How To Stay Lean During This Holiday Season

Summertime is officially here, and you know what that means - holiday food in the plenty, drinks all around, extravagant breakfasts and ice-cream binges. It is extremely difficult to avoid the holiday temptation of delicious foods that seem to be dangling everywhere. And the last thing on your mind is to worry about how much food you are putting into your mouth. To add to that, those going away will find that access to gym will be limited or they just want to take a break from the house of iron, However, lack access to the gym makes people worry that they will get fat quickly and easily because they will have no way of expelling the excess energy they are taking in from holiday goodies.

For those who take their diets and training very seriously, Summertime poses a whole bunch of problems that they have to face. Do they try to stay on track as much as possible or do they let loose and enjoy some good times with family and friends at the expense of all the work they have put in over the course of the year. Do they allow themselves to eat intuitively and forget about the macros? Better yet, do they just go full YOLO and have an old school cheat day? In actuality, all of these strategies may be right depending on the goals and circumstances of the person but choosing the right one can mean the difference between enjoyment or regret of your holiday season.

Energy out – How to keep active without access to the gym

The number 1 factor that you have to take into consideration when trying to keep your energy expenditure high is your NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). Basically, this is all your activity that revolves around the hours not spent at the gym or a scheduled workout. The best strategy people have used to quantify there is NEAT is through use of a pedometer (any device that counts your steps (be it a phone or watch). So, what you can do is start being aware of your step count and aim for a very high step count when on holiday. I would recommend a step count of anywhere between 10 000 to 20 000 while you are away. Walk a lot, explore, use the stairs, go for strolls, etc. Use the excess time to put some mileage on your original transportation system (your feet).

On top of keeping your NEAT high, a quick, short workout would do you wonders. And I mean a short half an hour stint in the morning before you get your day going. Find a good bodyweight circuit that involves a host of various muscle groups being incorporated and make it a morning ritual to do this workout while on holiday. You will find that you will feel so much better about your body and less inclined to slide down the mountain of guilt from holiday pleasures.

Energy in – Using your intuition

Many people struggle with being overly strict even during times when they can afford less rigidity in their diet. Perhaps it is a matter of habit from having tracked so meticulously for such a long period of time. Or perhaps it is a matter of being too attached to the numbers that are entered into the MyFitnessPal or MyMacros food log apps. Either way, there are times when being overly worried about hitting your macros perfectly is more trouble than it is worth, and a complete brain drain.

This is especially true when spending time with your family and friends and partaking in the activities that they are involved in is far more important than the worry or stress that you may have from trying to stick to and count your calories and macronutrients. Additionally, it can be liberating to allow yourself to eat a meal without having to worry about how much of what you are busy consuming. Feeling like a “normal” person is a rather healthy thing for your mind. Furthermore, if you are all into learning and bettering yourself, this would be a great opportunity to learn how to eat sensibly, recognize hunger signals, and enjoy a nice meal without feeling the need to overeat. Initially, you may feel that you are going to gain a bunch of fat from this meal, but you will find that being off your macros a bit from time to time will not make much difference in the grand scheme of things. Sure, you may take a slight step back in your overall progress, but the break will definitely leave you feeling spiritually relaxed and mentally energized. Just be reasonable, do not binge on every meal and get right back on track with the next meal or the next day. In other words, eat out when you go out, have a healthier meal when you are in and do not need to eat something dense.

On the other hand, people who tend to be very outcome-dependant will find that eating all 5 courses with extras is going to be extremely tough to come back from in terms of their mental standpoint. The typical scenario is that they eat everything, regret it and check their condition relentlessly, spend the next few days dieting really strictly and going extra hard in the gym only to find that they get really hungry, tired and demotivated, argue with themselves that it is the holiday and they should enjoy themselves, binge eat, regret, and the cycle repeats itself. If this is your general mentality or pattern, then YOLO eating is not the strategy for you, and you would feel a lot better controlling yourself and your portion sizes. 

Use this opportunity to learn your body’s hormonal signals (particularly leptin and ghrelin). That feeling of you being full or satisfied is from a hormone called leptin. Recognize its presence when you feel this way. It is your body telling you that you are all good and that additional calories are not necessary for you. Stop when you feel it and relax from the food until you feel your ghrelin levels coming up (this is the hormone that signals you are hungry). When you feel like you want to eat something, ask yourself this question – will I be satisfied having an apple or a fruit now? If the answer is no, then you are probably not hungry and just want to put something delicious in your mouth. Learn to control that feeling. If the answer is yes, then find yourself a decent, portion-controlled meal to eat and pay attention to that leptin feeling.


The holidays can be a trying time for those who want to remain healthy and fit. All the good food and social pressure make it easy to indulge in all that this time has to offer. However, given what we know about macronutrient tracking and energy balance, there is no reason we cannot partake in the festivities to some degree. The key is figuring out just how you should go about celebrating in your own way.

Loosely estimating some meals or even having an untracked meal will not be the end of the world you. Enjoying the time that you will spend with your friends and family is the more pertinent thing to focus on during this season. Remember that the other so days of the month should be business as usual. If you can keep yourself structured and working on days that do not require you to be freer, then sticking to your plan and routine will ensure that you can enjoy the holiday season and exit the summer unscathed. 

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