How to Have a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season

By Drew & Lynn Manning

Photo Courtesy of Marie Callendars

Photo Courtesy of Marie Callendars

With the holiday season fast approaching, I’ve received a lot of questions about how to handle Thanksgiving, holiday parties and Christmas in a way that doesn’t completely throw your health and fitness progress off track. Here are a few of my best tips for enjoying the holiday season while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Thanksgiving and Christmas day rules:

Rule #1: This is Thanksgiving dinner and/or Christmas Dinner (can be substituted for any holiday really), not Thanksgiving Week or Month. So make sure and stick to your meal plans for the rest of that day, and for the rest of the week. Thanksgiving dinner and/or Christmas Dinner is 1 meal out of 5 on that day. And it’s only 1 of 25 for the entire week. Stick to your other meals throughout the day. Why? You won’t over-stuff yourself on one unhealthy meal (and you’ll keep your metabolism up!).

Rule #2: You don’t get bonus points for only having one meal. Don’t starve yourself and skip other meals just so that you’ll “have more room” to eat more Turkey. Obviously if you follow Rule #1 you’ll have no problem with this one, but having been overweight, I can understand how various “bend the rules” ideas, like this one, pop up. They do for me too. Resist the urge.

Rule #3: Stick to a realistic definition of a “portion”. When you are at the dinner table, eat smaller portions of the good stuff. If you know you’ll be eating some of your favorite Thanksgiving foods, limit yourself to smaller portions (fist size – and this isn’t an Andre The Giant fist, people!). If you follow this rule, you’ll be able to comfortably enjoy all of your favorites, and avoid heading back for seconds, thirds, or twelfths.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr

Photo Courtesy of Flickr

Rule #4: One dessert. Wait let me be more specific. One portion of one dessert! Yes, I said one (I’m suddenly glad so few of you know where I live. I feel a Thanksgiving mutiny coming on!). No need to have a slice of every pie that’s there. Coming back to random Andre The Giant references, a slice is a regular, moderate slice. And if you don’t cut the pie, it doesn’t mean the entire pie is now a slice!). Every holiday or birthday party I attend, I have a small piece of dessert. I just do it in moderation. Eat it slower too – you’ll enjoy it more!

Rule #5: Enjoy yourself! This is NOT a fad diet. This is a lifestyle. Like I said on Dr. Oz, I would splurge a bit on the weekends and holidays while sticking to the rules above. This way you always still enjoy yourself at parties or on holidays and yet you don’t throw away all your results from the week by consuming 10,000 calories in just one sitting.

Choose one holiday party a week to splurge at:

It’s the holidays – which always means there are plenty of parties to attend. From family get-togethers to friend gatherings to church parties and the usual Christmas work party, there are usually 2-4 gatherings on average that require your attendance.

You don’t have to say no to the party to be healthy! Feel free to go to as many as you’re invited to, but try to limit yourself to only splurging on food at ONE of them per week. I always tell my clients they should have a cheat meal each week – so just be sure this is it.

Plus it helps if you plan your cheat meals in advance and know when they’re going to happen instead of just spontaneously treating yourself whenever you feel a craving or an urge to cheat. Otherwise, we’d all be in a lot more trouble if we always gave into our urges right? By knowing when your next cheat meal is this will give you something to look forward to, while helping you stay on track until then.

Eat protein beforehand:

Like I mentioned above, you’re not doing yourself any favors by “saving” up all the calories for that one meal. Be sure to get in your 3-4 healthier meals beforehand. And, to help yourself even further, eat protein before going to the party. Protein is the most satisfying macronutrient, compared to fats and carbs, so it’ll help you feel fuller for longer and will regulate your blood sugars to balance out all the sugars/carbs you eat at the party.

A few examples of this would be to have a protein shake on your way to the party or grab a protein bar or eat a few hard boiled eggs before the party. This way your tummy is already feeling pretty satisfied instead of showing up on an empty stomach ready to eat everything in site.

Get a small plate:

My favorite trick is to grab a small plate, fill it up with your favorite things and snack on it slowly. The reason I say a small plate, is because our brains are programmed to feel “satisfied” when we’ve cleared a plate, so you’ll be tricking yourself into not overeating.

Also, you don’t need a large scoop or slice of each menu item to really enjoy the food. Often, it’s just a few bites of something new that is satisfying. Especially since you generally have a variety of food options at parties and they tend to be higher in calories and sugar, by grabbing a smaller plate you can keep portions under control while still enjoying some amazing holiday treats.

Another tip is to keep your mouth active by talking instead of chewing. When you’re talking it’s hard to be stuffing your face at the same time. So if you’re carrying on an interesting conversation your mind isn’t thinking about the delicious treats right in front of you non-stop. This will allow you enjoy the real meaning of these parties, which is being together with those whom you love, while still enjoying the delicious foods that are being offered.

Share the treats:

Don’t eat every plate of treats that come to your door. Because it’s probably a LOT. Share your desserts with your work, family and friends. Remember, this isn’t the last time you’ll have those sugar cookies or pumpkin pie available to you. There is sure to be many more future holidays, birthdays, get togethers in your future. So save those splurges for that once a year holiday treat that you really don’t get available to you year round. For me this is the divinity candy my Mom makes. It is SO good and I know it only comes around once a year, which, to me, is why it’s worth it to indulge this time of year

Remember – just because you splurge a few times doesn’t mean you’ve fallen completely off the health wagon. This is why we call it a healthy lifestyle, and not a diet. As long as you go back to healthy meals and regular workouts, it’s okay to take the time to enjoy in all the holidays have to offer!

Follow these rules, and you’ll be on your way.

About the Authors:

Drew Manning is a celebrity fitness expert that has been seen on shows such as Dr. Oz, Good Morning America, The View, Nightline and many more. Drew is well known for his fit2fat2fit.com journey where he intentionally gained and lost 75 lbs. to gain a better understanding of what it was like to be overweight for the first time in his life. The humbling lessons he learned from this journey have made him a better and a better trainer.

Lynn Manning is a women’s fitness expert and the owner of 2fitathome.com, a site offering meal plans and home workouts. She currently lives in Hawaii and enjoys spending time with her two little girls.

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