3 Steps to Keeping a Leash on Holiday Weight Gain

by on November 9, 2017

Halloween stores close up shop, the trick or treaters are gone, it begins to get chillier, and we are looking forward to the holidays.

It’s a great time of year for everyone. But it could also be disastrous for many since these last two months of the year can really hinder your health and fitness.

A 2000 study from the New England Journal of Medicine showed the average weight gain from the third week of November to the first week of January is 0.8 pounds, less than 5 pounds.

However, this weight gain contributed to 51% of yearly weight gain.

In other words, individuals put on 51% of all weight gained that year in just 12% of the year.

In addition to this, Helander and colleagues, showed that this weight gained during the holidays lasts until June.

We are writing this article because we have been down this dark road of holiday weight gain many years ago and it’s a continuous issue for others.

We gave up on our nutrition, we stopped weight training frequently, our overall daily activity slowed, and we just became dessert machines.

We ended up gaining 20 pounds over the holidays.

Can you guess what we did as soon as January came?

You guessed right…we crashed dieted!

After many years of this vicious and unhealthy cycle we finally took a stand.

We hired high level coaches, learned under experienced mentors, did our own self education through accredited training and nutrition programs, worked with over a thousand clients (both in person and online), got a grasp of our behavioral habits, and we came up with these three steps to avoid Holiday weight gain for good!


Step 1:
The Problem- Not Having a Crystal Clear Vision of your Fitness Goals
A vision is about creating a short statement or painting a picture that will guide you over the next 3 to 5 years or even longer.

It should be specific enough to say something about what you will do and equally what you will not do.

Your vision should be capable of driving you to achieve a common goal, and be somewhat motivational so that you have a constant reminder of what you are trying to achieve when the going gets tough.

Without a vision, a goal is like a ship without a rudder and is in danger of drifting aimlessly and can eventually sink.

The data scientific literature is pretty clear and strong on the importance of goal setting.

A 2012 study by Fishbach and Choi, took two groups, one that focused all their attention specifically on the end goal related to performing the selected task, and the other group focused on the process of performing the task itself.

The first group, was instructed to try to self-motivate by focusing on what they would eventually achieve by doing the task, while the second group was instructed to focus on the positive feelings they had while performing the task.

The results showed the group that focused on the end goal, rather than the process actually achieved their goals with less consistency.

One of the reasons this group had more success was because they had a vision and that helped them stay focused through the entire process of the outcome (goal) they were trying to attain.

Many people that dive head first into fitness come January lack a clear vision and, so they tend to jump from training and nutrition program to program without a clear understanding of what the science is behind the program, the purpose, individualization, and what to expect in the grand scheme of things.

Through the years, we have learned that if you don’t have a vision of your next year’s fitness goals come November and December every year, your likely hood for coming out of the gates in the new year aren’t going to be very successful.


Because it’s not a priority to you and if it’s not a priority, it won’t be taken serious and worked at.


The Steps:

  • Write your New Year’s fitness goals on paper starting in November. It can be on a word doc, a vision board, a white board, on your phone, somewhere you will see it daily and it will program your mind
  • Make your goals small and attainable. Make a daily, weekly, and monthly goal within fitness so its attainable
  • Set deadlines for these small tangible goals. Chances of you completing these goals are much higher with some urgency
  • Share your goals with a friend, significant other, family member, etc. Have them hold you accountable every month


Step 2:
The Problem- Not Having an “A” Team Around You
Think in terms of Tom Brady and Michael Jordan…do you think they would have won their sports championships multiple times without their teams and coaches?

Absolutely not.

The reason being they were surrounded by an “A” team.

In a paper, titled “The Great British Medalists Project: A Review of Current Knowledge on the Development of the World’s Best Sporting Talent,” the review discusses the importance of support networks for success.

Same with fitness, you need a strong support group.

You can’t expect to have success within your fitness without creating an amazing “A” team around you.

Think about when the holidays come…a lot of work parties, family gatherings, and outings with friends.

This is great and all but if you’re trying to stay on top of your fitness goals, this means a lot of temptation.

This is where you need to have your crystal clear goals in mind and have a serious talk with your “A” team.

We recommend by starting off with having a talk with your immediate family. Let them know you have created your fitness goals for the New Year and that you are serious about staying on top of your current fitness goals throughout the holidays.

Make it clear to them and express how important it is to you. Then share this with your coworkers and friends so that they respect your goals and don’t temp you into unhealthy holiday habits.
Understand that this talk isn’t selfish on your part by any means. You will still partake in family functions, tasty foods, drinks, but all In moderation and still keeping your fitness goals.


The Steps:

  • Have a talk with your immediate family about your current and New Year fitness goals
  • Then talk with your friends and coworkers so that everyone is on the same page
  • Don’t let up on your decision and stay firm with your family and friends about your fitness goals
  • Keep the talk in the context of you still attending family functions and eating food with them, but all in moderation


Step 3:
The Problem- Don’t Fall Off the Fitness Wagon
The fitness wagon speed can really pick up once the holidays hit and it’s very easy to not hang on and eventually fall off.

In this context, falling off means not staying on top of your nutrition, exercise frequency starts to slow down, and your total daily activity starts to diminish.

Add the holiday feasts, treats, adult water (alcohol) and you have a dangerous holiday recipe for weight gain.

There’s a way to still stay on top of your fitness goals and enjoy the holiday fun in moderation 😊

Here’s what we suggest.

Exercise wise, join a gym in November if you don’t attend one or if you have been attending one, get a 2-month membership to a new gym to switch it up.

Next, make an appointment on your weekly calendar to go to the gym.

We are dead serious, look at your Monday-Sunday calendar and schedule in the date and time when you will go to the gym so that it keeps you more accountable.

There’s something to say about the psychological aspect of an appointment being a priority.

Nutrition wise, hire a coach, sports nutritionist, chef, or meal prep service starting November 1st.

A coach or sports nutritionist can keep you accountable with an individualized nutrition program tailored around your goals and weekly check-ins for continued progress.

Research shows group or individual calls inspire people to work more quickly and for longer periods, pay more attention to the tasks that matter, become less distracted, and increase their overall effort.

Moreover, people tend to maintain motivation, give more effort, and achieve higher performance when they are held accountable for their outcomes, are evaluated more often, and have the opportunity to demonstrate their expertise or gain respect from those they serve.

Hence weekly phone calls or weekly accountability check ins.

Hiring a chef or meal prep service can take care of your grocery shopping, cooking, and lack of ideas with putting meals together. Sure it may cost more money, but it’s called delegating and if it keeps you healthier and on top of your fitness goals throughout the holidays…why not?


The Steps:

  • Join a gym or a new gym and make an appointment to go to the gym on your calendar
  • Hire a coach, sports nutritionist, chef or meal prep service
  • Take action in the gym and the kitchen
  • Still partake in family events and tasty foods all in moderation


To sum it all up, it’s not easy to stay within your fitness goals throughout the holidays by any means.

Heck, if we went through the vicious cycle we spoke of and gained 10-20 pounds multiple years and we were able to correct this cycle with the three steps we spoke of as well as our clients, then so can you.

Don’t be like everyone else and put your health on the back burner during the holidays.

Take a stand this year and invest in your health.

Understand that this talk isn’t selfish on your part by any means. You will still partake in family functions, tasty foods, drinks, but all In moderation and still keeping your fitness goals.

Utilize the 3 steps we gave you as well as the following bonus tips below and enjoy the Holidays with family, friends, and love ones 😊


Bonus Tips:

  • Try and train the day of Xmas and Thanksgiving or get your cardio session in. This will help with nutrient partitioning by helping your body utilize the nutrients from the food more effectively
  • If your gym is closed, then get a guest pass to another gym that is open
  • If you decide not to train, don’t fret, you can train the day before or the next day
  • If you don’t have access to a gym the day of Xmas or Thanksgiving, you can still stay active and go on a 30 min walk to burn some extra calories
  • If you want to count your macros and calories this day that is totally up to you
  • If you decide not to count your macros and calories, just be mindful of the portion sizes you consume. Eat until you are satisfied. There’s no reason to overeat or binge
  • Eat a little less at your morning meals and save more of your daily macros and calories for the big meal
  • We like using the “big meal” (Xmas or Thanksgiving meal) as our post workout meal. So, we will have 3 meals this day, preworkout meal in the a.m, train around noon, and eat the big meal as our post workout meal in the afternoon, and then have a small protein dominant meal before bed
  • If you feel you ate too much at the big meal, then just don’t eat the rest of the day and night and eat a little less the next day
  • If you have a refeed day, shift it to Xmas or Thanksgiving day to have more calories to work with
  • If you are dieting this week (which we don’t recommend), give yourself a mini carb up or use your refeed day for Xmas or Thanksgiving
  • If you go over on macros that day, then taper overall macros down the next day and use all that fuel to train your butts off the next day
  • Please don’t worry about your macros and calories so much and enjoy the meal and family time 😊



Yanovski et al. A prospective study of holiday weight gain. 2000

Helander et al. Weight gain over the holidays in three countries. 2016

Shilits et al. Goal setting as a strategy for dietary and physical activity behavior change. 2004; Stretcher et al. Goal setting as a strategy for behavior change. 1995; Mellalieu et al. The effects on goal setting for rugby players. 2006

Fishback and Choi. When thinking about goals, undermines goal pursuit. 2012

Rees et al. The Great British Medalists Project: A Review of Current Knowledge on the Development of the World’s Best Sporting Talent. 2016

Weldon 1991; Locke & Latham 1990

Lerner et al. 1999; crown et al. 1995; forward et al 1971; Humphreys et al. 1984

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