The festive season comes with a lot of excitement, it is a time to relax and enjoy yourself. But this does cause concern for some, especially those who have made a lot of progress throughout the year and do not want to completely reverse that progress during the festive season.

The reality is that we do tend to gain a little bit of weight during the holiday season, this is nothing to panic about as we do not gain as much as what we may think. One also needs to keep in mind that majority of the “weight” we pick up is simply excess water weight/retention from a larger carb and salt intake. If you are traveling a long distance this December, you may also retain a bit more water than usual. However, not only can you prevent seasonal weight gain, but you can actually lose weight during the holidays (yes, you read that correctly). This is assuming you are still operating in a calorie deficit throughout the festive season. Your progress and weight management can be maintained by sticking to a few simple strategies.

  1. Schedule planed “failures” in your calendar

The first tactic is to identify all the events that you know you’re going to be indulging in holiday food, i.e. Christmas lunch/dinner, office party, etc. Once you have identified these events, categorise these occasions into three different categories:

  • High indulgence: these are the events that are without a doubt going to include fatty foods and sugar desserts. Christmas day would generally fall under such a category as well as New Year’s Eve (that’s if you plan on drinking a lot).
  • Medium indulgence: this is where there is a strong chance of temptation, these are the days where anything you could want to eat or drink is laid out for your, but minus the social pressure to consume said food and drink. Work parties typically fall under this category.
  • Limited indulgence: these are the kind of days that can include holiday-related temptations, but there is no one encouraging you or tempting you to derail your healthy habits. If you choose to indulge, you won’t be doing any damage as long as you plan for with flexible dieting.

The next step is to make note of all the relevant events, parties and dinners you will be partaking in throughout the festive season. From this list you’ll need to establish a total of four high indulgence days as well as four medium indulgence days and as many limited indulgence days that you want. By doing this you are able to minimise the risk of losing your progress/gains.

  1. How to plan your holiday consumption

High indulgence days

These types of days are the easiest and most enjoyable of the three. You can look at it as a “get-out-of-jail” free card. You are given the freedom to eat as if you are not following any sort of diet. This is the time to indulge, to eat whatever you want without the guilt. The whole purpose of high indulgence days is that there are no restrictions. You may think making healthier choices and minimising your serving size is doing your future self a favour, but this is not necessarily the case. Instead, constantly reminding yourself of your diet will potentially ruin your festive experience, so do not ruin it for yourself – be present and enjoy yourself, that’s what the holidays are all about,

Medium indulgence days

Unlike high indulgence days, you are not allowing yourself absolute free reign when it comes to food and indulging. On medium indulgence days you will be guiding your food choices by following a few rules to ensure you rebound quickly from any slip-ups.

The first step is to prioritise protein, reason being, it is the most filling macronutrient and the least likely to lead to fat gain. Prioritising your protein intake is an easier way to anchor down your caloric consumption. In order to achieve this tactic, you need to establish how much protein you need per day. Of this, estimate how much protein you’ll have at your festive function. If you are partaking in sit-down dinner that includes a main course, you’ll more than likely consume approximately 30g protein. However, if it’s a cocktail party/happy hour, your nutrient intake will likely be negligible. From those numbers, workout the difference between the two. Then include the balance in your meals leading up to the event by consuming the remaining amount of protein in the form of lean meat and fibrous veggies. This will help you control your cravings when out-and-about, the smarter food choices you consumed prior will more than likely suppress your appetite and temptations during the festivities.

Limited/optional indulgence days

These days are about enjoying yourself, but in moderation. Know your daily calorie and macronutrient intake. With this knowledge, it will be easier to track your meals and be able to indulge but within reason. The main point of these days is to ensure you stay within your calorie intake for the day as opposed to the other days where you have given yourself allowance to exceed this limit.

Ultimately, you shouldn’t deprive yourself of the joys of the festive season and that includes delicious food and treats. You’ll end up feeling unsatisfied and any sustainable eating regime shouldn’t limit you from enjoying yourself with family and friends. So, allow yourself to enjoy the festivities, just with balance and moderation. And you will be able to pick up your progress where you left it.