Holidays like Thanksgiving revolve around eating delicious foods. Unfortunately, these delicious foods are often high in calories, which could lead to accidental weight gain.
If you usually find yourself gaining weight over the holidays, it may be time to bring about a change this year.
I’ve evaluated my techniques and come up with 5, easy to implement, methods to ensure that, while you still get to eat the food you desire, you do so from a health-focused standpoint.
In this article I’ll breakdown 5 ways you can stick to your body composition goals, even during food-centric holidays like Thanksgiving
Eat A High Protein Breakfast On Holidays
Even though it’s the holidays, that doesn’t mean that you need to completely abandon your goals. Interestingly, sticking to your weight loss goals around the holidays may be as simple as having a high protein breakfast.
Typically, breakfast is considered to be the most important meal of the day. Unfortunately, that’s not always true.
When dieting, weight loss comes down to expending more calories than you consume. As breakfast food contains some amount of calories, it obviously follows that the act of eating breakfast will increase your calories, meaning you can actually gain weight, rather than lose it.
Interestingly however, there is some research to suggest that it’s not the actual breakfast that’s important, but rather the contents of the breakfast that count.
Having a breakfast primarily high in protein seems to be the most effective way to eat breakfast for improvement of health. In fact, studies indicate that consuming protein can help you manage your food intake throughout the rest of the day, which may encourage weight loss (1, 2, 3).
Further, by having a high protein breakfast on a holiday, you’ll end up eating less with little effort, when presented with high-calorie, delicious foods later on in the day.
I suggest having a high protein breakfast every day, but especially on days you know will be filled with high-calorie food temptation.
Eat Healthier Foods First
We all know that holidays are filled with delicious, high-calorie food options. If you’re taking part in celebrating holidays such as Thanksgiving, chances are that most of the food options for many families will include high amounts of calories and carbohydrates.
When presented with this situation, you’ll need to recognize that many of the food options are not optimal for maintaining a lean physique, although that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them.
In this case, I recommend attempting to fill up on ingredients such as protein and vegetables before moving on to foods such as carbohydrate and dessert.
By first consuming protein and vegetables, you’ll initially get beneficial nutrients like protein and fiber, but they’ll also fill your stomach, reducing appetite and ensuring that you’re consuming lower amounts of the high calorie options.
Doing so is an effective yet very simple technique for reducing the caloric impact your holiday meals can have, helping you keep control of your weight and body composition.
Try Intermittent Fasting
As I described in great detail in my Intermittent Fasting Bible, intermittent fasting is a dieting technique that incorporates extended periods of time fasting, with a shortened window of time for eating.
By using this method, it’s possible that you’ll end up eating less with very little effort, potentially leading to weight loss or at least allowing you to avoid accidental weight gain during the holidays.
Personally, using intermittent fasting is one of my favorite ways to avoid eating too many calories whenever I’m presented with temptation.
When fasting, you spend a significant amount of time, ranging from 12-18 hours, when you fast or avoid eating food. Once you do begin to eat, however, the time frame you have left available to eat is therefore quite short.
Although you’ll be having larger meals after fasting, it’s extremely likely that you won’t be able to eat enough in the shorter time period to make up for the calories burned during the fasting period. This means you either lose weight or, at the very least, don’t gain weight.
When using this method around holidays, I suggest using a fasting method for the week leading up to a holiday and then especially on the holiday itself. I suggest simply fasting through the morning and mid afternoon, saving your eating period for the holiday dinner.
By using this method, you’ll limit overconsumption of calories at the hand of holiday food, yet still be able to consume all of the holiday foods you love.
Don’t Stop Exercising
Many people take holidays as an opportunity to relax. While the relaxation may be a wise decision, it should not extend to avoiding the gym. To the contrary, during the holidays it is important for you to workout even more.
Exercise is important around the holidays due to its ability to burn calories, thus making holiday meals less impactful. It also promotes proper usage of the calories you consume, rather than allowing them to be stored as fat.
First of all, it’s no surprise that exercise burns calories. Over the holidays this can be very important since the exercise will provide somewhat of a caloric cushion. By exercising, the foods you eat won’t attribute to weight gain, since you’re simply making up for the calories burned during exercise.
Second, by exercising, you make muscles more receptive to the calories, especially carbohydrates that you are consuming. When you contract the muscle, sugar receptors in muscle cells move outwards in order to readily shuttle sugar into the muscle.
Essentially, by exercising, you put the calories you ingest towards replenishing and building muscle. If you haven’t exercised, you have no caloric cushion for holiday meals in addition to a greater likelihood your calories contribute to weight gain.
Consider using high intensity, full body workouts during the holidays to ensure your calories get put to good use.
Keep A Food Journal
Lastly, one of the better ways to control food intake over the holidays is to keep a food journal.
Typically, I always suggest using some form of food tracking, since it allows you to accurately track the amount of calories that you’re consuming. From there, you can manipulate intake properly.
However, during the holidays, keeping a food journal can also help you get a grasp of just how much food you’re eating.
Eating around the holidays can include a lot of what is known as “grazing.” At holiday parties, most have side dishes available as appetizers that many of us “graze” on. After a couple hours, you have consumed a thousand extra calories without even realizing it.
By having a food journal, such as an extra notebook, you can document each time you eat, allowing for a visual representation of just how much you’re consuming. This will enable you to control yourself better, rather than being unaware of the large amounts of food you could potentially be snacking on.
I suggest keeping a food journal around the holidays to ensure you don’t accidentally consume large amounts of calories due to holiday “grazing.”
5 Ways To Stick To Your Goals During Thanksgiving
Even though holidays like thanksgiving are often associated with lots of high-calorie, delicious food, this doesn’t mean you need to completely ruin your goals and body composition.
By using these techniques, you can moderate the amount of food you’re eating with ease, allowing you to maintain body weight, all while still being able to consume, in moderation, those holiday foods you desire.
- Blom, W. A., Lluch, A., Stafleu, A., Vinoy, S., Holst, J. J., Schaafsma, G., & Hendriks, H. F. (2006). Effect of a high-protein breakfast on the postprandial ghrelin response. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 83(2), 211-220.
- Leidy, H. J., Lepping, R. J., Savage, C. R., & Harris, C. T. (2011). Neural responses to visual food stimuli after a normal vs. higher protein breakfast in breakfast‐skipping teens: a pilot fMRI study. Obesity, 19(10), 2019-2025.
- Veldhorst, M., Smeets, A. J. P. G., Soenen, S., Hochstenbach-Waelen, A., Hursel, R., Diepvens, K., … & Westerterp-Plantenga, M. (2008). Protein-induced satiety: effects and mechanisms of different proteins. Physiology & behavior, 94(2), 300-307.