The holiday season is upon us. While it’s wonderful to spend time with friends and family, it’s also a prime time to pack on the pounds (if you’re not careful).

Here are my tips on how to navigate the upcoming parties and celebrations in order to stay lean while still enjoying yourself:

  1. Don’t Finish. You’re not required to try allthe food at the buffet table; nor are you obligated to eat everythingon your plate.
  2. Go Smaller. Cut down on your portion size and – while you’re at it – use a smaller plate, too. Holiday feasts can be wicked on the waistline so take just one serving and stop.
  3. Go Drier. Alcohol consumption should be controlled. Try splitting a glass of wine, beer or spirits or alternating a serving of soda water with a harder drink. Nurse your glass and savior each sip. High intensity drinking is not an admirable skill for serious triathletes.
  4. Pre-Load. Eat a small healthy fat snack before you go out. It will stimulate your satiety hormones, which will help put the brakes on your urge to overeat.  I usually have a handful of walnuts, a few olives or some sliced cheese before a party so I’m not circling the buffet table like a buzzard.
  5. Last Call. Stop consuming food and drink early in the evening, if possible. Multi-course meals that extend late into the night have been shown to contribute to weight gain and disrupt your sleep cycle.
  6. Give it a Rest. Focus on adequate sleep. Lack of sleep is common during the holidays and increases the probability of weight gain. As mentioned in point #5 above, avoid going to sleep on a full stomach… allow your body to work on recovery and repair, not digestion!
  7. Gut Feelings. Take a daily probiotic that contains at least 30 billion CFUs. Read the back label and make sure that 60% are from the different strains of Bifidobacterium. During the holidays, your GI tract and immune system can be bombarded and a probiotic will help keep your system in balance.
  8. Keep Moving. Make yourself – and your personal workouts — a priority, even if it’s only for 20 minutes per day! Get out first thing every morning and design your schedule with a commitment to exercise.
  9. Family Affair. We love spending time with our friends and family during the holidays, so why not invite them to join you on a vigorous walk or an easy jog?  Most everyone will appreciate the opportunity to get out of the house together and do something healthy.
  10. Stay Mindful. If you overindulge (and occasionally most of us do), don’t beat yourself up about it… but don’t make it a habit! Weigh yourself now, and stay aware of your day-to-day fluctuations.  I advise my athletes to limit holiday weight gain to no more than 2% of their normal body weight. Remind yourself that – if you’re tempted to reach for that second or third helping — shedding the extra weight is difficult, and will delay your progress for months!

I’m no Scrooge, but I also don’t like to see my athletes squander months of disciplined training from just 2 weeks of overindulging.

With a well-designed plan and a bit of moderation, you’ll have a festive holiday season without any guilt. Then, when you return to serious training, you won’t have missed a beat!