We all know this time of year brings us joy! Seeing family, friends, and delicious food that makes our mouth water are just some dopamine hits you get every week from now until January 1st. 

The real problem comes in when you get off track so severely that you have a hard time getting started with your health routine in the New Year, and when you finally do, you seem to be starting from square one.

When you repeat this year after year, it can be exactly why many of you gain and lose the same five pounds and end up trying to hit the same goal you were hoping to achieve last year. 

To make things easier for you, I've come to help with my BIGGEST tips of the year to tackle head-on if you want to truly hit 2023 with an even better position than where you are now.

10 Tips for STAYING Lean During the Holidays

Start your holiday party day with a morning fast. 

Recent research has shown that combining time-restricted eating and a low-carb diet can improve insulin sensitivity and aid in more fat loss than performing them separately. By fasting earlier in the day, you can save calories for your event and not go overboard. 

I suggest a lunch around 11 AM to 1 PM of protein and veggies, then a healthy snack like a protein shake before your party. This setup allows you to have more wiggle room with your holiday meal and keeps you from overdoing it before the party, which can lead to even worse decisions and a harder time bouncing back. 

Don't DRINK your calories. 

I tell my clients to be prepared to "pick your poison." If you want to drink calories or alcohol, eat light and healthy food. If you want to enjoy some food, cut the calories from liquids. You can't have your cake and eat it too, or you will quickly ramp up calories faster than you imagine. 

One mixed drink or some eggnog can have up to 500 calories. 

New research has revealed that "moderate" alcohol intake can increase the stress hormone cortisol—shuttling you into the crazy holiday chaos with more stress. There are better strategies for keeping weight off. 

For those of you trying to get the benefits of muscle growth with the added calories during this season, alcohol consumption can also blunt this process and interfere with your body's ability to control insulin. 

Never go for seconds UNLESS it's for vegetables. 

I am a fan of big plates! Who isn't? So never be afraid to load your plate, but stick to MOSTLY veggies and lean meats. If you go back for seconds, have a rule that it MUST be only for veggies. You will think twice about it then. We often misinterpret hunger cues when we are overly excited about something. 

Think about it. Why do you go to the movie theaters and always finish your popcorn and drink? 

We all look forward to the holiday meals, but if you keep your one plate rule, you can enjoy the food and know that seconds are not out of limits if it's vegetables or fruit. A great way to tell if you are starving is if you can eat an apple. If you don't think you can, you are not hungry. 

Another quick tip is to get up, go to the bathroom and take five minutes to walk around and talk before you return for another plate. More often than not, you will realize you don't need more food.

Remember that eating more than you usually do will happen, and you should never feel bad. Just look at it positively so you can have all the energy for your workout the next day. 

Make a healthy dish. 

Set the tone for your event and make a healthy recipe. You can stir up conversation about how you made it. Many of my clients do this and love it because families often don't cook healthy. It's not hard to whip up a veggie dish, cook some sweet potatoes, and add some Brussels sprouts.

You can get other family members excited about your dish and willingly try it. If they don't eat it, you know you'll have enough for yourself. It's a win-win! 

DO NOT weigh and measure your food.

Yes, I am a health coach telling you NOT to track calories at holiday parties. If you have to do this to stay on track during this time, you have much bigger issues stemming further from your diet. It would be best if you first learned the balance and importance of food and nourishment, then realized what your body wants and needs to perform at its best. If you choose to eat until you are sick and eat your dessert first, you know your priorities are out of whack. Tracking won't save you in the long run. 

Tracking calories is like monitoring your budget. You can't get exact numbers, and even the best trackers will still be off, but like your budget, it can help you be more aware of your decisions.

Tracking isn't for everyone, and the holidays are not the best time to be tracking. Instead, make sure you get a healthy balance of the foods you know you need with enjoying some of the ones you love and enjoy.

I've seen others try to track and avoid the holiday food, and it only backfires come January when they feel like they missed out and go on a week-long binge that they can't get themselves out of. 

Plan for Travel. 

Travel is a super common challenge during the holidays. Many people travel across the country to visit family, which means long drives, long days at the airport, delayed flights, etc. It can be a nightmare for someone who wants to keep eating well.

If you're in this situation, plan and bring snacks like protein powder, protein bars, beef jerky, and fruit. Stay clear of the so-called "healthy" broccoli florets in a bag. It amazes me how many people fall for these healthy marketing ploys and don't realize they eat more fat and sodium than a bag of potato chips. 

Remember, just because you see the words "Organic," "All Natural," "Sugar-Free, or "Grass Fed" doesn't make it the healthiest snack. 

Hydrate MORE.

If you feel like you are constantly hungry around the holidays, you are more often than not partly dehydrated. I challenge you to drink your body weight in ounces on the day of the holiday event. Watch what it does for your cravings and food intake. Hydration will also aid digestion and absorption of the food you eat, so drink up! 

If you are not a water drinker, you can use tea or sparkling water. My favorite cocktail is sparkling lemon water with a bit of lemonade calorie-free electrolyte powder. 

Move first thing in the morning.

I can't stress this one enough. When we get to the holidays, everyone is in stress mode. We are constantly cooking, cleaning, shopping, and going places to make memories, so our health naturally gets placed on the back burner. 

It doesn't have to! No matter what day of the week or even if I'm on vacation, my morning routine is always the same—I MOVE first. 

Moving first sets the tone for the day, helps you rev up your metabolism, increases dopamine, and makes neurological demands easier to meet. All of which allow you to be smart with your decisions and work the whole day. 

Dedicate 30 minutes every morning to moving your body. If you don't feel like moving, you have bigger problems you need to work on. Everyone should want to move in the morning, regardless of being a morning person or not. 

Our ancestors woke in the morning and were ready to hunt and work, but over time our world has evolved to thinking that "normal" is wanting to crawl back into bed.

It's not. 

SLEEP more. 

Sounds odd. Are we taking breaks from training, eating more food than normal, and being told to sleep more? 


Sleep, proper hydration, and stress reduction are the most important aspects of fat loss most people neglect. They underpin basic health and performance. Even one week of mild sleep deprivation (5 hrs/night) can decrease men's testosterone levels by 20%. Additionally, a single night of sleep deprivation (four hours of sleep) can reduce insulin sensitivity by 25%. Both can dramatically impact your body's ability to handle more food and stress. 

If you want to keep your body handling food, sleep 7-9 hours. 

Work on affirmations. 

Again, not your normal advice, but one thing you need to improve. 

What are affirmations? It can be looking at yourself in the mirror each morning and telling yourself you can achieve whatever you want to. It can be taking a somewhat negative situation and making it positive. It can be sending a gratitude message to someone. 

When you start your day in the right mindset, you will see a world of difference in how you act on your goals. I challenge you to wake up tomorrow, give it a try, and see how you feel the rest of the work day. 

You never see people who are victims in their own life who complain, grump, and moan over every bad thing that happens. These folks never get anywhere in life and will be making excuses as to why they never reach to their goals when they cannot get out of their head. 

Be an energy SEEKER, not a zapper, and make sure you are putting yourself around those who support you, not belittle you during the holidays. 


People gain weight over the holidays, not because of what they do on Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year's, but what they do the days between.

Over six to seven weeks, the actual days we have events, dinners, etc., are small and equates to about a dozen meals. 

Most people fall into the trap of thinking that because they have all of these events spread out over a short span, they can't make any progress and may as well not even try.

The real solution is that you can still get results and progress during the holidays. Remember, nothing is gained or lost in a day.

Enjoy the holiday season, but stick to your basics to move forward. 

Header image credit: hihitetlin © 123rf.com

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Mike Over is a NASM master trainer and owner of Over-Achieve Fitness in Pennsylvania. He works with hundreds of everyday gym-goers and athletes of all levels.

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