The holidays, food, and fat loss: It's all about your intentions

Most people gain weight during the holidays. Then they furiously diet and exercise right after New Year’s.

Usually these New Year’s Resolution efforts fizzle out in a few weeks, and people are left with the pounds they gained over Christmas. This means they gain a few pounds every year. Overtime the weight adds up.

And as you get older this weight gets harder and harder to lose. Not impossible, just more difficult. Because you're getting farther and farther from that awesome teenage metabolism. Plus, people tend to get more sedentary as they get older. This is just how things tend to go in the West.

Now, this isn’t destiny. This doesn’t have to be your fate. You can choose to do things differently.

That said, I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with gaining a few pounds over the holidays from enjoying meals with friends and family. However, as the title of this post suggests, it all comes down to your intentions going into the holiday season.

As a point of clarity, one or two calorific feasts in a month isn’t going to cause any noticeable difference in your weight or body. So it’s not Christmas or Christmas Eve that causes this trend of holiday weight gain.

It’s all the holiday parties. It’s the increased prevalence of holiday treats at work and at your family’s house. It’s all the other stuff around the actual holiday. There are simply more opportunities to eat and drink. That’s what does it. Not a single meal.

It’s important you recognize that your dietary decisions are going to have repercussions no matter what. And if you’re totally ok with those repercussions, then I say there’s nothing wrong with going a bit overboard during december.

For example, say you want to get down to 200 lbs from 210 lbs in the New Year. This means you have to lose 10 lbs. If you gain 5 lbs during the holidays, you now have 15 lbs to lose to hit your goal.

Are you ok with that? If you fully accept that, then there’s nothing wrong with giving yourself free reign nutritionally during December. Because you’re taking ownership of your decisions and you’re making decisions intentionally.

Nobody likes stepping on the scale and being surprised because the number is higher than they thought. This tends to induce panic and rash decisions. This does not put you in a productive frame of mind for seeing your NY resolutions to completion.

Decide how you want to go into the holidays. Decide what you want to get out of it. Decide which trade offs are worth it and which aren’t. When is it important to indulge and when isn’t it?

It’s ultimately up to you and there are no wrong answers so long as you accept the trade offs.

Want to lose weight during the holidays? The trade off will be putting in extra work to keep your nutrition dialed in. The benefit is you lose weight.

Want to enjoy the holidays, not think about your goals at all, and eat all the holiday goodies? The trade off will most likely be weight gain. The benefit is delicious food.

These are two ends of a spectrum. I’d guess most people are somewhere in the middle. This is where my online fat loss coaching clients tend to land as well.

Personally, I think this makes more sense. Because even maintaining a little bit of mindfulness -- listening to your body and paying attention to what you eat at some level -- means you won’t be starting from square one whenever you decide to tackle fat loss in earnest. You’ll have a head start which will make your life so much easier. And it’s not like eating mindfully is going to prevent you from enjoying chocolate.

So it’s entirely possible to have the best of both worlds, to keep your weight in check while enjoying all the food and drink the holidays have to offer. What I’m saying is you simply have to prioritize.

What I find is that people try and be really restrictive during the holidays, where food plays an important role, but really lax at times when food isn’t important, like when they’re bored at work and the siren song of snacks is calling. But it’s the daily decisions that have the most impact. Not the things that happen once a year.

So maybe don’t worry about Christmas dinner, and focus instead on dialing in your nutrition the other 99% of the time.

To reiterate, there’s nothing wrong with whatever decisions you make, so long as you make intentional decisions. Because being intentional will help you end the cycle of post-holiday guilt to the ensuing doomed-at-the-start, hyper strict, unsustainable New Year dieting to post-New Year’s diet weight gain.

Again, this is really up to you though. The most important thing is that you reconcile your actions with the consequences of those actions. If you do that, you’ll enjoy the holidays more and prevent a whole bunch of food guilt and self body shaming.

It’ll be much better for your mental health and will put you in a better position to tackle your physical health and relationship with food moving forward.


Speaking of which, the New Year will soon be upon us. Do you have any resolutions? What do you want to accomplish in 2020?

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Posted in Fat Loss, Diet, Nutrition on Dec 17, 2019