The holidays are packed with traditions: Milk and cookies for Santa. The exchange of gifts with loved ones. Eggnog and cheeseballs. Knock-down, drag-out arguments about whether "Die Hard" is the best Christmas movie, or even a Christmas movie at all.
Another holiday tradition, though, is more alarming than charming: gaining unwanted pounds, courtesy of over-indulging, under-training, or both. There's a reason many people decide to embark on a fitness plan such Jim Stoppani's 6-Week Shortcut to Shred in January: to undo the damage wrought during December.
The truth is, the holidays can be enjoyed without undoing a year's worth of physique progress. By implementing a few helpful strategies before the holidays hit, you can ensure that you come out ready to rock a new set of goals in the coming year.
Hack 1: Go in with a Splurge Plan
"Have a plan for how much you are willing to splurge," advises IFBB pro Amy Updike. "If you want to keep sweets out of the picture, then plan on it and stick to it!"
It's important that you do treat yourself to something, otherwise you'll trudge through the holidays like a convict serving a sentence. So, choose one or two things to treat yourself to in advance, and then refrain from eating everything else.
"Don't change your plan just because of the enticing spread in front of you at a gathering," adds Updike.
Hack 2: Factor in Some Leeway
"If you know you'll have 1-2 days of eating extra carbs, fats, and sugars, take that week and change your approach to hitting your macros for the week rather than the day," suggests IFBB pro Jessie Hilgenberg.
One 24-hour period isn't going to make or break your physique; your body weight will be dictated by what you eat over a number of consecutive 24-hour periods.
"If you calculate your macros and know you're supposed to have 180 grams of carbs per day, that totals 1,260 grams per week," she says. "If you know that you'll have 350 grams in that one day—the holiday feast, for instance—900-925 grams of carbs have to be spread among six remaining days."
Sounds more doable, right? That's a decrease of only 30 or so grams per day in order to eat without guilt on that one day.
Hack 3: Serve Up a Daily Green Juice or Smoothie
One area most people struggle with during the holidays is taking in enough greens. Fitness and lifestyle coach Lais DeLeon offers an easy fix for that problem: Drink green juice daily throughout the holidays.
"These drinks are important to ensure that you can hit your veggie servings easily and feel your best during each day of the holidays," she explains.
By starting off your day with a green smoothie, you're keeping health in mind, which is a surefire way to guarantee that you at least have a good dose of energy going into your day. Not sure what greens product to use? Bodybuilding.com offers any number of greens supplements.
Hack 4: Track the Little Things
One of the biggest reasons people fall off track during the holidays is because they simply take a little bit of this and a little bit of that—a little bit of everything, basically. Since it's so spread out, they don't see how much it's adding up.
If each "little bit" you eat is approximately 100 calories, and you do this 10 times during the day, you've just accumulated 1,000 calories total. That puts you on the fast track to weight gain.
Hack 5: Set Aside Time for Food Prep
The holidays are always busy. But that doesn't mean you can stop prepping healthy meals. You should still be pre-cooking as many meals as possible and loading them into containers so you aren't left without good options.
"If you have healthy options readily available, you're less likely to hit the drive-thru or grab unhealthy options for the sake of convenience," notes DeLeon.
Hack 6: Master Correct Portion Sizes
"Do some research on what measurements look like," instructs Hilgenberg. "Spend the next couple of days or weeks practicing what 1 serving of mashed potatoes is, or 5 ounces of prime rib. That way, when the day arrives, you know approximately how much you should be eating."
It's great to eat healthfully, but healthy food can still be overeaten. Pro tip: Calories are calories, and any excess can potentially be converted into body fat.
Hack 7: Use a Next-Meal Rule
One tip DeLeon uses to keep herself on track is what she calls her Next-Meal Rule. She doesn't follow any sort of strict diet, and she enjoys her favorite foods and desserts when she wants them.
"My only rule is that the next meal is healthy, nutritious, and has sensible portion sizes and is based around a generous serving of protein and vegetables," she says.
In other words, one indulgence in a vacuum isn't what sets you back—it's what you do next that makes all the difference in the world.
So, don't let this holiday season sabotage your health and fitness. Implement these seven tips, and January 1 will feel like any other day of the year, rather than a time for penance.
Want more info about fitness nutrition? Check out Bodybuilding.com's Foundations of Fitness Nutrition course to learn the essentials of eating right for any goal.