Stay Fit, Have Fun: A Guide to Guilt-Free Eating Over the Holidays

The holiday season, with its focus on celebration and enjoyment, often brings along an enticing array of delicious meals. While these festive meals are a high point of any holiday celebration, they can also be a source of anxiety, particularly for those concerned about potential weight gain. At Renaissance Periodization, our team of expert coaches and scientists aims to help you make logical decisions about holiday eating, thus allowing you to enjoy the holiday season without guilt or stress fully.

We propose three logical approaches to holiday eating, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Additionally, we provide practical tips for our most recommended approach, Enjoying Maintenance. By planning ahead and sticking to your decisions, you can enjoy guilt-free holiday eating while still achieving your long-term physique and performance goals.


The Three Approaches to Holiday Eating

No Deviation From Strict Dieting
This approach involves sticking to your strict meal plan throughout the holidays, sacrificing the joy of indulging in traditional holiday fare. While this approach eliminates worries about unwanted weight gain, the lack of food enjoyment could potentially detract from the festive spirit. We recommend this route only if you have a serious competition lined up immediately after the holidays.

Controlled Deviation From Strict Dieting
At first glance, this appears to be a win-win situation, allowing you to enjoy some holiday foods while maintaining your physique goals. However, it's important to note that this approach can be challenging. For many people, sampling a small portion of tempting foods can intensify cravings, making a "not at all" strategy more effective. We generally advise caution with this approach due to the potential for increased cravings and temptations.

Enjoying Maintenance
This approach, which we at RP consider the most suitable for most people, involves maintaining your current body mass or gaining a minimal amount while indulging in all your favorite holiday meals. We highly recommend this approach if you don't have any competition scheduled immediately after the holidays. With a few key tips, you can successfully adopt this strategy without issues.


Tips for Enjoying Maintenance Over the Holidays

Don't Skip Holiday Meals
Unless you're invited to an excessive number of holiday parties, there's no need to skip any planned holiday meals. So long as you're eating no more than about 5-7 special meals during the season, skipping any isn’t even worth considering.

Don't Skimp on Holiday Meal Portion Sizes
When you’re eating special festive meals, don't hold back on portion sizes and food types. The whole point of holiday eating is to indulge, so have at it!

Adjust Your Non-Festive Meals
Since holiday meals tend to be high in calories, consider adjusting your regular meals slightly during the holiday season. Make these meals higher in lean protein and veggies and a bit lower in carbs and fats. You don't need to starve yourself — eat plenty! This adjustment will reduce your calorie intake while still providing your body with the fuel it needs.

Keep Training Hard!
Continuing your training routine during the holidays is crucial. Regular, intense workouts will help burn off holiday pounds and utilize those festive meals to build new muscle.


Putting Things into Perspective

Water Weight
Don't let temporary water weight gain unsettle you. It's a common phenomenon with holiday meals. If you notice an increase in weight a day or two after a big holiday feast, rest assured that this water weight will quickly drop off as you return to structured eating.

Caloric Surplus
Gaining significant weight during the holidays is more complicated than it seems. To gain 5lbs of tissue, you'd need to consume an extra 3,500 calories at each of your special meals. So, if you keep training and maintain regular eating habits outside of these special meals, the likelihood of significant weight gain is slim.

Post-Holiday Adjustment
Even if you gain a bit of weight during the holidays, there's no need for alarm! The quieter, colder months of January and February can be an excellent time to make adjustments to your diet to shed any extra holiday pounds.

By keeping these points in mind, you can fully enjoy the holiday season while keeping your fitness goals in check. So, don your holiday sweater, load up your plate, and prepare to enjoy the holiday meals and training sessions with gusto.

Need more personalized help over the holidays? Our one-on-one coaches are here to help you navigate these delicious but sometimes difficult times!

Our RP Cookbook is also packed with delicious, macro-friendly recipes that are perfect for the holidays. From slow-cooked turkey to sweet potato casserole, you'll find dishes that everyone will love and won't compromise your fitness goals.

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