The Updated Holiday Survival Guide

We’re just a couple weeks away until we get to enjoy the company of family and friends for Thanksgiving. Even better is the fact that most of us have multiple families to go visit, which means we have multiple meals to feast on. It’s the best when everyone in the family brings their A-game to the table to make some sort of dish or desert. Yep, it’s THE BEST!

So how do you get to enjoy these dishes guilt-free?

How is it possible to go through Thanksgiving and not dread gaining weight or ruining your current goals?

Well, you ultimately have to do something different than what you’ve been doing. If you’ve gained an absurd amount of weight over the past Thanksgivings and other holidays, there’s probably a reason for it. In wiser words: if you want to change something, you have to change something.

For starters, you have to make something healthy, of course…

A couple years ago I tried to “Wow” my family and I whipped up a sweet potato crock pot dish with some cranberry sauce and sweet chili peppers (with a little help from the girlfriend). It turned out alright, but the show was stolen by my cousin’s veggie tray (save the dip).


Just kidding.

But seriously, the veggie tray was a HIT! It was so much of a hit, in fact, that I did have her bring another one during Christmas as well. We still talk about that veggie tray to this day.

Often times, a healthy dish is neglected by the plethora of pies, cookies, and other deserts that family members bring. I remember the year following my sweet potato dish I decided to go the desert route and made a peanut butter cheesecake pie (again, with a lot of the girlfriend’s help).

Wait, a peanut butter cheesecake pie isn’t healthy…but it’s got peanut butter. And I used all-natural peanut butter, so it was definitely, healthy, right?

Sheeesh! It’s like if something is gluten-free it’s the best thing for you. That’s false and hardly the truth. Check out this article from Nerd Fitness to figure out more about gluten: What the Hell is Gluten?

And here’s a really great reference pic you can use to help you shop better and healthier:


Before I get anymore sidetracked on my tangent here, I better get back to the point.

First and foremost, do NOT be the “guy or gal that brings broccoli and tilapia to a wedding (holiday, in this case)”. I have loved that line since Joe Donnelly used it in one of his posts awhile back.   There’s no reason to be that person unless you are in the midst of an extreme competition of somewhat. That may be the only exception.

If you want to eat healthier, you have to choose healthier, but that’s extremely hard on most Thanksgiving tables.

So I’ll ask again: How do you enjoy these holiday meals guilt-free?

I already covered some basics behind the alcohol consumption that takes place over the holidays. If you missed that post, make sure to check it out here.

We can consider it like a Holiday Survival Guide of sorts.


To enjoy holiday meals guilt-free is to plan ahead.

Yep! It’s that simple. You have to plan ahead.

These are my points for planning ahead:

  • Make sure you work out that day. Like an extra set, extra 10 minutes of intervals, and an extra rep type of hard. There’s a reason why this is my first point. Hit all your muscle groups by training total body with maybe some extra emphasis on the lower body muscles. The bigger the lifts the better, but don’t overdo it. If you’re program consists of split or body building routines, make this day your heavy lower day or leg day, respectively. If you’re training total body, work in supersets (two exercises at once). I recommend two types of supersets:
  1. Lower Body/Upper Body Supersets (i.e. squats and rows, squats and pull-ups, deadlifts and shoulder press, or deadlifts and push-ups, etc.)
  2. Push/Pull Exercise w/a Metabolic Exercise (i.e. squat and jump rope or squat and battle rope, pull-ups and med ball slams, push-ups and sled pushes, deadlifts and burpees, etc.)

This workout should be done as close as possible to the meal or MEALS that you’ll be having on that day. For most people, this is usually done in the morning because there is plenty of travel and preparation going on throughout the day. I would love to say that I see a ton of people in the gym on these mornings, but that is not the case. There are usually just a couple of people in there. Too many people consider this a “free” day, like so many seem to do on the weekends, and that is a big mistake. Oh yeah, and add a metabolic finisher like some intervals or tabata training. A simple finisher could be something like this:

Speed Squats


Jumping Jacks

Speed Skips

*20 seconds of each exercise, rest for 10 seconds in between each exercise. Do for 4 minutes time (2 sets of each exercise) and rest for 2 minutes. Repeat once more*

  • If you are dieting, make this day your re-feed day. I’m not going to go into much detail on what re-feed days are. Let’s say if you are dieting or going through an extreme fat loss phase in your program, you need certain days to exceed your typical caloric intake by 2-3x. These days should happen every 7-10 days or so. By planning ahead, you can make the holiday your re-feed day, rather than your Saturday. Oh, and just a reminder, you have to work out this day too J.


  • Have a whey protein shake about 45 minutes before the meal. Consuming a protein shake of about 25 g for females and 40 g for males before a meal will help with satiety. It will literally make you feel full. If you are full, you will eat less (about 99% of the time, anyway).   You can thank the hormone “ghrelin” for this.


  • Eat veggies and protein first, and eat plenty of them. Eating your veggies will also help make you feel full because of all the fiber and slow digesting carbs. As I said in 3), protein will also help with this, but now you are eating whole-food protein which will help even more.


  • Have a little bit of everything. And by everything, I mean EVERYTHING. We want to try all the good stuff that’s on the table. So instead of having plate after plate after plate, with each trip consisting of you loading full helpings of each food, make the portion smaller and enjoy it all (INCLUDING THE VEGGIES!!!!).


  • Be happy and ENJOY the feast and company. I have plenty of clients who feel terrible after the holidays because of all the food and alcohol they have consumed. A lot of them act like it’s the only day out of the year that they’ve done such a thing…Without going on any further, enjoy the football, enjoy the family and friends, and enjoy the food. In other words: Enjoy the F,F,&F..andF.

Alright. There you have it. It’s a holiday survival guide. Use these tips to help get you through the holiday feasts and to help the pursuit in accomplishing your goals!

Happy feasting (and exercising)!