Holiday Survival Guide: 10 Tactics for Less Stress, Weight Gain and More Joy This Season

Party season is in full swing and gaining weight seems to be almost inevitable. It’s a perfect storm of stress, diminished sleep, weakened immune systems and high calories foods and drinks all colliding into these few weeks.  Then, in a mad attempt to mitigate damage, the gym populations swell around January, but only temporarily however, as the majority give up after a few futile weeks or maybe a couple of months.  Good ol’ Benji Franklin said it best, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Here’s are 10 tactics you can put to use to survive the Holidays with minimal damage.

Try these tips during the season that spreads more than just joy and good cheer:

1. Don’t starve yourself all day before you go to a party.

A binge meal can make you crave more of it the next day, especially if you’re eating typical “party” food that’s processed and sugary.  Eat something healthy and filling before you go to the party.  A small meal or large snack with protein is a great idea (preferably without added sugar).  Even a few sardines if you like them (try to learn to, they are great for you with their Omega 3’s and high protein content – and you can share them with your dog if you can’t eat a whole can.”

Once you’re there, don’t hang out close too the food.  If you’ve already eaten or are waiting for the meal to begin, it’s a bad idea to stand near the snack trays.  Guaranteed you will eat more than you are actually hungry for.

Holiday Survival Guide

don’t starve yourself before a party

2. Use “spacers” if you’re indulging in alcohol.

Drink a glass of water or no-calorie soft drink first, then drink one in between each alcoholic beverage.  This may keep you from doing anything too embarrassing at the party, and If alcohol makes you hungrier (my main problem with it), then this tactic will also help fill you up so you eat a little less.

3.  For vacations and parties alike, remind yourself that a “cheat meal” is very different than a “cheat day” or even a cheat week.

It’s important to have fun this time of year so you shouldn’t completely deny yourself what you enjoy.  Try allowing yourself to eat what pleases you for just one meal a day on vacation or at a party.  If you know the foods are extra calorie dense, savor each bite, eat slowly, and pay attention to what you’re eating rather than eating mindlessly while chatting or watching TV.

calorie balance

balance out your calories

4. Guilt can be a powerful motivator.

Think of how you will feel tomorrow.  If there are foods you know make you feel lousy the next day, think about how you will feel afterwards before you dive in.  If you decide it’s “ok,” and you’ll do better the next day or even hit the gym with a great workout, then go for it.  But if you know you’re going to be pissed at yourself, double think if it’s worth it.  Look around the table and see if there’s an option like baked yams or quinoa salad that will satisfy you instead of the pecan pie.

5.  Fit in some NEAT activities, or easy-to-do-anywhere workouts or, give yourself a break with a modified workout schedule.

It’s hard to fit in full, hour+ workouts with all the stuff going on.  And if you are of the Beast Mode ilk, you could be doing yourself a little disservice.  Extra hard workouts wear down your immunity as does less sleep and more travel.  So this may be a good time to modify the workouts a bit.  If you are just having a hard time fitting any in, you might be able to get in some extra NEAT activity.  NEAT stands for “non exercise activity thermogenesis”.  Whaaat?  That’s the extra calorie burning you get from things like fidgeting, cooking and cleaning for all those visitors, standing around in line at the mall for a long time and, my favorite NEAT activity, shopping (not online).  And one other thing that is a good plan:  those super short high intensity exercises, like a couple of Tabata rounds.  The 7-minute workout you’ve seen online (7 exercises, 1 minute each), or 15 minutes of your favorite yoga flow.

NEAT activity

NEAT activities help

6.  Don’t skimp on nutrient dense super foods, probiotics, antioxidants and adaptogens.

Make salads and or smoothies with kale, spinach, brussels sprouts, walnuts, squash, unsweetened yogurt, berries, etc. (maybe not all in the same meal).  Keeping your immune system primed is key when stress levels are high, you’re kissing more people, touching more things and traveling more than usual.


don’t skimp on superfoods

7. Sleep.  💤

Some foods and alcohol for sure will definitely disrupt your sleep.  There’s been a large body of research to show that poor sleep or not enough sleep messes with your hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin, making your crave more comfort foods.  Plus just a little lack of sleep can also lower your calorie burn the next day.

8. Carve out a few slices of time for what you love❤️.

Obligations this time of year make us feel we have no time for ourselves.  Do it and don’t feel guilty about it.  If you want to steal away to a movie or hide away with a good book, don’t feel bad – give yourself permission to take an hour to yourself.  If you want to book a massage or a private workout with a trainer, go for it.  If you’re working on a creative project that feeds your soul, take an hour or two to honor your passion.  Denying yourself things you love to do lead to resentment and frustration and leak out somewhere else.  Maybe you’ll have less patience for a loved one or make a snide remark to a co-worker.  Over time, constantly feeling obligated to others can leave you feeling feeling down or depressed.  If the holiday season is truly about JOY, then absolutely share some with yourself rather than only giving it to others.  You deserve it.

healthy holidays

make some me time

9. Stay hydrated especially when you’re traveling by airplane.

Start drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day in the days leading up to your trip.  You will most likely be bloated and constipated from flying, so plan ahead.  And pack your own snacks so you don’t need to rely on the sodium ladened food offered on the flight or in the airports.  Also try to avoid alcohol on the flight.  It will dehydrate you more.

10.  If you have the urge to purge when it’s all over, do it in a healthy way.

You can safely do a fast for a few days after the holidays if you do it wisely.   This book, “The Complete Guide to Fasting, Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day and Extended Fasting,” was written by Dr. Jason Fung who is on the forefront of fasting research and says when done right, it’s very safe and good for most people.  BTW, it’s not just for weight loss, but fasting has many other health benefits from preventing and curing some diseases, making you more insulin sensitive and producing more human growth hormone.  Some seriously impressive S#!T  has been found through clinical studies.

When it’s over, you can do some damage control

Wishing you and yours a very happy, and especially healthy holiday!

Jill Brown
Jill Brown
Hi, I'm JillI am a Los Angeles based Fitness + Nutrition Coach. With 20+ years of experience in teaching, training and continuing my education, I have transformed thousands of lives through fitness and healthy lifestyle changes.