It’s a tough time for fitness.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner for all my people in the United States. Food comas are ubiquitous. It also marks the beginning of the December holiday party season. Cap it off with New Year celebrations for everyone around the world.

That makes this an appropriate time to address navigating your fitness and nutrition. And we’ll teach you how to do it without being “that guy” or “that girl”.

The Holiday Struggles

For most of the people I speak with, the biggest holiday struggle comes in the form of social pressure. It feels like there is an endless stream of friendsgivings, office holiday parties, and family dinners. How do you survive the constant exposure to pie?

Besides to the barrage of parties full of tempting hors d’oeuvres and your Italian grandmother’s famous food, the travel itself is an issue.

Driving, flying, bussing, boating and train-ing to visit family, friends, or go on vacation means you’re thrown way off routine.

To further compound the issue, there will be full days where you might not even see a healthy food option.

Sticking to a consistent training routine when you’re away from your gym fam is tough, too.

Here are five strategies proven to keep you on track without feeling restricted.

1) Relax and Plan Not to Track Some Meals

The first strategy is the big, overarching one.

If you stick to your convictions 80% of the time, over the 45 days left in the year you can take up to 9 meals to you relax and eat what you want. But don’t binge.

This way you can enjoy a slice of Grandma’s famous pumpkin pie, a pint of Uncle Sam’s home brewed beer, or drink with a group of friends you haven’t seen in a while.

Nine meals is enough leniency that you won’t feel the need to cram all the “cheat food” into a few meals and go off the rails. You can be a little bit more responsible with your laxity.

Try to map out when those 9 meals will occur, but don’t force them onto your calendar if you can do less. Once you map your 9 relaxed meals, stick to your normal and productive eating habits. And do it for the rest of 2017 and BEYOND.

Heck, with this time off work, you might be able to make some big improvements!

2) Cook for Parties

The second strategy is to always cook something for holiday parties that will help you stay on track.

The simplest way to do this, in my opinion, is to make a slow cooker meat dish or bake a big filet of fish. There’s rarely enough protein at these holiday events, and way too many dessert options.

If you are looking to lose fat, something like a turkey chili is “on brand” during thanksgiving. Besides being a great source of protein, you can load it with veggies.

On the fish front you can go with a baked Cod recipe.

If you are looking to maintain or gain mass, a nice lamb or pork roast are great, easy meat options.

A baked or grilled salmon fillet is another great addition to your friends giving or holiday party.

Nobody is going to give you shit for bringing a beautiful piece of meat or fish to a party! Especially if there’s enough to go around.

For you vegetarians, vegans, celiac and other restricted-dieters I am sure you are familiar with bringing your own dishes to dinner parties. I also hope you have understanding friends and family who will make a separate dish that accommodates your needs. If not, cooking a great dish that you can eat is one way to educate them!

3)Learn How To Make a Plate

The third strategy is to start calibrating your eye and learning how to construct a plate on sight that fits your macronutrient needs.

For all our clients, this is why you’ve weighed and measured…so that you can intuitively make these types of unmeasured food choices.

If it’s not one of your 9 relaxed meals, make sure you fill up a good deal of your plate with protein. Load up with all vegetables in sight, and then add in any starches you might need to construct a balanced plate.

For those who like visual guides, aim for 2 palm sized portions of protein. For example:

  • A whole turkey breast
  • Two thick slices of a pork roast
  • A piece of fish twice the size of what a restaurant would serve.

Aim for at least 3 fist sized portions of vegetables.

  • A full plate of salad.
  • A fist sized pile of hot veggies.
  • Plenty-o-green beans.

This will help you avoid going back for seconds of the dangerous stuff.

Depending on your goal, also aim for the right portions of starch. If you’re looking to lose weight, just one fist sized portion of stuffing and minimal mashed potatoes. Especially if you plan on having a slice of grandma’s famous pie.

If you’re in maintenance mode shoot for two fist sized portions of starch. A fist sized sweet potato, and stuffing. If you’re looking to gain, you have a bit more leeway. BUT set your sights on the nutrient dense starches like sweet potatoes over mashed potatoes or stuffing!

4) Shutting Down Sugar Cravings

The fourth strategy is useful in cutting off binge patterns that can occur with lovely dessert spreads.

I had one client who was the picture of discipline at dinner parties with one major exception. He meticulously constructed perfect plates during dinner. Minutes later, he would find himself 20 (small) slices of cake deep at the dessert table.

We found a strategy that worked for him, and has worked for dozens of clients with the same affliction. If this sounds like you here is the solution.

After you have a reasonable portion of dessert, if your brain is saying go back for more, eat a vegetable or protein and see if you still want to keep eating. If you do, eat the protein or vegetables but avoid more dessert.

That sugar and fat combo in desserts is going to make your brain go haywire. You are wired to eat that crap endlessly. Shut it down with some less palatable foods, and take the cake out of sight!

5) What To Do on Travel Days

The fifth, and last strategy I will discuss addresses the issue of what to do on travel days. It depends on your mode of transport but the strategy is the same.

Since it is usually tough to get enough protein and vegetables while in transit bring them with you. Protein bars, a salad, protein powder and a greens powder or algae like spirulina are options.

When I travel by plane, I stop at my local health food store to stock up. I go to a store that has great prepared foods and either grab one of their pre-made salads, or make one at the salad bar. I will load it up with meat, colorful veggies, and sweet potato or grains like quinoa to make it feel heartier.

I also pick up some bars like

  • Epic bars
  • Oatmega Bars
  • RX bars
  • Rise bars
  • and jerky

I’ll also grab a few pieces of fruit or a package of berries.

This strategy is especially important during the holidays because flights tend to get delayed or canceled. Not to mention, there are long lines at the airport.

I’ve been stuck at the airport before and was super lucky that I prepared.

If you’re traveling with your family, bring enough for everybody. Nothing tears a family apart (or causes a family to tear each other apart) like the dreaded hanger and stress of airport travel.

If I’m driving a long distance, I have a mini cooler that I usually throw all my snacks plus a hot meal into. I’ll eat them along the way rather than hoping that I can find something at a rest stop in the middle-of-nowhere.

Bonus: How to Keep Moving

I also realize that it’s easy to fall out of an exercise routine during travel. It’s such a comfortable pattern to go to your gym at home, but it feels more daunting to make it happen on the road. If this is the case, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. if you can’t make it into the local CrossFit box you can and should still move.

You could:

  • Do some bodyweight tabata intervals.
  • Go for a tempo run outdoors (weather permitting)
  • Hit the hotel gym and improvise a metcon with whatever equipment they have.
  • Going for post meal walks is massive, too.

I love taking my family or friends’ dogs for a walk after a meal. A walk with friends and family after the meal is also a chance to have a more intimate conversation.

Those are five of my most effective strategies for navigating nutrition during the holidays. I’d love to hear what your favorite holiday hacks, recipes, or strategies are.

Shoot me an email at matt@beyondmacros.com with what you do to stay on track during the holidays, and where you build in some leniency.