How I Lost Weight During The Holidays


Last year I actually lost weight during the holidays. It was not a special diet but tweaking my eating habits that allowed me to lose 10 lbs during a time where most people gain 10 lbs. I don’t know about you, but most people come out of the holidays and into the new year broken and bloated.  Conventional wisdom begs the question, “how many pounds can I really gain between Thanksgiving and the new year?” Well, in my experience the answer is 14. Yes.  Once I gained 14 pounds in 14 days. Don’t ask. It was ugly. Last year, however, I decided to see if I could hold my weight in check during the month of parties, baked goods, and eating bonanzas. Not only was I able to keep my weight in check, surprisingly,  I was able to drop 10 lbs during the month of December. Crazy, isn’t it? Here’s how I did it.

Losing weight during the holidays

Don’t Stop Working Out. Keep up with your aerobic exercise.  If you aren’t doing it, then get started. I run, cycle, or do both at least 3 times a week. In the northern hemisphere the days are short and the tendency is to skip your workout. Don’t do it. Find a friend and keep each other accountable.

Exchange a Meal. Replaced one meal per day with a high-protein smoothie. Your body needs the protein and not all the carbs. You’ll be amazed how much better you’ll fee anyway.

Find Your Best Calorie. Not all treats, parties, or foods are created equal. Good stuff usually has a ton of calories. I’m thinking of one of my favorite appetizers, brie on croute: brie baked in puff pastry with brown sugar and pecans–about a million calories per serving. I didn’t give up the brie, but I also didn’t eat the Velveeta cheese ball or other high-caloric-and-yet-not-very-tasty treats. If I’m going to eat something high in calories and fat, I make sure it’s something I love and that’s not plastic cheese. Go ahead and be a calorie snob.

Regulate Your Appetite. You’ve always heard not to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. Well, I sometimes eat something high in protein and low in fat before leaving for a party that I know will feature a lot of tasty but unhealthy options. This way I’m not scarfing down a ton of sausage balls before I even realize it.

If You Fall, Get Back on the Horse Quickly. I know too many people who upon their first diet “fail” decide that “since I already broke the program, I might as well eat whatever I want.” A few nights ago I was getting some water in the kitchen and found a box filled with goodies from a French bakery. It was late, I was weak, and the box was gone a few minutes later. I felt bad about it but decided that the next day was a new opportunity to do it right. Much like each hole in golf, each day is another opportunity to make good choices, even food choices.

What’s your best holiday food strategy?

  • Bart Clemmons

    I'm the guy who once I "blow it" then decides I can eat whatever I want. That's not the smartest thing to do. Thanks for the post. I need to start exchanging meals right now.

  • Thanks, Maurilio, for this timely advice for not only staying healthy during the holidays, but feeling better. The first couple of weeks in December were crazy and I was only getting a workout in every second or third day. I began feeling really crummy. I started making the workouts priorities, and I feel better all day long and am probably getting more done in less time as a result.

    • If I skip workouts I feel terrible as well. It's part physical and part psychological. As I runner you know how awful you feel when you skip a run and see people running outdoors. Sometimes guilt is a good thing.

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  • I have my regulator on – as always. Thanks Maurilio! Got to run – on the treadmill that is!

    • I need to thank you for the "regulate your appetite" terminology. It has stuck as you can see.

  • Angie

    Honestly, we need the nutrients from green vegetables more than the protein; this Harvard website ( says we only need 60 grams / day (men & women of any size) – that's only 8 oz of chicken or 6 oz of tuna. The Harvard site says, "Excess dietary protein increases calcium loss in the urine, perhaps raising the risk for osteoporosis (more a worry for women) and kidney stones (a particular worry for men)."

    So instead of that Protein Shake – why not make a Green Smoothie and load up on nutrients?! A good Smoothie is 60% fresh fruit mixed with 40% green leafy vegetables, and oddly enough, satisfies a lot of cravings. Think it's weird to drink something green? Try it – it's addicting – in a good way!

  • Meryll

    Here's a different way of looking at those times when you blow it, either by overeating or underexercising. When you "fall off the wagon" (or the horse), the wagon/horse keeps moving and leaves you behind. Then you're left in a heap, in the dirt, feeling bad about yourself. A smart person once told me to think about these temporary failures as if I fell off a bike… the bike just sits there and waits, until I am ready to pick myself up and try again. The image works for me!

    • I like the bike picture as well. I'm using it. Thanks for sharing.

  • kevinscottbanks

    Wow, this is great advice Mo. I think the most important part to maintaining or even losing weight through the holiday season is having a plan. If we expect to make it through the barrage of junk food and mouth-stuffing without setting some ground rules, we're in for trouble.

    My question is, do you know where I can get a high protein smoothie that actually tastes good?

    • Well, Kevin, since you asked, let me tell you. If I am in Cool Springs, I'd got to 9 Fruits and get me a wholesome goods of a MoMango smoothie with extra protein. Unfortunately I live in Brentwood. I have often to settle for other options.

  • I saw the title of this post and thought, "Now, this I gotta see".

    Love the tips. Thanks for sharing.
    I work out regularly (the alarm goes off at 3:00 am) and while it's been challenging during December I think my body might be addicted to the endorphins by now.

    However, I have very little self-control when it comes to holiday treats and tend not to follow your last point. It's more like I push the horse out of the way because I dropped a cookie. Haha!

    • Love your horse analogy. Look at Meryll's comment above on the "bicycle" imagery.

  • Shari

    I am definitely a ‘calorie snob’ as you call it. I determine if it is “worth it calories”… if it is, a small amount is sufficient to make me feel that I’ve indulged. 🙂 Thank you for the list… I’m going to read it daily.

  • Rafael Bedin

    Legal Murilo! Difícil é manter o peso mesmo. Normalmente eu e minha esposa trocamos refeições(jantar) por um prato considerável de salada com um suco natural…. isso ajuda a manter o equilíbrio. Na região em que moro as opções são grandes, e as vezes caímos do cavalo mesmo! Tanto que há 2 semanas não me exercito, mas estou voltando hoje! Valeu pela dica… Abraços, Rafael – Brasil

  • SKnight

    Accidentally found your article today. It was motivating.  Speaking of gaining 14lbs during the holidays, I did it once about 10 years ago (From Thanksgiving to New Years, I gained 14lbs!).  Sadly,  I never lost the 14 lbs.  You’re motivating me to be more conscious during the holidays.  I will actually try to plan a healthy Christmas dinner and workout.  I never do that.  Thanks for sharing.

  • Great tips. Also, drink water. I find that I tend to drink less water when I’m not at my desk (off for the holidays), and it starts to show up in my weight.

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