You’ve spent all year getting fit, working out in the gym, maxing out on your benchpresses, joining in all of the fun fitness activities around Mount Pleasant and Charleston…you’re in great shape (or at least on the way to getting there!).  And then come the holidays.  Parties, Christmas candies, holiday punches, wine, eggnog…it can sometimes feel like the days between Thanksgiving and New Years are the Dark Ages of wellness, where anything goes and all fitness goals go out the window.

According to, “Researchers at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging discovered that 51% of annual weight gain occurs during the holiday season. Winter weight gain is believed to be an important contributor to our nation’s obesity epidemic. A National Institutes of Health study also showed that holiday weight gain is usually not lost during the spring or summer months. Therefore, winter weight gain significantly contributes to increases in body weight that frequently occur during adulthood.”  So in a nutshell, the eating that happens from November-January SIGNIFICANTLY contributes to your overall weight gain.  So beyond just indulging, holiday eating can have serious consequences!

So what to do?  Luckily, some of our favorite experts have some healthy eating tips that will help you stay on track and maintain enough energy to hit the gym and stay fit.

Never Arrive to a Party Hungry

The fitness experts over at Men’s Fitness suggest a little healthy pre-eating before your holiday gatherings.  “Arriving ravenous spells disaster. Eat regular meals during the day; don’t skimp breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Then, before the event, have a snack with protein and a complex carbohydrate, such as a hard-cooked egg and a few whole-grain crackers or a smoothie made with fruit and Greek yogurt, to take the edge off. Also, start the night with a non-alcoholic drink to quench your thirst. Then, alternate your beer, wine, or cocktail with water to cut down your alcohol intake, curb calories, and stay hydrated.”

Eat Smart at the Party

Fitness Magazine has an entire article JUST about healthy food choices to stick to at a party, including Shrimp Cocktail.  ”Jumbo on protein and skimpy on fat and calories, this little crustacean may just be the best party appetizer there is. With just a few shrimp on your plate, you are less likely to gorge on the fattier options presenting themselves to you, because protein keeps you satisfied for longer.”

Geography Matters

The folks at Real Simple point out an obvious truth, when you stand by the goodies, you eat the goodies.  “Stand more than an arm’s length away from munchies, like a bowl of nuts or chips, while you chat so you’re not tempted to raise your hand to your mouth every few seconds.”

And finally…

Avoid Leftovers

US News suggests that even if you indulge for a night, be sure to end it there.  ”It’s easy to overindulge when the season of parties and leftovers – so many leftovers – is upon us. Avoid allowing ‘treats’ to become staples by not letting them linger in the house after the celebration has ended. When the party is over, it is time to dump the junk!”

And always remember that even though this is a time for festivities, maintaining an exercise routine during the holidays is essential.  Not only are you burning off those extra calories, working out may actually encourage you to eat better too.  Fitness Magazine puts it this way: “‘Healthy habits tend to cluster together,’ says Boston-based psychologist Eric Endlich, PhD. ‘When people make positive changes, like getting more exercise, they tend to work on other health improvements as well, such as eating better.’ The result? Weight loss.”  And even better, “People who exercise and diet are actually less hungry than those who only diet, according to a study in the Journal Obesity. Bonus: Your self-restraint is higher, too.”