Halloween is behind us. Thanksgiving is in a few weeks. Christmas and New Year’s are next month.
The holiday season is officially in full swing.
And if you’re anything like the clients I work with, this time of year can wreak havoc on your physique.
Holiday parties at the office, family gatherings, closing down your favorite hometown bar with your high school buddies the night before Thanksgiving, New Years in Vegas…the opportunities to mess up your progress the next two months are endless.
So what do most people do? They throw in the towel.
Their gym routine goes out the window, they pay less attention to their diet than people in LA pay to their professional football teams, and they end up starting the new year fatter and more frustrated than Santa finding vegan cookies and soy milk waiting for him at the bottom of the chimney.
BUT, all this is completely avoidable – if you follow these tips…
1. Start Tracking Your Calories
If you’re not doing this then you’re significantly hurting your ability to lose fat and build muscle. As far as a guaranteed method for seeing results, tracking your calories is as close as it gets.
Managing your calorie intake around the holidays is important – because the closer you stay on track with calories on normal days, the more you can enjoy those special events, parties, and holiday gatherings.
Use an app like MyFitnessPal, and track everything you put in your mouth. If you’re trying to lose fat, take your bodyweight multiplied by 10 and aim to eat that many calories every day. If you’re trying to gain muscle, take your bodyweight multiplied by 16 and eat that many calories every day.
The key here is that you’re consistent. Every day you don’t have something going on, hit your calorie target. Doing that will make your holiday events and gatherings have much less of a negative impact.
2. Hit the Weights
If you’re trying to improve your body composition and not regularly hitting the weights, you’re severely shortchanging yourself.
Muscle is the most metabolically active tissue in the body – meaning the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, and thus the more food you can eat. This makes lifting weights critically important if you’re trying to lose fat to help you maintain and build muscle.
Weight training also affords a calorie buffer when the holidays roll around. It will help your body utilize those extra calories from all of grandma’s cookies for building new muscle tissue, and help you better recover from your workouts.
3. Intermittent Fasting
This is one of my favorite holiday tools.
Fasting is nothing magic when it comes to losing body fat. Sure, there are some health benefits, but when it comes to dropping the pounds, calories always have been, are, and will be king.
However, intermittent fasting is a great way to help control calories around the holidays – which in turn, helps control body fat. One way I like to use it is with 20/4 fasting – wherein you fast for 20 hours and eat during a 4-hour window.
Family meals, parties, etc, usually come with a lot of high-calorie food that is very difficult to track – so 20/4 fasting is a great way to manage this because you’re giving yourself a very limited time in which you can eat. This will allow you to enjoy bigger meals, full of higher-calorie foods, without blowing past your calorie limit for the day.
If you have trouble fasting that long, or are worried about not getting enough protein in for the day, you can have a double scoop protein shake during your fast, but that’s it.
4. Don’t Rely on Willpower
Trying to rely on willpower is only going to get you so far. At a certain point, you run out and wind up running off into the woods with the cookie tray after family dinner.
To avoid this, you need to have a plan.
A goal without a plan is simply a wish. And if you want to make staying on track during the holidays easier, doing things like planning ahead of time, or setting rules for yourself can go a long way towards limiting extra holiday calories.
Prep your meals so you’re not tempted to stray.
Plan your meals out for the week ahead of time so you know what you’re eating.
Schedule your workouts into your day and treat them like a meeting you can’t miss.
Set rules for yourself, like no snacking before dinner, not going for second helpings, having one glass of water for every drink, or sticking to low-calorie drinks like liquor and zero-calorie mixers…
All these things add up, and the more rules you set for yourself, and the more you plan ahead, the better off you’ll be.
5. Get Help
One of the biggest reasons people fail to reach their fitness goals is a lack of accountability and support.
The key to building a great body isn’t any one workout or diet – it’s being able to execute that one workout or diet, consistently, for months on end.
And the reason people fail to do this is a lack of accountability and support.
When things get tough – like they can during the holidays – it’s easy to say “screw it” and throw in the towel until new years. Because most people don’t have good habits in place to hold themselves accountable to their goals and plan.
This is where hiring a coach, purchasing a plan, joining a class at the gym, or making an accountability bet with a friend or family member can help make sticking to any of the above tips much, much easier – because you’re creating accountability TO someone or something that you have to answer to. And by putting skin in the game, you’re making a monetary promise to yourself that makes it much more likely you’re going to follow through.
The worst thing you can do during the holidays is to decide “I’ll start next year.” Don’t be one of those people. Start now, use the above 6 tips, and start the New Year in BETTER shape than you’re in now.
Jorden is a dessert-loving former fat kid turned online fitness coach; who lost over 80 pounds and has now helped hundreds of men and women get in better shape and improve their lives. You can find him on Instagram musing about fitness, life, and cookies. Want more help navigating the treacherous holiday season? Jorden is running a 60-Day Challenge for anyone who wants to avoid the holiday fat gain and start the new year in BETTER shape than they are now. Learn more here.