The holidays are just around the corner and that means food. 

Lots and lots of delicious food. 

Turkey, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, rolls, pumpkin pie. Mmm . . . mmm . . . mmm.

My mouth is watering just typing that out.

You hit that smorgashboard at Thanksgiving and then a month later you’re doing it again at Christmas, and in-between there are often parties, gift baskets, and dropped-off platters of cookies to wade through. 

While holiday feasting is great for activating the pleasure centers in your brain, it’s not so great for your waistline. All that tasty carby and fatty food eaten in excess can put on the pounds. In fact, most people do indeed gain about 1 to 2 lbs during the holiday season. That may not sound like much, ‘til you consider that adding 2 pounds of fat each year for 30 years will leave you 60 pounds overweight. That’s a recipe for a bowl-of-jelly-esque belly.

So how can you enjoy those holiday meals without throwing off your nutrition plan? Are you doomed to eating just the celery and carrot sticks your mom puts out as a before-dinner snack? Will you have to bring your own premade meal while you watch everyone else eat Grandma’s delicious stuffing and pumpkin pie?

To answer the question of how to relish all the deliciousness of this holiday season without wrecking your health and fitness goals, I talked to my nutrition coach, Gillian Ward, head nutrition coach at Barbell Logic Online Coaching. 

How to Feast at the Holidays Without Packing on the Pounds

I track my macros 365 days a year, and religiously work out 4X a week. But, I think feast days are for feasting. Everyone needs those kind of “Mardi Gras” occasions where you let down your discipline hair and indulge a little. So I don’t curtail my eating too much on Thanksgiving and Christmas. At the same time though, I do take steps that don’t require much effort or sacrifice in order to mitigate the damage. Here’s what that looks like:

Preliminary: start tracking your macros. If you’re not already tracking your macros, then setting up a plan for that is the first thing you should do before the holidays hit. Here’s your complete guide for how to get started with macro tracking. It’s simple and effective, and the great boon of doing macro tracking as your “diet” is that there’s a good amount of flexibility built in. If you budget for it, you can fit a couple of Christmas cookies or pieces of homemade fudge into your consumption for the day, guilt-free.

I don’t track my macros on the holidays themselves (beyond making sure I get enough protein). But tracking my macros keeps me on track in between the holiday feasts and gives me the wiggle room to enjoy myself during them.

Keep your holiday eating to the actual holidays. Sometimes holiday feasting runs for week after week, big meal after big meal.So Gillian’s first rule is to limit your holiday eating to actual holidays and not let it extend throughout the holiday season. Enjoy yourself on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, but don’t let the feasting bleed outside of those specific days. You can eat leftovers in the days that follow, but exercise portion control and get back to tracking your macros the day after the holiday.

Watch your nutrition leading up to the big meal. In the days

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