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How to Stay Lean and Avoid Weight Gain During the Holidays

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We are now right in the thick of the holiday season! Chances are you are going through the phase of hunting for sales, shopping for your loved ones and strategizing on what you’re going to bring to holiday parties and family gatherings. 

All of the beforementioned can cause a good deal of stress, which is exactly what you do NOT want to happen. Especially because it is also eating season. And with eating season, you are at risk for gaining weight. 

Suffice it to say, a high amount of the population seem to throw the towel in at the end of every year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. They figure they’ll just let the stress get the best of them and drown their emotions in bottomless mugs of egg nogg and plates of holiday cookies. 

Then they aim to right the wrong on day one of the new year with a list of resolutions. Often of which go unmet come the second week of January. Wouldn’t it be nice to finish the year strong and gunslinging instead? 

How to avoid weight gain during the holidays

You worked so hard the previous 11 months to maintain a body that you’re proud of. Why not stay lean during the holidays and go into the new year with confidence, strength and high energy levels

You can have ALL of that and more if you play your cards right. Well it happens to be your lucky day because you’re about to find out how. Follow these rules and feel the positive effects that may have escaped you in the past. 

Lift Weights

You’re overall goal is to stay lean, right? Well lean means you have a high amount of muscle and not much fat on your body. The best and easiest way to do this is by lifting weights. A solid three or fours days of weight training per week will take you a long way. 

Simply keep up with your regular training schedule. Don’t become lax and complacent. Or, if you do not currently do any form of strength training, then start now! In either case, keep your foot on the accelerator and make every workout count. 

Include exercises that have a high return on investment like bench presses, squats, deadlifts, Turkish get-ups and pull-ups. These types of drills are compound movements that lead to more muscle groups being worked at the same time

The end result is more muscle being gained and maintained. The heavier you go, and with good form, the better your results you will be. 

Work out multiple times a day

This is a big one! You don’t have to do this on every day. But I highly suggest you do on the holidays themselves. Actually, do it on the holidays themselves AND on the days you are attending any form of party or get-together that involves copious amounts of food and beverages. 

Start your day with a solid workout, which you can do in a gym or at home. See my first point about hitting those muscles with some compound exercises that will take your breath away and raise your heart rate. 

Then, do another workout after your meals. (More on meals later). All you need to do here is go for a 15-minute power walk. This gets the blood pumping, it burns some additional calories and it aids in digestion. If you should happen to be a hoss, make that first workout of the high-intensity nature. 

Personally, I love kettlebells. Nothing quite hits the spot as nicely as a series of swings and snatches performed in an interval format. These types of ballistic moves torch body fat and they also boost your metabolism for 24 to 48 hours afterward. So any damage that you might do later at the dinner table will be greatly reduced. 

Limit Alcohol

I bet you weren’t expecting to hear that were you? Going into the holiday season thinking you can avoid ALL alcohol or sweets can set you up for disappointment. Taking an approach like this can make you nervous and cause you to fall off the wagon completely. 

The next thing you know, you’ll be throwing back six Yuenglings and a couple shots of Jim Beam at Christmas Eve dinner. You are better off giving yourself a “drinking budget.” Allow yourself one or two drinks max. Then you can be social and not pulverize yourself into oblivion.

Of course, this will take some discipline. That’s really what staying lean during the holidays is all about. A quick tip here is to alternate between an alcoholic beverage and glass of water or sparkling water. That will not only fill you up, but it will also keep you hydrated and help flush the alcohol through your system faster. You will then be able to make rash decisions much easier. 

As for the sweets, take small bites and chew them as slowly as possible. Let the flavor swish around in your mouth, much like a fine wine. Aim for small portions and look for the healthiest desserts as possible. 

I know cookies are hard to resist. But you can just as easily make a “cookie budget” like you did with alcohol. Allow yourself maybe three cookies and call it good. Take little nibbles from each one and chew them slowly until they are gone.

How to Stay Lean During the Holidays

Find The Veggie Tray

When it comes time to chow down at any holiday meal, you are most likely going to find plenty of high-calorie foods to nosh on. Even organic bean casserole is high in calories and it can cause a big ruckus in your plans to stay lean if you eat too much of it. 

Keep portions of these side dishes on the small side and take a sample of each one. A better-case scenario is to find the veggie tray and load your plate up with celery, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and cherry tomatoes. Dip them gingerly into hummus or the dip that comes with them and you’ll save yourself a ton of empty calories. 

They are also high in water content and fiber, which will fill you up without the expense of excess calories. Not too mention, they are also loaded with vitamins and minerals that you can always use to optimize your health. 

Make these the center of your meal and then bring in quality sources of protein like chicken, turkey and tofu for all of you non-meat-eaters. Then when you go for smaller portions of the fatty, calorie-laden stuff, you might not even want it. 

Intermittent Fasting

Never mind the saying, “you are what you eat.” That statement should actually be, “you are what you digest.” But that’s not the point I’m trying to make here. What I’m trying to say is, focus your attention on eating less often. Simply put, when you graze for hours on end, your body never gets a chance to reset. 

Your blood sugar levels remain elevated as does your insulin. This is a “recipe” for weight gain because insulin is a fat-storage hormone. If you biohack your system and flip some switches, you can avoid this from happening. And one of the best ways is to eat less often. I’m talking about one small meal late in the morning and then your feast meal in the evening. 

I’ve been known to put down some major calories and big meals in my time. And yet, I keep staying lean and muscular with a low body fat percentage. Do you want to know how? 

It’s because I only eat two meals a day and I always work out in a fasted state early in the morning. Follow my lead on this and endeavor to keep that big holiday meal in check by not eating all day or night long. 

To make matters even better, finish your holiday meals as early in the evening as possible. The later you go into the night with your provisions and imbibing, the more at risk you are for weight gain. The name of the game here is to stay lean during the holidays. 

If you are not at the mercy of your hosts as to when the meal will be served, then stop as early in the evening as possible. And if you do end up going late, fast for at least 12 hours into the next day. But make a concerted effort to reach more like 15 or 16 hours. 

Final Thoughts 

The holiday season doesn’t mean it has to be eating season. If you take the right precautions, think ahead and execute even a slight bit of discipline, your days will certainly still be merry and white. Happy holidays to you and always focus on taking small steps every day. That’s how major changes are made. 

 About the Creator: A Life and Career Dedicated to Healthy Living

Kevin David Rail is a Fitness Nutrition Specialist who’s certified through ACSM, ACE, NASM and AFM. He has a BS in Sport Management/Fitness and Wellness and was featured in the documentary films Fasting and The Motivation Factor for his expertise as a health and fitness professional. Kevin has helped thousands of people change their lives, lose weight, transform their bodies and become more motivated to take action.  

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