The Holiday Creep: Staying Healthy During The Holidays

Thanksgiving Turkey Cookies
What is “The holiday creep?” It’s that time period from about Thanksgiving to New Years every year where you might gain weight, stress out, or have an aneurism…. ok, maybe not that severe but I think you know what I’m getting at.

Talking to people the last few days it seems like most just accept the fact that it’s the holidays and that these things will just happen, like you have no control over the situation – therefore there is no sense in even trying. Some of my personal clients like to take a break during this time. Some excuses I often hear are:

  • It’s just to hard during this time
  • You know, family obligations and stuff
  • Just too much going on
  • I’ll just start-up after the New Year, I’ll be motivated then
  • Let me tell ya something… that’s weak sauce.

Weak+sauce = Something incredibly lame, uncool, or weak.

Jennifer: “Did you happen to see those shoes that Diana was wearing?
James: “Yeah,  totally weak-sauce. I bet she paid a ton for them too .”

So how exactly can you avoid the “holiday creep” and yet another I want to lose weight New Years Resolution?

The Truth Behind Holiday Weight Gain

I don’t want to bullshit you. Holiday weight gain for most is not as severe as you would think. According to all the research most of you out there only gain 1-2 pounds per holiday season (1).

The biggest concern is not that a small weight gain is actually incurred over the holidays but that it is never lost. So that New Years resolution to lose weight never actually happens. Exercise activity usually does increase during January for most people but then slowly declines once the month of February hits.

What causes “the creep”

The holiday creep is caused by three primary things:

Stress: Buying gifts, preparing for company, spending extra time with the family, travel, and trying to catch up on work you may be missing can all be pretty stressful. It adds up and become a little paralyzing. You forget to take care of yourself because you are either to busy trying to take care of everyone else… or you just plain for get.

What the heck attitude: A what the heck attitude develops. You figure it’s the holidays, it’s just going to be too tough to find time to workout, eat right, and take care of yourself – So you just say f*ck it and decide to get started come January… WEAK SAUCE.

You just stop thinking: There is often so much going on and so many distractions that you just stop thinking. Seriously, it’s almost like you zone out and next thing you know you’re sitting on the couch in your sweat pants, perspiring from overindulgence, trying to figure out why you’re still trying to fit in another piece of pumping pie. Come on, we’ve all been there πŸ™‚

What Can You Possibly Do About It?

How can you keep the weight off during the holidays, stay stress free, and be able to choose a New Years Resolution like taking a trip to Thailand instead of trying to lose 10 pounds?

Plan: You might be getting annoyed at how often I use planning as a solution to common problem but it works. Most of us make mistakes, slip ups, or lose self-control when something hits us out of nowhere. I’m breaking it down into three main categories in which “the holiday creep” can occur.

1. Work: Everyone is probably bringing in all sorts of treats, leftovers, and you may be partaking in a few extra happy hours. The worst part is that most of the stuff that is brought in is completely sugar, sugar, and more sugar. Not only a ton of empty calories but some serious messing around with your blood sugar and what that’s out of whack you body is in prime fat storing mode.

2. Family get togethers: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday hands down. I remember going to my Aunt Joyce’s and having the entire family there. Watching football, eating delicious food, and kicking it with family I had not seen in such a long time. Good vibes all around. A few weeks later the Christmas get together would be happening, and mix in a few extra outings with friends and you’ve got yourself some pretty good times but some pretty terrible dietary choices. Again, the biggest culprit…. you guessed it, sugar.

3. Home: You probably have your own place or are living with a significant other. During the holidays you probably get some treats sent to you from family, friends, and neighbors. Not to mention you’re probably making the same types of goodies for friends, families, and neighbors and admit it, there is a whole-lotta bowl licking and taste testing that’s going on.

There’s a couple of things you can do with regards to these three scenarios.

Make sure to have healthy options available. Whether at the house, work, or during family outings make sure you have healthy options to choose from. It’s hard to turn down calorie dense treats like cookies and mashed potatoes when you’re starving and have nothing else to choose from. Take the time to prepare them ahead of time and bring them with you. Sure, you might be “the weirdo” at work or with the family that is eating carrot sticks, deli slices, or almond butter covered celery but so what. At least you’re be a weirdo that is a few pounds lighter than everyone else come January. Use the free guides to grab a complete shopping list for healthy items.

Here are a few awesome recipes I was able to find over the interweb that should help:

  • Kale chips: If you don’t know, you better ask somebody. Delicious!
  • Beef jerky: Can even combine with some raw nuts and berries for a complete snack.
  • Paleo macadamia bark: For those that have a little sweet tooth

Take the time to prepare some go-to foods like Chili. You can make a ton of it and have it ready to go at a minutes notice. Chop up some raw veggies like carrots, celery, and cucumber for quick low cal snacks as well.

Oh, and a little dark chocolate won’t kill you if you’re really dying for something sweet.

Make sure to get some sleep: The holidays can keep you pretty busy. The stress of trying to get so much done in such little time and nights out with pals can cause for some late nights and early mornings. Sleep deprivation to only leads to poor moods, carbohydrate cravings, and poor mental clarity but it can also affect you’re the hormones in your body.

Cortisol is the stress hormone in the body that plays a role in glucose (sugar) metabolism, regulation of blood pressure, immune function, inflammatory response, and fatigue management.

I see it all the time with clients that I work with – Nutrition and exercise are dialed in but they are hardly sleeping. Hormones are all out of whack and they are unable to achieve the health goals they strive for.

I wrote an entire post on how to hibernate like a bear so I will save you from repeating myself.

Be accountable: Hold yourself accountable by keeping track of what you’re up to. Take body measurements weekly, hop on the scale, keep a food journal to record what you are eating, and if you over do it try intermittent fasting.

Stay active. No time is not an acceptable excuse: Yes, the holidays keep you pretty busy. They keep us all pretty busy. Not enough time is not an acceptable excuse. No time means not a priority. You might not be able to keep up with five days of exercise a week but schedule in at least 3-4 days of workouts for yourself. If you have to, skip the gym and get some body weight work in at home or early morning runs to start your day.

If you are traveling to spend time with your family you can still workout. Locate a gym nearby, Crossfit box, choose a hotel with a fitness center, or again just get your body weight groove on.

Buddy up: See if you can get a friend or family member to be weird with you over the holidays as well. Turning down some of the goodies, having a workout buddy, or someone to complain to about how hard this is πŸ™‚ will make a huge difference.

Remember that you have a choice: You’re not helpless here. Just because it’s the holidays does not mean you are required to get out of shape, eat terrible, and forget to exercise. Those cookies don’t get in your mouth on their own, and if they do – I’m impressed.

Relax and enjoy yourself: It is the holidays so make sure you enjoy this time with family and friends. A little variance from your nutrition plan and exercise routine might do a you a little good. If you know Thanksgiving is going to be a tough day to eat health make the best choices you can by following some of the recommendations above but don’t freak out if you enjoy a little pie. The key is to not throw in the towel the following day. Save those free days for those special occasions with family and friends and not for a random Tuesday at your house πŸ™‚

Gobble Gobble, a Quick Note on Thanksgiving

Handy Plaid Turkey

Two words: Favorite Holiday

Football + Family + Food = Fun

While I fully recommend enjoying yourself to the max on this grandest of days I also want to scare you a bit.

Here’s a little run down of the average Thanksgiving Day meal. Spoiler alert, I am totally about to ruin Turkey Day for you.

  • Turkey, 3oz. – 100 calories
  • Mashed potatoes, 1 cup – 250 calories
  • Stuffing, 1 cup – 350 calories
  • Sweetened cranberry sauce, 1 cup – 400 calories
  • Pumpkin pie, 1 slice – 320 calories

Now let’s be honest, this probably is missing some stuff or a second… or third plate. The calorie count for a typical Thanksgiving day meal can get up to somewhere around 3,000 calories. I’m all for a decent cheat meal but that’s a little loco.

A few tips to avoid the post turkey day food comma:

1. Stay with one plate: Yes the food is delicious and you probably don’t eat it all the time but I’m confident you’ve had it before. Just stay with one plate. Load it up with the steamed veggies and turkey first.

2. Try and Paleo it: Instead of mashed potatoes try sweet potato. Instead of stuffing recipe instead. For dessert opt for fresh strawberries with coconut milk poured over top. Here’s a complete Thanksgiving day menu from Fitsugar.

3. Get your pre feast workout on: Perform some interval training an hour or so before your meal or maybe get an intense bodyweight workout in before you gobble up the goodies.

Those simple carbohydrates and sugary foods are more likely to go to replenishing some of that used up muscle glycogen. Take advantage of that post workout window.

But Above All Do This

People seldom notice old clothes if you wear a big smile - Lee Mildon

Enjoy yourself. THis should not be a time to be stressed out and miserable. Be grateful for the time spent with loved ones and enjoy the new experiences that are sure to come.

Live limitless,


Do you have any holiday strategies to avoid the holiday creep? Please share it you do.