How to Stay on Your Diet and
Stay in Shape Over the Holidays by
Tom Venuto - author of
Burn The Fat, Feed The
My mom makes the most
amazing Christmas cake in the world; it's been a tradition in our family for as
long as I can remember.
First, she mixes up a light,
fluffy, vanilla cake mix, pours it into the pans and then pops it in the oven.
After it's been baked, she stacks the cake in three layers with whipped cream
spread generously between each layer. She then pours on red and green Jell-O,
which gets soaked up inside the cake. Next, whipped cream is smothered all the
way around for frosting. And finally, she garnishes it with red and green
sprinkles. A few red and green-striped candy canes are stuck in the top as the
finishing touch, and off it goes to the refrigerator so it can be served
Now let me tell you, as a
bodybuilder, I have a lot of discipline. But when that moist, delicious, red
and green, Jell-O- filled, whipped-cream covered cake is sitting on the table
in front of me on December 25th, it takes every ounce of my willpower to keep
from calling it a "very high carb day" and devouring numerous very large
Despite the temptation, I
don't "pig out" nor do I deprive myself. Instead, I'm content with eating my
single piece, savoring every mouthwatering bite, all the while repeating my
mantra, "nothing tastes as good as being ripped feels."
The next day, on December
26th, I'm on the bike or Stairmaster at the crack of dawn, followed by six
perfect meals of lean protein and complex carbohydrate - just like every other
day of the year.
A week later, on December
31st, I usually go out for a nice dinner (very naughty food, I must admit), and
then we toast champagne to the New Year at midnight. I'm in bed at a reasonable
hour shortly thereafter.
Unless it's a scheduled day
of rest on New Years day, I'm not groggy and hung over like many of my friends
are. I'm in the gym squatting, bench pressing, curling, or "stairmastering"
just like I usually am.
And here's the point: You
can and should enjoy the holidays. You can enjoy being with family and going
out with friends. You can go to holiday parties and have fun. You can enjoy a
few "naughty" meals. You can have some cake and a glass or two of champagne.
There's no reason why you can't enjoy yourself AND stay healthy, lean and fit
through the holidays. All it takes is some planning, some goal-setting and
little dose of old-fashioned discipline.
I'd like to share with you
10 ways that you can follow your diet and stay in great shape over the holidays
without turning into a miserable Scrooge. If you follow this advice, then
you'll be one of the proud few with a New Year's resolution to be the best
you've ever been in 2002 - instead of one of the guilt-ridden many who must
resolve to reclaim what they lost in 2001.
1. EXPECT TO STAY ON YOUR
PROGRAM OVER THE HOLIDAYS
"Fail to plan and you plan
to fail" is a time worn and clichéd statement, but it's still some of
the best success advice you will ever hear.
Not only do most people fail
to plan, they consciously plan to fail over the holidays. Most people expect to
"blow" their diet and skip workouts over the holidays. They expect to eat more,
to exercise less and to gain weight. As a result, they don't even make the
Instead of taking control,
they resign themselves to maintenance at best, or back-sliding at worst. This
negative expectancy leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. By the first week of
January, they're in the worst shape they've been in for a year and they
frantically make New Year's resolutions to shed the excess fat they've
You can avoid this trap by
planning to succeed. Set up a positive expectation. Resolve now that you will
not tolerate slipping backwards. Keep your standards up and don't settle! Not
only can you plan to "stay in shape" over the holidays, you can plan to
improve! All you have to do is make the decision and expect success.
2. PLAN ALL YOUR WORKOUTS
You know your schedule is
going to get hectic over the holidays. You'll be cooking, shopping, wrapping
gifts, sending cards, going to parties, traveling, visiting family, and so on.
To stay on your training and nutrition regimen is definitely going to take some
sound time management skills.
Plan your schedule in
advance. Anticipate what's coming up. Write it down. Put it on your calendar.
By doing so, you won't be caught unprepared.
Use a schedule book or
monthly calendar and "make appointments" for ALL your workouts for the next six
weeks in advance. Then, post a copy where you will be forced to look at it
every day. This is a powerful exercise that will keep you focused and force you
to think about and prepare for each upcoming workout.
If you try to "wing it" and
squeeze in your workouts and meals whenever you have time left over, you'll
find that there never IS any time left over! Somehow your daily activities
always seem to "expand" to fill the hours in every day. So schedule your
workouts and meal times in your calendar just like you would any other
appointment or event. Once you've done that, stick to your schedule
3. SET SOME COMPELLING
TRAINING AND FITNESS GOALS OVER THE HOLIDAY PERIOD
Don't wait until January 1st
to set your goals just because you think it will be harder to achieve them over
the holidays. On the contrary, studies on personal achievement have shown that
you'll usually reach 80% of the goals you put onto paper. The problem is that
few people set any goals at all, and fewer still set them during the holidays.
Why wait? Why not do it now?
Set some big goals that you can start working on during the holidays:
Set a goal to lose the 25
lbs you've always wanted to lose NOW Set the goal to gain 10 lbs of solid
muscle NOW! Been contemplating a competition in bodybuilding, fitness or the
new ladies figure division? Pick an early spring show and GO FOR IT - START
Goal setting should not be a
once a year affair, it should be a continuous process. You should always have
your goals in writing and your list should be regularly updated and rewritten.
If you only set goals once a year, you're not going to accomplish much in your
4. GIVE YOURSELF
PERMISSION TO HAVE CHEAT DAYS - AND SCHEDULE THEM IN
A planned "cheat day" helps
you to stay on your program better in the long run. If you're too strict all
the time, you're setting yourself up for cravings and bingeing.
One cheat meal per week will
have only a minor effect on your physique. If you've been on a strict, low carb
and/or low calorie regimen, a cheat meal might actually be good for you! It
will boost your metabolic rate and give your body the signal that you're not
starving and that it's ok to keep burning a lot of calories.
Over the holidays, schedule
your "cheat days" on the days you have dinners and parties. Then, on the other
days of the week, be steadfast! Just the fact that you know you have a "cheat
day" coming up will relieve the pressure of staying on a strict diet for a long
Also, when you do have your
cheat meal - ENJOY IT! If you're going to eat it and feel guilty, then don't
have it at all. If you've stayed with the program all week long, then when
"cheat day" rolls around, you deserve it!
5. IF YOU FALL OFF THE
WAGON, GET RIGHT BACK ON IT
So you had about a dozen too
many of those Christmas cookies did you? Don't worry; because you have cheat
days built into your plan, you shouldn't let guilt immobilize you. Even if you
fall completely off the wagon, don't beat yourself up. All you have to do is
get right back on your program without missing another beat.
Too many people mess up once
and then think their entire diet is ruined. They feel as if everything they've
done prior to that day was wasted and there's no sense going on. Or even worse,
they rationalize to themselves, "Well, I already cheated, so it doesn't matter
now, I might as well keep pigging out."
That's nonsense. If you
threw in the towel every time you didn't score 100% on your diet, most people
would never get through more than a few days on any structured program. Just
because you mess up once doesn't mean you should quit! You're only human. Don't
let one small slip keep you derailed. Firmly plant your wheels back on the
tracks and start rolling again.
6. MAINTAIN YOUR
CONSISTENT EATING SCHEDULE
If there's one thing that
all people who successfully get lean and stay lean have in common, it's
consistency. Without it, you never get any momentum going. It's like taking two
steps forward, only to take three steps back.
Many people allow the busy
Holidays to throw them off their regular eating schedule. They completely veer
off their usual five or six small meals per day, or they start eating foods
they would normally never eat (because "it's there").
You have to keep your
metabolic engine revving all year round. Once you have it going, it's fairly
easy to keep it going. But once you lose it, it's very difficult to get it
going again because you must overcome inertia all over again. (An object at
rest tends to stay at rest!)
On the major holidays, when
there's a big dinner scheduled, many people think that skipping their morning
and afternoon meals to "save room" for the big one later is a good idea. It's
not. This is a sure-fire way to invite a binge that could set your back for
Don't lose your consistency
or your momentum. Continue with your pattern of eating small, frequent meals
all year round. All you have to do is count your holiday dinners as one of your
regular meals and keep them small.
7. CONTROL YOUR PORTION
You can have your cake and
eat it too - you just can't eat the whole thing! One of the most important
rules to remember this holiday season is the law of energy balance, which
states: To lose body fat, you must consume fewer calories than you burn up each
There are two corollaries to
the law of energy balance:
1. Too much of ANYTHING gets
stored as fat - even healthy food. 2. Small amounts of anything - even junk
food - will probably NOT get stored as fat as long as you don't indulge too
There's no reason to deprive
yourself of things you enjoy. Just make sure you don't overindulge. As long as
you enjoy your favorite foods in moderation, and you keep working out, it
probably won't end up around your waistline.
8. DON'T BUY INTO THE LOW
STANDARDS AND EXPECTATIONS OF OTHERS
Keep your standards high,
but don't expect other people's standards to be as high as yours. Remember that
most people have already planned in advance to fail at fitness over the
holidays. You've decided to stay strong. Don't let their negative influence
drag you down.
When you've reached your
pre-ordained drink limit, say "when" and switch to water or a non alcoholic,
non caloric beverage. When they offer you seconds on dessert, politely say, "no
thank you, it was absolutely delicious, but I'm full, I can't eat another
bite." And when the wee hours of the morning start to roll around, and your
friends are egging you on to keep partying, politely tell them you need your
sleep. Tomorrow is a work out day. If they're really your friends, they'll
9. MAKE THE BEST CHOICES
POSSIBLE IN EVERY SITUATION
You know those tables you
see at holiday parties that are covered with yards of chips, dips, pretzels,
cookies, salami, candies, punch, liquor, and a seemingly endless assortment of
other goodies? Well, did you also notice that there is usually a tray full of
carrot sticks, cauliflower, celery and other healthy snacks too?
No matter where you are, you
always have choices. Sometimes you have to choose between bad and worse. Other
times you can choose between good and better. But always make the best choice
possible based on whatever your options are. If nothing else, you can choose to
eat a small portion of something bad rather than a huge portion, thereby
obeying the law of calorie balance.
Chances are good that
there's probably something healthy on the menu at every holiday gathering. As
you know, lean proteins and fibrous carbs are a great for getting lean, so fill
up on the turkey breast, try to get a vegetable in there, and go easy on the
10. IF YOU DRINK, ENJOY
ALCOHOL IN MODERATION
If you enjoy having a few
drinks on special occasions, then go ahead and have a drink or two. But if
you're serious about your fitness goals, you must drink infrequently and in
moderation. Alcohol almost totally inhibits your body's ability to metabolize
body fat. When there's alcohol in your bloodstream, you're not in fat burning
I've never met anyone in my
life that was truly serious about fitness or bodybuilding who was a heavy
drinker. Alcohol and muscles just don't mix.
The impact goes beyond added
body fat; your energy levels and workouts can be ruined for days after a night
of heavy drinking. A glass of wine actually has some health benefits. But
there's NEVER any never reason or excuse for binge drinking or getting
So go ahead and toast to the
New Year, but know when to say when.
This is a special time of
the year; you can and should enjoy it. However, taking a six-week "vacation"
from the gym doesn't make any sense - ever. There's no reason to let your
training and nutrition program spoil your holidays, but there's also no reason
to let your holidays spoil your training and nutrition program either!
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This article originally appeared in the
December 2001 issue of Tom Venuto's Bodybuilding and Fitness Secrets (BFS)
Newsletter. If you enjoyed this article and would like to receive others like
it for free every month, you can subscribe to BFS here:
Tom Venuto is a bodybuilder, gym
owner, freelance writer, success coach and author of "Burn the Fat, Feed The
Muscle" (BFFM): Fat Burning Secrets of the World's Best Bodybuilders and
Fitness Models. Tom has written over 150 articles and has been featured in
IRONMAN magazine, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development, Muscle-Zine,
Exercise for Men and Mens Exercise. Tom's inspiring and informative
articles on bodybuilding, weight loss and motivation are featured regularly on
dozens of websites worldwide. For information on Tom's "Burn The Fat" e-book,