Well, it's that time of year again: the weather is getting colder, the leaves are almost completely gone from the trees, and my jeans are getting tighter.........wait.......no. If you're in the latter category, you better check yourself before you wreck yourself. The holidays are not a time to be a douche with food. Sure, holiday gatherings are entirely centered around food, but that doesn't mean you have to go up a size in all of your pants before New Years.
Part of being "normal" as a competitor is indulging a bit during the holidays. I love food - I'm a foodie. I enjoy eating, and I definitely live to eat. So enjoying DELICIOUS food during the holidays is something I will ALWAYS do, and I factor it into my plan so that I don't gain weight. And when I go home, the LAST thing I want to deal with is my parents saying, "Why can't you eat that? Lighten up, it's Christmas!!" It's amazing to me how people equate the holidays with a free pass to eat whatever the heck they want. Like the calories don't count, or something. So I usually have a plan over the holidays that allows me to stay trim while still partaking in good eats with mi familia. I haven't gained a single pound during the Thanksgiving/Christmas season in over 3 years. Before I started competing, I'd easily gain 5lbs in a 1 month period. No es bueno, especially when trying to fit into a hot cocktail dress for NYE.
My parents usually fly in the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and they stay with me. This immediately means a wine bottle will be opened. Now, I enjoy the occasional glass, but I have wine maaaaaaybe once every 4 months. It just doesn't appeal to me anymore, and that's ok. Whether we're cooking here or are out to dinner, I stick to 1 glass, and 1 glass only. I sip it with my food, and I don't drink any of it until the main course is served. Half the time, I don't even finish the full glass. But, to my parents, I've acted "normally," which is all I care about. So, whether you enjoy wine or hard liquor, keep it to 1 glass/drink. You're still drinking and being "social" (although, this is ridiculous - you don't need to drink to be social), so who cares how much you drink? If someone is counting your drinks, they have issues.
Now onto the food. I ALWAYS load my plate with protein and veggies during all holiday meals and parties. Turkey, chicken, pork, lamb - whatever is being served, I get more than a generous portion of meat. Why? Protein is filling, and the body burns more calories when metabolizing/digesting protein than carbs/fats. So I win twice! Veggies can be a trap, though - green bean casserole, y'all, is not healthy. I stick to roasted or grilled veggies - anything that looks cheesy or creamy is a death trap, and I steer clear. I will usually get a small carb portion of something (especially my mom's stuffing - holy amazeballs), but I keep it to a few tablespoons and eat them SLOWLY. On Thanksgiving and Christmas, my plate is usually filled with about 40% protein, 50% veggies, and 10% carbs. But guess what? I'm still eating Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner with my family. For dessert, I share stuff with my mom or I get a very small serving (think a small sliver of pie). To me, all I need is a bite or 2 to satisfy that craving. After a few bites, I move onto coffee to keep my mouth busy while I'm at the table. <insert joke here>
During the day, when I'm not eating meals with my family, I eat clean, and I am STRICT. I stick to my off-season plan religiously. I'd rather save my calories for dinners. Now, if your family is big on unhealthy breakfasts, you need to pick your battles. My mom makes homemade apple sauce muffins (again, amazeballs), and some sort of ridiculous egg casserole for breakfast on Christmas morning, so you best believe I eat all of that. But then the rest of the day, I eat tons of protein and veggies and keep it clean until dinner. It's all a balancing act, but it can be done. Pace yourself, choose your cheats wisely, and pick foods that are as healthy and as lean as possible.
The gym is your time to sweat it out. I pick up the intensity of my workouts during the holidays. I rarely add cardio (compensatory cardio is a big no-no, and you CANNOT counteract a binge with either calorie restriction OR increased cardio - it doesn't work like that, sorry!!). I usually pick up the pace, increase my weight, or add in some leg plyo to my workouts during the holidays. This increases the metablic effect of my workouts, which will serve me well while I'm in a caloric surplus. This will ensure that I don't gain ass mass.
Remember, your physique goals are in YOUR hands. My biggest pet peeve is people saying they can't control themselves around particular foods. Really? You ALWAYS have a choice. That pumpkin pie doesn't magically jump into your mouth: you bring it to your mouth with your fork. You make the conscious decision to eat it. So you can make the conscious decision to NOT eat it. You have to decide whether or not your physique goals outweigh your desire to eat those peppermint brownies. If you do nothing but cheat, cheat, cheat over the holidays, you WILL gain weight. If you strategically plan your deviations, you won't. Remember, eating clean and staying lean requires a lifestyle change - not a temporary crash diet to fit into your bikini. Suck it up.
The holidays don't need to be about deprivation, and you don't need to be a social outcast. You can enjoy bites of your favorite holiday treats without compromising your waistline. It's all about discipline. So, enjoy the holidays with your friends and family, have some sips of egg nog, sit by the fire, and relax.