As the holiday season gets underway, a common thought process I hear around this time of year centers around the idea that one can’t (or more often doesn’t want to) diet or even fathom the idea of dieting through all the holiday festivities. I mean, I don’t blame you – Christmas cookies are another way to my heart, but what if you’re a competitor? What if you just started prep… what do you do? Well, you diet through the holidays! This is often seen as a taboo subject, but it is very doable.
Why would you want to diet through the holidays to begin with?
This is a question I often get this time of year if I am prepping, which I am currently. Fun fact – I was gearing up to start my very first prep right around the holidays! I’ve had my fair share of off seasons throughout them as well. While there are plenty of challenges on both sides of the spectrum, contest preparation is obviously strict and requires a certain level of discipline and restraint which is why a lot of people don’t feel too keen on prepping this time of year. So, to answer this question, I’d say that it depends on the individual and their planning. If you really want to step on stage and your timeline has to include Thanksgiving, Christmas, and maybe even New Years, then that is 100% your choice to prep in the first place and you need to adjust accordingly. Of course, we also have to remember important tools like diet breaks and refeeds, but that is another level to this that would be context dependent for the athlete.
How to manage prepping and the holidays
This not only goes for the holidays themselves, but also for the plethora of holiday parties and events this season tends to bring. The minute Christmas is about to come around, my house gets overtaken by holiday sweets and temptations (something we all can relate to, I’m sure), but I’ve come to find simple ways to make prepping work for me around this time of year.
Tip #1: Change your mindset
First thing to think about is your mindset! We all know prep is a choice, so if you’re going to prep commit to that choice and understand the timeline you may have to work with. Another huge thing I think we can all take something from is how we choose to think about the holidays. It may just be my black heart (ha) but thinking about the holidays as if they’re just another day in the week is an important step we can make here. It’s engrained in us to celebrate with food – food is social! However, when you think about it, the holidays are really only 3, maybe 4, days out of this season? With that said, treating the holidays as any other dinner out or your average social event is huge in how we can perceive even prepping around this time of year.
Tip #2: It’s not just about food
Another key part here revolves around the food and the people. Remember that the holidays and the events are about spending time with family and friends and making memories – the food is just a small part of that. I often talk through this dilemma with my clients and my best piece of advice is to remember that the food will always be there! The deficit is temporary and there are plenty of times and places for us to indulge in the things we enjoy. This also applies to prepping in general, not just the holiday season, so there will be a level of restraint and discipline needed whether or not we have Christmas cookies in the oven.
Tip #3: Making it work
In our previous newsletter, we gave you the rundown on how to navigate your Thanksgiving meal. Now if you’re in prep, you can definitely take some good advice there and apply it to the holidays, just with a bit more planning on your end. A great tip I like to use for any event or dinner that I know I’ll be attending is to track that meal at the start of the day! This ensures that I made room for it and allows me to go about my day knowing I can enjoy dinner with my family and friends.
Thankfully, I (and hopefully you!) have a solid support system at home, which helps immensely – my parents always offer some modified and simple (aka no butter/oil, etc.) variations of vegetables and proteins for me to enjoy if I were prepping during an event like this. If you have a bit more resistance in that department, it’s worth saying that there’s no shame in prepping some of your own food to bring along, or even making a side dish to bring so you know what you’re getting. Cardio and training will vary for the athlete depending on where you’re at in your season, but I always suggest carving out some time in the morning to get a good training session in first thing.
Overall, there’s really no special approach when it comes to prepping this time of year. It just comes down to being prepared for it and adhering like you do any other day on prep! It may feel daunting or weird if you’ve never prepped through a holiday around family and friends, but at the end of the day you need to stick to your guns and remember why you’re doing this.