7 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

by | Dec 14, 2020 | Lifestyle, Nutrition, Training

I mean can you believe it??

Christmas is only 10 days away!

And even bigger than that, there’s only 17 days left in 2020.

It’s about time, right??

Too many of us have been using the holiday season and COVID to procrastinate on our fat loss goals…

And if there’s anything we’re in need of right now, it’s a fresh start.

First, we must make it through the holiday season which is the time of year where TOO MANY of us regress BIG TIME in our healthy behaviors.

But it doesn’t have to be…

Today this blog gives you my Top 7 tips to avoid a major regression or completely starting over in 2021.

Tip #1: Understand It’s ONLY 3 Days

Christmas Eve

Christmas Day

New Year’s Eve

The #1 mistake I see people make when it comes to the holidays is letting one day roll into the next.

It starts with one day, and before you know it, it’s a week.

Then, before you know it, it’s been a month.

And then BAM! New Year’s Eve is here.

This is ONLY 3 days out of our 365-day year, and while yes, 3 of those days are back-to-back it’s impossible to gain that much fat in 3 days.

“Oh, you don’t know me.”

Or “You don’t know the damage I can do.”

Trust me, I can do some pretty serious damage myself AND I’m married to a bottomless pit – I KNOW DAMAGE!

But let’s be honest, even if you ate to the point of being completely and uncomfortably stuffed all 3 days, you could MAYBE gain 1 to 2 pounds of fat.

Now, I know that’s not what the scale always shows, but remember that to gain 1 pound of fat, your body needs to take in and absorb 3,500 calories OVER your maintenance level calories.

The average person’s maintenance level calories sits somewhere between 1,700 and 2,700 calories, so in order to gain a single pound of fat, you’d need to eat 5,200-6,200 calories.

Now to help you understand how many calories that is, check this out:

  • 1 Domino’s Medium Ultimate Pepperoni Pizza = 2,160 Calories
  • 1 McDonald’s Bic Mac = 563 Calories
  • 1 Generic Pan of Lasagna (With Beef & Ricotta) = 3,720 Calories

All that is just over 6,400 calories.

Can you seriously imagine eating all of that in a day?

That’s just the calories being taken IN…

What you also need to consider are the body processes your body puts into place to prevent your body from gaining weight in these scenarios.

#1 The thermic effect of food is increased. Your body has taken in more food, which means it has a lot more work ahead of it for digestion; therefore, it’s going to burn A LOT more calories during the digestive process.

#2 Your body doesn’t necessarily absorb all of it. The more processed a food is, the easier it is for your body to digest and absorb it. Unfortunately, that means that unprocessed foods are typically harder to digest and not as readily absorbed by the body.

#3 Human nature sparks us to move more as a response to overeating.

I’m not denying the fact that you’ve put on some pounds in holidays past, but it’s likely not as much as you think.

However, there are 2 things that cause people to gain a good amount of body fat over the holidays:

  • #1 Stepping on the scale to see an INACCURATE 3-5# spike in weight, which leads to a “F IT!” mindset. This weight fluctuation is primarily due to water retention from the additional food, sodium, and sugar. Give it a few days and that number will drop back down to normal.
  • #2 Allowing the days to spill over. Like I said, the #1 mistake people make is letting 1 day turn into the next. Remember, there are just 3 days to this holiday stretch. You don’t need to eat like it’s a holiday every day before, after, and between those 3 days.

Tip #2: Go in With a Plan

“Things went great until we ended up doing X.”

“We decided last minute to do Y.”

“Z kind of just happened and I didn’t plan for it.”

Look, I know you’re tired of hearing me say how important it is that you plan out your days and weeks, but if I’m STILL saying it, don’t you think its kind of important?

If you are reading this, you are in control of your body and its actions.

NOBODY is forcing you to do anything.

And in 2020 (AKA the year of complete chaos) having a plan is more important than ever and something EVERYONE can appreciate and respect.

It starts by weighing what’s most important to YOU.

Not to your parents.

Not to your spouse.

Not to your kids.


Has the year taken enough of a toll on you and you’re hoping to just catch a break this holiday season?


Then together we’re going to structure a plan that doesn’t stress any specific strategies but allows you to enjoy time with family. The plan will be to eat as you please, recognize hunger and craving cues, and get right back on track the next day.

Are you hoping to enjoy the holidays, but every year you’ve tried to go in without a specific plan you blow it?

No problem.

That means that together we’re going to bump you up near maintenance level calories for the day and possibly those surrounding it. The goal will be to still hit your calorie and macro levels but leave you a bit more room for enjoyment. Once the days have passed, together we’ll bring you right back into a fat loss phase.

Are you still looking to hit a big goal before the end of the year? Maybe you have a competition, vacation, or even coming up? Or maybe you just know this year is SO different and low key that you don’t really need to exit this fat loss phase?

If that’s you, it’s perfectly okay. You can absolutely stay on point with your fat loss calories and macros through the holiday, so long as you’re realistic and go in with a specific plan.

There’s no right or wrong answer.

But you do need to be realistic and honest with yourself about what the holidays look like AND what you want before they approach.

Tip #3: Set Up an Environment for Success

What’s the biggest reason people fall of the wagon and dump their nutrition plan?

Lack of Willpower (or as some will call it discipline).

I coach my clients to think of willpower like your car’s gas tank. You can drive around and use all the gas you want, but once you’re out, you’re out. Unless of course you stop to refill it.

If you’re constantly putting yourself in circumstances where you rely purely on willpower to adhere to your nutrition plan, you WILL run out and eventually give in.

It’s not a lack of willpower or weakness, It’s just an inevitable part of human nature.

If you struggle to stay on the wagon, then setting yourself up in an environment that promotes success MUST be a priority through the holidays.

My most successful clients ARE NOT the ones with the most willpower. They’re the ones that learn to put themselves in a successful environment that does NOT require a lot of willpower in the first place.

They do this by understanding their cues and triggers (AKA the things that tempt you and eventually pull you off the wagon.

There are 5 different types of cues that lead individuals astray:

  • #1 Time: There’s a specific time of day you snack whether you’re hungry or not (After work, dinner, or before bed).
  • #2 Location: There’s a place you drive by on the way home or walk through in the house that pulls you to mindlessly stop and graze through.
  • #3 Trigger Event: You go talk with a coworker daily who has a candy dish on his/her desk, and you stop to eat some without even thinking.
  • #4 Emotional State: Feeling stressed after work, upset after a fight with your significant other, or frustrated you didn’t get the result you were hoping for.
  • #5 Other People: Every time you get together with this friend, you can’t help but overeat and drink.

In an ideal world, we’d relocate to an entirely new environment for all 5 of these scenarios to set up new habits and eliminate these harmful cues, buuuuut you and I both know that’s not entirely realistic.

But here are some things you CAN do:

Make It Invisible – This is the simplest option – just get rid of it. If a food, location, event, or person isn’t readily available, you’re going to have to put in a lot more work (which most of us are unwilling to do) to indulge in it.

Now, not having it or getting rid of it, isn’t always an option.

So instead, make it invisible.

Put as many steps or obstacles between you and it. This makes it like a checks and balances system wherein the more steps between, the more likely you are to stop yourself.

Make the Alternative STUPID SIMPLE – I’m talking tied to your arm or right in front of your face simple.

So, you want to give up pop, carry a water bottle with you everywhere you go and when you stop, put that water right in front of your face so you’re reminded that it’s right there.

If you REALLY want to be successful through the holidays this year, set yourself up in an environment that allows you to do so.

Don’t buy the foods you can’t resist.

Get rid of leftovers.

Avoid stopping at the store when you don’t REALLY need to.

Only stay at places for the amount of time you NEED to.

Plan ahead.

Communicate to the loved ones around you what can help you be the healthiest and most successful version of yourself.

Tip #4: Adjust Calories

One HUGE mistake people make is stressing about going over their caloric intake on ONE DAY.

One day does NOT make or break your fat loss goals.

For all of my clients, we look at progress across the week, which means that one day really didn’t factor in that much to one’s total success for the week.

Because we know that one day is just one day, it makes it pretty easy to adjust calories for days of higher or lower intakes.

Look, your body and mind might get a little confused, but so long as your weekly deficit is the same, you SHOULD get very similar results.

Let’s say your family eats a BIG brunch on Christmas morning, which means you realistically know you’ll be going over your daily caloric limit.

No problem, you can save up calories ahead of time or eat less in the following days to keep your weekly caloric intake on point.

This is one of my FAVORITE strategies for clients because it allows A LOT more flexibility within their diets. It can really help individuals avoid the “F IT” mentality because they know there’s plenty of room for adjustment across the week.

Tip #5: Stay Active

Tip #5 is twofold.

I want you to stay active by making training a priority, but I also want you to keep up (possibly even bump up) your day-to-day activity levels.

Training first.

Just like eating, this holiday stretch only makes up 3 days.

Yes, gyms are closed.

Yes, it’s the end of the quarter and year.

But YES, your body needs this more than ever.

This is already the time of year where training falls to the wayside, but letting your training fall off is only going to push you further and further from your short- and long-term goals.

Prioritize time for 3 to 4 training sessions per week.

If you’re struggling with what to do for training right now because your gym is closed, you’re working from home, and you just don’t seem to have the time, then here’s your push to invest in coaching today.

Apply here and I’ll get you signed up for our LIVE At-Home workouts so you can keep up with your training and long-term goals.

Now for the other side of this – your day-to-day activity level.

Now more than ever before, we’re being pulled to SIT.

You’re probably working from home and unable to go out and do a lot of the activities with friends and family you love.

That means you park yourself in your office chair, then mosey on over to the couch at the end of the day to Netflix and chill.

For your sake, I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to get up and move your body throughout the day.

Here are a few strategies to keep up your activity level:

  • Start the Day with 30 Minutes of Movement: Yes, that might mean you have to go to bed and get up earlier, but I PROMISE this will help get your brain and body going for the day. It’s also an excellent day to set the tone for the day and encourage yourself to be active all day long. IT could be a Zoom workout with me, a walk, a muscular activation session, a yoga or foam roll session, or anything that puts your body in motion.
  • Take a 10-15 Minute Walk After EVERY Main Meal: I’m talking after breakfast, lunch, and dinner get walking. The emails and calls can wait, and if they can’t take them with. If it’s too cold outside, either bundle up or walk around the house. Not only does this burns calories, but it promotes digestion and pumps fresh blood throughout the body to keep you fresh for the work that comes next.
  • Stand Up EVERY Hour: Set a reminder on your phone or a timer for every 55 minutes to stand up. When you sit around at your desk or on the couch all day, old blood with recycled nutrients just sits there. Your body needs fresh resources to keep you fresh, so stand up, shake it out, stretch, and just MOVE!

Tip #6: Say “NO”

This one word might just be the secret to your holiday fat loss success…

There are family gatherings.

Holiday parties.

Work parties.

Happy hours.

Before you know it, your calendar is jam packed with events the last 2 to 3 weeks of the year.

But does it have to be?


You don’t NEED to go to every holiday gathering.

You don’t HAVE to fill your calendar up and stress yourself out over lack of free time.

Pick out the events that are more important to you and send your regrets to those that quite frankly worth your time or energy.

Then, once you’ve picked out the events you MUST go to, set a time block or limit for how long you can stay. If you’re anything like me, you stay WAY longer than you need to and 4wind-up feeling stressed out over how much time you lost.

Remember, it’s okay NOT to open and close every party.

It’s okay to have other commitments.

Oh, and most importantly, it’s OKAY TO PRIORITIZE YOUR TIME!

Now, regardless of how different your 2020 holiday schedule might look, the word “NO!” can still be highly valuable and the key to your success.

But before you get started telling me how hard it is to say “NO,” you first must identify your non-negotiables.

What are the things you want to do or enjoy MOST this holiday season?

I’m not talking about the things you like or do over the holidays; I’m talking the things you LOVE and cannot live without.

Don’t love the Christmas ham? Then, there’s no need to dive in for seconds.

LOVE your family’s generation-old cheesy potato recipe?

It’s okay to serve yourself up a larger serving or head up for seconds.

See the difference?

You don’t need to say “YES!” to everything.

In fact, doing that is the very reason you gain weight every holiday season.

Know what you LOVE and say “NO!” to everything else.

Tip #7: Hydrate

Tip #7 is a lot like Tip #2 – repeated over and over until you’re tired of reading it, but still important, nonetheless.

Holidays and hydration just don’t seem to mix.

You’re off work.

You’re away from home.

You’re with family and friends catching up.

You’re out of your day-to-day routine, and wherever water was a part of it before, it’s not any longer.

But there are 3 reasons why holiday dehydration is a problem.

#1 You’re Hungrier – Water helps you to feel satiated and fuller longer; therefore, without it there’s a lot of empty space in that stomach waiting to be filled.

#2 You’re More Fatigued – Water keeps your muscles fresh, especially your brain. When dehydrated, your body is less efficient at its body processes and slows itself down in hope of rehydrating soon.

#3 You’re Hurting Digestion – Digestion requires water, and A LOT of it. Without adequate water, your body struggles to pull in the right nutrients and flush out the bad.

Hydrate yourself this holiday season.

Keep a water bottle with you wherever you go.

Start and end your day with a full glass of water.

Take a glass before and after every meal.

Stay hydrated and set yourself up for the best holiday season yet.

About The Author

Jordan Davies is the Co-Owner of Complete Performance. Jordan has her B.S. in Exercise Science and Psychology, and her M.A. in Holistic Health Studies. She is a CSCS certified strength and conditioning coach, and a PN-1 and NCI-1 certified nutrition coach. She loves to study how the human body needs to be moved and nourished and making that fit to your unique lifestyle. ,Click Here Now to Apply for Coaching with Jordan.

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