How to Indulge AND Maintain Your Fitness Level

Holiday dessert table

You’ve been eating right and exercising all year and you’re closing in on your fitness goals. Then, the holidays come. Do you really have to deprive yourself of all that is indulgent this time of year?! It hardly feels fair.

We all go through the same struggles… So many parties, unhealthy choices, and peer pressure—so much of everything. Compound that with less time for exercising and we are served up a recipe for potential disaster when it comes to our health. Weight gain and feelings of guilt often follow. But it’s not a guaranteed loss! There are tried-and-true ways to avoid what some consider the inevitable holiday weight gain. Let’s look at key factors that can help prevent us from getting derailed—and make maintaining a goal!

Lean On Technology

Technology has advanced to the point where there are innumerous beneficial tools to help you stick to your fitness goals. An activity tracker in conjunction with a calorie tracker can help you stay on track by showing you where your calories are coming from in real-time and if you are being active enough to burn off those extra goodies. In the end, most people are less likely to overindulge when they’ve truly committed to logging food intake. You can even check for approximate calorie counts if you’re questioning certain food choices.

Make Moderation Your Mantra

Like other areas of fitness and nutrition, maintaining relies a lot on moderation. You don’t have to avoid all your favorites, just use common sense and a little self-control. I know, it’s difficult. But the results will be worth the effort. A really good tip is to eat before you go to a gathering where you know most of the choices will not be the best. That way you won’t be as hungry and will be more easily satisfied with just sampling. Also, don’t hang out near the buffet table, as the temptation to continue nibbling while you talk is too great. Eat slower. Our bodies have an automatic response to let us know when we have eaten enough. Most of us eat so fast that we blow right past that response though, and don’t realize we are full until we have eaten way too much. Simple tip to help: Put your fork or spoon down after you take a bite, chew slowly, and don’t pick up the utensil again until after you swallow. Also, remember that beverage calories can add up quickly. These are mostly empty calories with little or no nutritional value. So there’s more than one reason to not drink too much! Every other drink should be water.

Understand The Cost In Advance

It’s sad but true: every treat has a cost. And you may be surprised by how many calories are in your favorite foods. Check out our Holiday Treats Calorie Showdown for some great examples of the types of activities and intensity levels needed to burn off certain calories. Knowing what something “costs” can help you make the decision regarding whether you will eat it or not, or how much you will eat. Then you also know how much activity is needed to maintain your goals. Ask yourself: “Is it worth the cost, and am I willing to pay?”

Don’t Go It Alone

Finding an accountability partner can be extremely helpful when it comes to being able to say “no” to temptation, or avoiding an excuse not to get to the gym. You are much more likely to do what you know is right if you know you’ll have to answer to someone else.

Create a challenge for you and your accountability partner(s) with a healthy reward at the end. One that encourages everyone to make smart choices, while still enjoying the traditions that come with the season.


Limit Daytime Indulgences

If you’re like most of us, your coworkers are amazing cooks who love to share their talents this time of year. Be sure you are bringing your lunch with you (and eating it) instead of snacking on homemade treats all day or going out often. Make an effort to avoid the kitchen/break room (or at least make it an occasional voyage) if you know it’s full of hard-to-resist goodies. And don’t skip meals thinking you are saving calories. Your body needs fuel and we should be getting it from our regular meals. Most holiday snacks don’t contain the necessary balance of protein and other nutrients that nourish our bodies and keep us healthy.

Bring the Fun to Your Workout

Look for new, fun ways to stay active. Take a group class, learn some new exercises, take the stairs, park a long way from the store entrance, or enlist the help of a personal trainer. Create holiday-themed exercise routines and post on social media so friends and families can see how serious you are about your fitness (think along the lines of #BurnTheTurkey, like #MeltTheIceCream or #CrushTheCookies, etc).

Do whatever you can to stay active and positive. A good attitude will go a long way toward helping you maintain your weight through the holidays. In the end, have fun, but be aware of the consequences that come from overindulging. Most of all, don’t beat yourself up when you give in, or things don’t go as planned. Figure out how you could have made better choices and use that information in the future.

Happy holidays!

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Bryan Forsing is an Elite Trainer and Anytime Fitness "Rebel" who owns the Anytime Fitness in Culpeper, Virginia. He is certified as a fitness trainer and specialist in fitness nutrition, senior fitness, and exercise therapy. Food (it's fuel first!), other members' success stories, and maintaining the best shape of his life while medication-free keeps him motivated and active every day.