a “perfect” experience for your family. You want everything to enjoy themselves with no issues. So you sacrifice a little bit of your sanity to make sure everything goes smoothly. And it does—for everyone but you. You end up skipping meals and skimping on sleep to make everything happen. And find yourself snacking on the gingerbread cookies and other sugary treats because your sleep deprived and your stress hormones are through the roof.
- Broken Routines. We know that the majority of our readers and listeners already exercise and focus on eating nutritious food. So you may already be doing well in this department. Until the holidays come around and all of a sudden your perfect routine goes out the window. And you find yourself succumbing to the same basic AF traps that everyone else seems to get caught in. Because if you can’t go to the gym for an hour then why go at all right? How much does it really help if you do a 5-10 minute workout at home? So you skip it thinking you’ll resume after New Years’ Eve with the rest of the resolutioners #NewYearNewMe (Yes, “resolutioner” is really a word according to the Urban Dictionary. And that’s authority enough.)
- Not Having a Plan. The biggest issue I see with people during the holidays is that instead of being proactive about holiday decision-making they react after the damage has been done.
Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying:
And I couldn’t agree more. I’m going to give you some solid tips to use to avoid being a statistic this holiday season.
How To Enjoy The Holidays Without Getting A Santa-sized Belly
1. Create A Plan
I’ll give you my top suggestions for warding off weight gain during the holidays. But you have to figure out what you’ll actually do and put it into a plan. Take what I suggest and come up with a plan of action for yourself that you’re sure you can follow. If in doubt as yourself, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely am I to follow this plan during the holidays?” Anything less than a 9 or 10 needs to be reworked.
2. Take Action
The problem is that most people who read this article (yes, this includes you) simply won’t do anything different after reading this. It’s the biggest problem behind why people are overweight, in debt, in relationships they don’t like, or in a place in life they don’t like is because they won’t take the most important step: Take ACTION!
I’m challenging you right now to be different than the others who think they need to read more to actually do something. After creating your plan, ACT on it immediately. That builds a habit of taking action. That’s the number one habit you can ever develop.
3. Lose Fat Now
So many people plan to lose fat when the holidays are over and the damage has already been done. That’s a big mistake. When you’re overweight, it’s already harder to lose fat and build muscle. And when you get fatter, you’re adding an additional obstacle that you’ll have to hurdle to make progress.
The more fat you have to lose, the longer the time it will take to get it off. And the harder it will be. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until “the right time” to get in shape happens. Start NOW!
By starting now, you’ll get a jump start on the holidays so it’ll be easier to maintain your workouts and better eating habits when the pressure is on. If you need help, consider sighing up to Legendary Lean.
We’ll help you get started with the right workout and meal plan to ensure that you start losing fat now. That’ll make the holidays much easier.
4. Lift weights to build muscle
You actually have to lift dumbbells or barbells. You can use your body weight as resistance too. The point is to start doing strenuous strength training exercises that that you start putting the calories you’re eating into building muscle instead of filling out your waistline.
In the past, I told people to focus on burning more calories. Now I think that’s suboptimal. Focusing on building muscle is the best exercise strategy to avoid holiday weight gain.
Make sure that you perform resistance training exercises like push ups, body weight squats, bench presses, barbell deadlifts, etc before or after your big meals during the holidays.
That will ensure that some of those extra calories are spent bulking your muscles instead of storing fat for the winter. And remember any exercise is better than none. Here’s a short holiday workouts using only your bodyweight:
- 50 push ups
- 50 bodyweight squats
- 50 mountain climbers
- 50 single leg glute bridges
- 50 V-ups
- 100 jumping jacks
You can do this all at once or break it up into smaller segments throughout the day. The point is to be committed to getting some exercise in.
Another thing, the above workout is nice but it’s not optimal to build muscle. If you want a workout that delivers serious results in a short amount of time, look into my Legendary Muscle Workout. There are options for men, women, and home.
5. Eat Smart Holiday Meals
You don’t have to forego all the holiday goodies. But you have to be smart about the decisions you make for your meals. Here are some tips to follow to dial in your nutrition to avoid weight gain while still allowing yourself to indulge a little.
- Focus on satiety. Instead of counting calories or tracking your macros, relax a little and focus on eating foods that will fill you up. Protein has a well-known satiating effect on hunger, as does the fiber from vegetables. If you fill 80-90% of your plate with lean protein and veggies, you’ll eat fewer calories without even trying.
Fill up in this order:
1-Fibrous, colorful veggies
2-Palm-sized portions of protein
3-Everything else (even a treat or two)
- Indulge but avoid stuffing yourself. Plan to indulge and eat your favorite foods, but only after you’ve eaten your protein and vegetables. And don’t keep eating until you’re about to burst. Sorry, but stuffing is for turkeys not people. Plan to eat a couple of cookies or a slice of pie and savor them. Then move on. When you plan to indulge in a controlled way, it puts you in proactive mode and in charge. It also will reduce your anxiety and guilt while still allowing you to eat some junky holiday goodness.
- Avoid trigger foods. For some of us, we can’t eat certain foods without triggering a binge-eating episode. If that’s your case, then avoid the foods that cause that behavior to happen. Have a “while line” that you won’t cross with foods that you feel addicted to.
I hope after reading all of these smart strategies to avoid holiday weight gain, you can apply a few in the coming weeks to stay fit during the holidays. And even if you’re thinking, “Oh no. Ted didn’t let me off that easy”, trust me you’ll thank me for it in the New Year. I promise.
Want a few wholesome dessert recipes for the holidays?
Click here and download our free guide of non-traditional and healthy holiday baking recipes. Full of delicious, beautiful, and truly unexpected desserts, it’s a holiday bake-off in which we all win.
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