First of all, if you are reading this, I want to commend you for being intentional about wanting to stay on track over the holidays. Perhaps you are really consistent the rest of the year but fall off the last two months, and feel like you spin your wheels over and over to make up for it from January through March, or you’ve just never walked through a holiday season and even attempted to stay on track before.
No matter where you’re coming from, learning how to stay consistent and still have a really good time and make incredible memories is the end goal here.
I’m going to go over a series of different tips and recommendations, so make sure to save this guide to refer back to later! I will be adding to this as I think of more things- if you read this and have questions, comment them below so that I can address them!
Getting the Mindset Right
- First of all, know that you probably won’t knock the first year out of the park. You’re going to struggle, you might feel like if you ate one unplanned thing that you ‘failed’, and old compulsions and habits are going to rise up to try to take you out. Decide right now that no matter how it goes, that you will start each day over new and do your best.
- Recognize that you are literally undoing decades of very ingrained habits and routines and that it will likely take a couple of holiday seasons to really make your own way. Our subconscious brains are so tied to the familiar. You’ll find that situations arise that throw you off, or things “out of your control” don’t go as planned, or we can’t resist certain foods that the rest of the year we don’t struggle with- that is YOU self sabotaging yourself, quietly, sneakily. Identify it!
- Ditch the all or nothing mentality! Or at least, start being aware of it. That’s the little voice that tells you that because you had one cookie you didn’t intend to, that you might as well make a day of it. No! Here’s the truth: most ‘slips’ are less than 800 calories, and while that might sound huge on a particular day, it is entirely likely that the next few days will be completely mundane, normal ones, and you can easily average it out simply by going back to normal.
It is when you choose to stay ‘slipped’ that all of a sudden you are ten thousand calories in the hole- all for a pity party that didn’t need to happen! If you slip, own it, make a better plan and press on.
4. Don’t stay off the wagon!! This is the biggest takedown I see. We have a slip on Veterans Day, and we’re off the wagon until the Superbowl. Every day is a new day. Get up, start over, keep going. The last quarter of the year is not a giant holiday weekend.
5. Move. Your. Body. One of the first lies your brain will tell you is that your workouts don’t count because you are eating so much. They count. Even if it’s less than usual, or different workouts or whatever, move your body! The only workout that doesn’t count is the one you didn’t do. I’ll talk more about how to make this happen below.
Okay! Let’s get into the details!
High Protein Party Appetizers
If you are headed out to an event, even if you think you know what will be served, I HIGHLY highly recommend covering your butt and bringing something that will ensure that at least you can get adequate protein at the beginning of the night. Here are a few of my favorites- most of them I get at Costco!
- Seared Steak Bites (cut choice of steak into 1″ cubes, marinate 4 hours or over night, quickly sear off in a pan. Serve with any kind of dipping sauce: low sugar BBQ or Teriyaki, creamy horseradish, etc)
- Chicken Satay Skewars (usually comes with a Thai Peanut dipping sauce, but can be any!) I get these at Costco.
- Shrimp platter with cocktail sauce
- Bite sized chicken sausages- I like to slice Aidelle’s Chicken and Apple, or Chicken, Bacon & Jalapeno sausages into thick rounds, quickly sear them off and serve with cubed cheeses or an olive on top with a toothpick through. Can also do a vegetarian version with Field Roast Sausages.
- Turkey meatballs and dipping sauce. Costco again for this one.
Easy Baking Swaps
Learning these hacks and why they work will make picking recipes SO much easier. As a general rule, I never start with a recipe that has already been made “healthy”. Start with the most delicious recipe you can find, and make your own edits! There’s nothing worse than a treat that tastes like a diet food.
When making substitutions, I never swap out more than 50% of the ingredient in question on the first go round- we aren’t just looking at flavor here. In baking, there are lots of chemical reactions that occur. For example, if we completely take the sugar out of something, the top won’t caramelize, the butter won’t cream properly without the friction of the sugar, etc
Here are some common ones to start with!
- Oils: swap for purees. For example, if a muffin recipe calls for a cup of butter, I may swap out 1/3rd to 1/2 of a cup of that for applesauce or pumpkin puree. Additionally, if you want to make a dish dairy free, you can swap out butter for coconut oil on a 1:1 ratio. Make sure that if the recipe calls for ‘softened butter’ though, that you use softened coconut oil, not melted. Again, this ties back to the texture of the finished good.
For some recipes, you can also swap oil for greek yogurt! To avoid the sour flavor, I recommend using a product like Two Good or Chobani vanilla greek yogurt. These brands are much lower in sugar and have a mild, pleasant flavor. An added benefit of using the yogurt is the additional protein content!
- Wheat flour: go gluten free! There are SO many easy options that you can buy that are a 1:1 swap for white flour, and I would recommend going this route if baking isn’t your forte. Making your own gluten free flour by blending oats (for example) is cheaper and possibly easier, but oats absorb much more liquid than plain white flour, and you will have to adjust your liquid ingredients or run the risk of a dense, dry product.
Gluten free does not mean lower calories in any way, but it is much less inflammatory and is less likely to make you feel puffy/crappy the next day, or to give you the cravings that plain white flour does.
- Sugar: swap for a very similar product made from all natural sweeteners. Again, I don’t swap out more than 50% of what the recipe calls for. Some sugar is okay! Try to stick to something as similar as possible, for example: Swerve Confectioners sugar for powdered sugar, Baking Stevia for regular white sugar, Swerve Brown sugar for regular brown sugar, liquid Swerve or Stevia for maple syrup, corn syrup, etc
(If making caramels, there is no way to lower the sugar content since the product MUST be sugar, so don’t try to swap out that corn syrup for pretend, it won’t work. Any candy products you pretty much have to make exactly as written.)
- Milk: most of the time, the liquid in a baking recipe is highly customizable. Just remember that if you swap out a bunch of your oil for puree, and your whole milk for oat milk, the product will be much lower in fats, and therefore much less fluffy and a lot drier. Base this decision on other decisions you’ve made in the recipe!
Also remember that this is an opportunity to use a protein fortified soy or oat milk, or Fairlife milk! Those extra grams add up!
Baking with Protein
This deserves its own section because baking with protein powder can be so tricky!
- Use a low temperature processed protein powder. I absolutely cannot emphasize this enough. If the label doesn’t say cold processed, you can assume that it isn’t. There is a reason why I so strongly recommend using Level-1 for baking. Because it was not already cooked in the drying process, it will lend rich, fluffy treats, rather than dry, gummy, chalky ones.
- Don’t replace too much of the flour with protein powder!! If a recipe calls for two cups of flour, I’ll replace 1/4 of it with protein. The scoops in Level 1 are exactly 1/4 cup each, by the way.
- If using Vegan Power Pro (the dairy free version of Level 1), use a little less! Vegan proteins tend to absorb more liquid than whey ones.
- Do not overcook!! You want to pull protein treats out a minute or two before the listed cook times. I usually set the timer for five minutes fewer and then check them until they are done.
- You may want to increase the liquid sugar in a recipe with protein. For example, if I use 1/2c protein powder and 1 1/2 cups of flour in a recipe that calls for two cups of flour, I may swap 1/4 cup of the sugar that I AM putting in (not any pretend sugars that I have swapped out) for agave, maple syrup, corn syrup etc since it will add a little more moisture. Protein powder absorbs more liquid than flour does.
- Just like how the instructions for a mug cake tell you bake it low and slow, you may also need to slightly reduce the temperature at which you bake your treats. This is highly dependent on your type of oven and what the treat is, so keep this tip in mind for trouble shooting if something doesn’t quite turn out as planned!
- Pack protein!! I cannot emphasize this enough. Bars or meat sticks are great, but also have just straight protein powder on hand to fill the gaps, especially if you have long plane or car rides where you will be tempted to snack out of boredom, be intentional about keeping your satiety levels high.
If you don’t want to tote a shaker bottle around, simply use a water bottle! Drink a little out of it, cut or bite a hole in the corner of the baggie of protein and use it like a funnel. Shake, drink, discard!
- Keep boring meals boring!! There is no reason to eat toaster waffles and syrup just because it’s November. If it’s Nana’s scratch buttermilk waffles that you get once a year, that’s different. If it doesn’t make a memory, if it’s something you can get year round and anywhere, skip it. Stick to the basics as much as possible with the meals that are not events.
If you know you have a huge dinner event, stick to mainly lean protein and veggies for breakfast and lunch. This isn’t just for the calories sake- you will FEEL so much better the next morning by not throwing your body a 24 hour curveball.
- Research where you are going! Staying at a hotel- look up the gym/pool and whether they are currently open. Staying with friends/family- politely ask what your living quarters will be like if you don’t know, and check out the area for local walking trails, length of driveway etc. This will tell you what kind of workouts you need to be setting your expectations for.
Lots of gyms have free day passes or super inexpensive multi-day passes. Research this online! Take the opportunity to mix it up with a class you never tried before or don’t have access to at home- keep yourself engaged. This is part of your life now. It will feel clunky and awkward at first, but on January 2nd you will feel like a freaking world champion.
Other Food Tips:
- Start to practice recognizing foods as what category they are. Ham, turkey, prime rib, steaks, etc: protein. Pie, rolls, corn, sweet potatoes, waffles etc: carbs. Most holiday foods have a varying amount of fats already in them- butter is really the only straight fat consideration that you will need to monitor for yourself.
An example of why this matters: If I know I want to have multiple slices of pie in the evening, I’m going to skip the boring toast in the morning and stick to an omelet or yogurt or sausages or any other higher protein option, so that I can enjoy my carbs later on and save myself a bunch of carbs that I didn’t even enjoy that much in the morning.
- You do not have to track every day if you do not want to. This really needs to be a conversation between you and your coach. If tracking an abundance of food that you aren’t sure how to track is going to be exhausting and intrusive, I recommend taking photos of the main things just so that you can run them by your coach later and learn how we would have mentally tracked them. Don’t let food guilt rob you of a learning experience!!
- Keep your protein up! If you are feeling way snackier JUST because there is food around that isn’t normally there, have a protein shake first. Every time. If you are feeling hungrier, use Level 1, as it is a slow digesting protein and will send signals to your brain that you are satiated for longer.
If you are constantly full and you know you aren’t hitting your protein goal, use Phormula 1 protein (without the ignition) as it is rapid digesting protein that won’t sit heavy on your stomach. Collagen is another really great way to get protein in- you can add it to anything. Unflavored, it has no taste or texture, but packs 15g of protein per scoop.
- Monitor your alcohol! Alcohol per gram is actually 7 calories, however, there is not a way to track this in a standard food tracking app. I recommend looking at the total number of calories and dividing by 4, logging a total number of grams of carbohydrates, since alcohol effectively treats your blood stream the same way that sugar does.
(Sorry, no, vodka and gin are not keto.)
A quick guide: a 5oz glass of wine is 120 calories, therefore you would log 30g of carbs per glass.
A shot of clear liquor is about 70 calories, so you would log 18g of carbs, plus any mixers.
A shot of dark liquor is about 80 calories, so you would log 20g of carbs, plus any mixers.
Beer ranges greatly, so read the labels or look up the type of beer that you are drinking and the amount and do the math the same way as above.
You can also search for liquors online- for example, Baileys or Horchata will have a different calorie count because they are also mixed with creams.
If you are drinking out, you can take a photo of the drink description and size and ask your coach for reference later.
You can also ask them to make the drink “less sweet”- they then won’t dump a ton of simple syrup in that you never would have know is there.
A good rule of thumb is to try ONE fancy drink out, and then stick to the basics of what you know you can monitor in your head.
- Stay so very consistent with your Opti Greens 50 and Microfactor!! Both pack all the nutrients you need to fill the many gaps that you will have over the holidays, plus digestive enzymes and probiotics to minimize the awful bloating and puffiness (especially if you like to have some cocktails- don’t miss these!!), AND they directly stimulate your intestines to produce the dopamine and serotonin that will help you to manage the added stress and chaos of the next two months.
If you do nothing else the entire holiday season, make sure you’re getting these in.
How the Heck Do I Stay Consistent with all the Chaos
Remember this: you can THRIVE in chaos.
- Adapt!! Movement is movement. Shovel snow, chop wood, go for hikes, run around and play with the kids. Build snowmen or a snow fort, make snow angels, whatever. All of that gets your heart rate up and gets you outside!
Use the bodyweight, super short workouts in the app (if you don’t have access to these, send Brenna a change request form, asking her to stack your programs!) If you have a day where you can get to the gym, cool! But if you can’t, do what you can.
- Be vocal about what you need!! Do not feel bad about saying that you’re going to step out for a quick walk. Let it slide off your back if relatives make comments or poke fun about your circuits or choices in meals. YOU quitting your movement or eating like crap isn’t going to make them like you better, and it will make you feel worse!
- Use the power list and adapt your expectations!! You might have to choose smaller tasks than normal but that’s okay, that’s life. If you don’t know, the power list are five things you choose each day that you must get done no matter what. They can change day to day depending on what’s going on, that’s the beauty of them. If you get them all, you win the day. If you don’t, call it what it is- you lost. Try again tomorrow!
- Recognize t
- Most importantly!! Lean on your coaches. Do not avoid us out of guilt or un-motivation or whatever!! We are not here to judge you, we are here to be in the trenches with you. We have answers and encouragement that you need, so please do not miss your check ins, especially through the holidays, and shoot Brenna or Sam a text any time you need to!!