Prepare Yourselves, the Holidays are Coming…

Make Your Plan Now to Break the Holiday Cycle, and End 2020 Feeling better than Ever!

Photo by Madison Inouye on

The Holiday Cycle

I am writing this post in October 2020, in preparation for the Holiday season. Starting with Halloween, and ending with New Years, there are many holidays observed and celebrated between October and January. For a lot of us, the holidays are a time to celebrate with friends and family, and also to eat, drink, and be merry.

If we are not careful, the holidays can also be a time of overindulgence, which leads to a viscous cycle:

  1. Over eating/drinking from October-January.
  2. Realizing in January that the holidays have had a negative impact on our waistline.
  3. Making a New Years resolution, losing (most of) the excess weight and inches gained during the holidays.
  4. When we reach October, start again at step 1…

Have you ever found yourself in this cycle? I know I have. Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to enjoy, but also moderate the holidays, so we did not have to dig out of a hole every January 1? Think about cleaning out your house or garage…is it easier to clean a cluttered room from top to bottom, or to keep it clean and organized? I pick option 2 personally.

Let’s Talk About the Holiday Cycle

Breaking the Holiday Cycle

What if I told you that you could make a plan to navigate the holidays, and you wouldn’t need to make a new years resolution this year to dig out of the holiday slump? There is a way to enjoy the holidays and still be healthy, and it starts right now.

Make a Plan

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on

Instead of a New Years resolution, make an October 22 resolution; resolve to focus on your health and well-being between now and January 1, and make a plan. Before making a plan for where you want to finish, let’s take an inventory of where we are starting from in the following areas:

Physical Measurements

Physical measurements can provide a snapshot of where you are right now, and can serve as helpful check points during, and after the Holidays. A few examples:

  1. A photo/mirror selfie
  2. Weight
  3. Circumferences: Measure around your waist, arms, hips, legs.
  4. Body composition/body fat %

You may or may not want to make goals to improve these measurements, that is a personal decision. Certainly, you want to set a goal to maintain these measurements…we do not want to add pounds, body fat, or inches during the Holidays.

Exercise and Movement

Make a journal of how much you move and exercise during a week, and count everything. Your journal should log physical activity each day. Examples of exercise and movement to track:

  1. Steps per day
  2. Cardio exercise-Include type, duration (time), distance (if applicable)
  3. Weight training- Include type of exercise, sets, repetitions
  4. Body weight training- Include type of exercise, sets, repetitions
  5. Physical work- If you work Construction (for example), yard work, etc. include type of activity, duration, frequency (how many times per week)
  6. Stretching, Yoga, recovery activities like foam rolling- Include type of activity, and duration (how long)

Once you have a baseline of your physical activity level, ask yourself, are you happy with your current levels of physical activity? The answer may very well be, yes! If yes, make your goal not to compromise during the holiday season, commit to maintaining your weekly activity levels from now through January.

If you are not happy with your activity levels, make a plan to increase them between now and January 1. For example, if you currently have no exercise routine, you could set a goal as basic as 8,000 steps per day, no matter what. 8,000 steps per day requires no Gym membership, and provides a gaunteed baseline of physical activity every day.


Keep a journal and log what you eat and drink for an entire week. This is important for you to see how you are currently eating, and also decide if you want to make any modifications/improvements during the Holidays. I am not going to ask you to focus on counting calories or macro nutrients, that is not sustainable or helpful for most people. However, here are some key things to look for when you analyze your food journal:

  1. What are you drinking, other than water? Write it all down, include serving size (how much).
  2. Do you drink alcohol? If yes, write down how many drinks each day.
  3. How many items you eat or drink contain sugar or artificial sweetener Write it all down, include serving size (how much).
  4. How many items contain processed grain?
  5. How many items contain processed oil?
    1. For tips on identifying processed food, see my previous blog post here.
  6. What times of the day do you eat your meals?

Similar to exercise, ask yourself, are you happy with your diet (what you eat)? If yes, make a plan to not fundamentally change it during the holidays, and plan your treats very intentionally. If you are not happy with your diet, let’s make a plan to change one thing between now and January, AND plan your treats very intentionally.

For example, if you drink soda, or other beverages with sugar or artificial sweetener, you could make a goal to gradually phase these items out between now and January.


Take an inventory of markers of stress in your life. For example:

  1. Do you have a negative reaction if someone criticizes you?
  2. Do you worry about what others think of you on a daily basis?
  3. How is your self talk? Do you think positive, encouraging thoughts to yourself?
  4. How many hours per night do you sleep?

Sleep is the number 1 low hanging fruit when it comes to managing stress, striving for 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night will have a positive impact on many health markers. It is important to take an inventory of stressors within our day to day life, as these can impact our ability to focus and follow through on goals.

If a Holiday gathering is a stressful environment, or you come into it stressed, eating or drinking to feel better may result. We want to make sure we are eating because we truly enjoy the meal, so being mindful of stress can be a secret weapon to successful and healthy holidays.

Track Your Plan

Once you have your baseline measurements/goals, and your plan, you need to start tracking progress weekly. Here is an example of a very basic plan, and what tracking looks like:


  1. Maintain my body weight and circumference measurements
  2. 8,000 steps per day, 7 days per week
  3. Eliminate soda
  4. Sleep 7 hours per night

Tracking Journal:

  1. This week, I weighed myself and measured circumferences, no changes!
  2. This week, I averaged 8,200 steps per day, however I only achieved 5,000 steps on Sunday. While I am happy with my progress, I need to hold myself accountable and find a way to get all of my steps in, even on days off.
  3. This week, I only drank 1 soda, which is a huge improvement from my usual routine of 1 soda per day. I had the 1 soda as a treat on Sunday, this week I am going to look for alternative treats that I enjoy just as much (like seltzer with a little fresh fruit).
  4. This week, I slept for 7 hours during the week, but only 4-5 on the weekend. I realize that my habit of staying up late and watching TV is impacting my ability to get the sleep I need, and I know I need a plan to change this pattern. This week, I will set a limit to my TV time, and give myself a “bedtime” on the weekend to assure I am targeting 7 hours.

For this example, I made a goal in each major category. You might decide to make more than one, but 1 goal in each area will do wonders during the holidays if you are successful. Also, when you track each goal weekly, always think about (and write down) what you will do to hold yourself accountable and improve the following week.

Make “Micro Plans”

Tracking your plans and goals during a standard week leading up to the holidays is very important, but not nearly as important as making a specific plan when you have a holiday coming up. For example, if you roll into Thanksgiving week with no plan, here is a very real scenario which could manifest itself:

  1. You don’t meet your exercise goals because you are busy at work, and prepping for the big day.
  2. You eat and drink too much Wednesday while prepping for the big day.
  3. You eat and drink WAY too much on Thursday.
  4. You eat too much the rest of the weekend, because, leftovers…

What causes us set backs are not the holidays themselves, after all these are only 1 day events. However, 5 straight days of over indulgence will set your health, fitness, and sleep back quite significantly. The 5 days described above will also start a pattern as you continue through the end of the year…hence,, the holiday cycle.

If you make a plan for Thanksgiving (or any holiday), you can control the outcome, rather than having the event control you. For example, using Thanksgiving (again):

  1. I will get my 8,000 steps per day, no matter what this week.
  2. I will get 10,000 steps on Thanksgiving Day.
  3. I will not change my meal routine the week of Thanksgiving, and I will truly enjoy the food and drink on the Holiday.
  4. On the Holiday, I will enjoy the food and time with my family. In order to help me not overeat, I will limit myself to 1 desert, which will be apple pie with Ice Cream.
  5. On Friday, I will return to my normal routine of meals. If I am still full from Thursday, I will listen to my body, and only eat breakfast if I am hungry (not because it is time to eat).
  6. I will only eat left overs if they fit into my meal plan, I will not eat leftovers because I feel I have to, or as a “treat”.

Strategies for Success

Thinking about getting ready for the Holidays, consider these helpful tips:

  1. Do not eat or drink something if you do not really enjoy it. Have you ever put something on your plate just because it is there, but you don’t really like it? This is a really easy way to overeat. So, if you do not really and truly love mashed potatoes (for example) just skip them, and eat the things you do enjoy!
  2. Identify “Trigger Foods”. Trigger Foods are foods that you are unable to stop eating once you have a little bit, and they are different for everyone. If you are unable to have 1 bite of Grandma’s apple pie without having 5 slices, considering saying “no thank you”.
  3. Do not “Stress Eat”. Eat food because you truly enjoy it, not because Uncle Rob is stressing you out by talking politics. If stress eating and trigger foods have been a challenge for you in the past, make your plan now on how you will navigate them this year.
  4. Exercise on the day of the holiday. Exercise on a day you know that you are going to consume more food than usual helps reinforce healthy patterns. Do not see exercise as a punishment for eating Holiday foods, see it as an affirmation that you have been making healthy choices and you will continue to do so.
  5. Use Intermittent Fasting. Intermittent Fasting means going at strategic intervals without eating, or drinking beverages with calories. I mentioned above to only eat when you are hungry, here is the reality; when we eat significantly more food than we do on a normal day, we create a calorie surplus. Here is how intermittent fasting may help around a Holiday like Thanksgiving:
    1. Intentionally skip Breakfast that morning
    2. Wait until you are hungry to eat the day after, rather than just habitually eating because it is breakfast time
  6. Return to your normal routine immediately after the holiday. Having this as a well established plan will help you steer clear of an entire weekend of treats, and leftover indulgence. If you have a plan to enjoy your holiday meal(s), and immediately go back to your routine, you limit the possibility of establishing new (less healthy) patterns that will sink.

In Summary

To own the Holidays this year, and start January feeling even better than you do now:

  1. Assess where you are with physical measurements, exercise, stress, and nutrition.
  2. Make a specific plan (Goals) either to maintain, or improve in these areas
  3. Track your progress weekly, keeping a journal and working with an accountability partner are great ways to stay on track.
  4. Make “Micro Plans” to get ready for each Holiday, to make sure you enjoy your favorite foods, while also keeping your new healthy patterns.
  5. Always go back to your plan after each Holiday, do not create multiple days in a row of over indulgence.

I will check back in with you soon about how my Holidays are going, I am going to start training for Thanksgiving now! Posts to come later about how the plan is going, and fun Holiday workouts.

My Top Keto Diet Tips

Program Summary

This post is a summary of a 4 week Keto Diet program I completed, with top tips and observations. If you have not had a chance to following along with my posts, please take a few moments to look at the introduction and summary post. In particular, the introduction post is helpful to give you an idea of why people try the Keto Diet, and also outlines the parameters I followed during the Keto Diet.

Introduction of the Keto Diet

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Before and After: 4 Weeks of Keto




Before: 196.2 lbs

After: 195.8 lbs

*Both photos and weights taken after a morning run.

Best Deadlift

Before: (best 4 sets of a workout): 225 x 5,5,5; 255×3- Total work (total weight x total reps)= 4,140 lbs

After: 225 x 5,5,5,5- Total work= 4,500 lbs

Best Run

Before: 4.9 miles, no breaks, 48:12.

After: Same 4.9 mile loop, no breaks, 44:30.

*Please see thoughts about this running improvement under Keto and exercise.

Best Pull Up Set

Before: 6,6,5,5,5

After: 7,7,6,6,4

Keto and Exercise

Can you exercise on Keto? Don’t you need carbs for energy? These are common questions which arise, and I put them to the test during my 4 week programs. In basic terms, there are certain types of exercise which are well suited to using ketones as fuel. These are sub-maximal exercises which are aerobic (with oxegen) in nature, for example:

  1. Jogging
  2. Walking
  3. Hiking
  4. Cycling

Exercises/sports which require maximal strength and power output and are anaerobic (without oxygen) in nature are not well suited to be fueled by blood ketones, examples include:

  1. Power Lifting
  2. Track and Field Throws
  3. Sprinting
  4. Gymnastics

What I found is that my jogging and walking felt great on Keto, and I believe this is based on the type of exercise it is and being more aerobic in nature. On the other hand, weightlifting was ok in the beginning when I was shooting for 20 grams of carbs daily, but it wasn’t great. I found that by increasing my total carbs to between 30-40 grams per day (which is still very low), I found that my weight lifting felt much better, and I still felt the benefits of ketosis on my walks and jogs.

So, for me, I was able to be quite successful exercising while on Keto, and also needed to be mindful to add some carbs back in based on my frequency, intensity, and type of exercise.

A Word on Measuring Progress/Success

The reason I included many before and after comparisons as part of my post is to encourage anyone reading this to think holistically about health and well-being when trying out any new plan/routine. Using weight on a scale alone can be a popular measure of success, and it certainly has its place in helping to document progress related to lifestyle changes. However, it is possible for you to not lose any weight, or even gain a pound or two over a period of time, but still be making progress.

For my example, I did not lose any weight to speak of on Keto, and this does not surprise me for a few reasons. One reason is that I was not trying to lose weight, in other words I was not intentionally restricting the amount of food I ate with the goal of weight loss. Reason number two is that I have been following a theme of eating real food and cutting out junk for about 3 months, and at the time I started Keto I had already lost around 13 lbs. I did not measure body composition to know for sure about fat loss, but I am making an educated guess that I lost mostly fat based on my photos and the fact that my strength numbers improved.

Other ideas to help measure progress/success could be:

  1. Waist circumference.
  2. How clothing fits.
  3. Body composition/body fat %.
  4. Food journal.
  5. Exercise journal.

The Benefits

In spite of what you may have heard, Keto is not intended to be a weight loss diet; the main purpose of eating Keto is to use Fat/Ketone bodies as fuel, rather than Sugar/Blood glucose. So, the main benefit of Keto is metabolic flexibility, training your body to efficiently use fat as fuel. Weight loss can be a result/added benefit of Keto, but this is not the main purpose/objective.

I certainly experienced the benefits of Ketosis during my 4 weeks; I felt very sustained energy levels throughout each day, with no peaks and valleys. During aerobic exercise such as walking or jogging, I felt I needed to put in less effort for the same results, which I believe was a result of being in Ketosis and using fat as fuel during this sub-maximal exercise.

Being able to eat to satiety (being full) and not experiencing hunger cravings in between meals was an excellent perk of eating Keto. I did not find myself overeating at any point during my Keto program. On the same topic, intermittent fasting was MUCH easier to adhere to while eating Keto, I attribute this to not having the peaks and valleys of blood sugar/insulin levels associated with more high carb meals*.

*This is completely my own educated guess, based on how I felt during my 4 week Keto Diet and the science behind this way of eating. I did not measure my insulin, blood glucose, or ketone levels at any point.

My Top Keto Tips

Use a food journal. This will help you keep track of your macro-nutrients day to day, and will allow you to reflect back on trends, and also compare how you are feeling with what you have been eating recently. Using a food journal helped me make a slight adjustment to my daily carb intake during Keto, and also helped me spot an early trend that packaged snacks were setting me up to be over my daily protein target.

Use google to help you find nutrition facts for foods you are eating which do not have a label. Ideally, you will be eating a lot of foods which are fresh/not packaged, so this will be a helpful tool. For example, if you build a plate at a buffet (like I did at a family wedding), you can google search the nutrition facts of each food, and estimate your portions to calculate nutrient content. This will not be perfect, but it will help you with a general idea if you are hitting target carb and protein totals each day.

You may not need supplement with protein if eating Keto, you can easily achieve the moderate amount which is recommended from dietary sources (as I found out during my 4 week program). Supplementing may actually put you over the recommended moderate intake if you are eating meat, fish, eggs, cheese, and other sources of protein daily. Now, if you are trying to do vegetarian or vegan Keto, perhaps you may look into protein supplementation, especially if you exercise.

If you are trying to eat Keto/achieve Ketosis, try making food choices that have most of their calories coming from fat. Some basic nutrition for you, here are the number of calories per gram of the three macro-nutrients:

  • Carbs: 4 calories per gram
  • Protein: 4 calories per gram
  • Fat: 9 calories per gram

To look at the breakdown of where calories come from, you can simply multiply the serving (how many grams) of each marco-nutrient in your food by the numbers above, and look at what % calories are coming from. A way you can accomplish this higher fat ratio, is adding fat from real food sources if your meal is naturally higher in protein or carbs by itself. For example, my Coleslaw; by adding some slices of bacon, cheddar cheese, and dressing with avocado mayo, I created a meal that is higher in fat content as compared to protein or carbs.

Bulletproof Coffee: The idea behind Keto is using fat for fuel/energy, so a coffee can be a great medium for quality fats. There are many ways to make this coffee (pictured below in favorite meals), the basic concept is butter and MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil in coffee. Coconut oil is a source of MCT, so I used one spoon of that, one spoon grass fed butter and a little sea salt, used milk frother to combine. A word of caution, if you don’t use the milk frother or a blender, you get an oil slick on top of your coffee.

The drink pictured contains 0 sugar, 0 carb, and around 230 calories if you are counting, which is significantly less than most latte/ cappuccino drinks. 

The Challenges

  • The adaptation period can be a challenge, especially if you eat foods that are highly processed on a regular basis. Approaching the adaptation phase slowing can be helpful (see section below for more on the adaptation phase).
  • Planning meals can be a challenge, since carbs and protein are kept at relatively low levels compared to what most people are accustomed to.
  • Getting over the stigma of eating higher fat foods can be challenging. It helps to do some research before trying out the Keto plan, and make sure you understand and are comfortable with the science behind it.
  • Meal planning while going out to eat and/or at events can be a challenge for sure. It helps to look at menu’s in advance if you are going out to eat, and even ask the restaurant/venue to make a slight adjustment to a meal if needed.

My Favorite Keto Meals

Keto Coleslaw!
Burger with Lettuce Wrap
Prime Rib and Veggies
Bulletproof Coffee
Keto Bowl

A word on Keto adaptation

If you have not had a chance to look at my Introduction post to learn about the Keto adaptation phase, it is linked here. Keto adaptation is very important to understand if you are thinking about trying the Keto Diet, you need to transition your body to burning (primarily) fat as fuel in the form of Ketones.

Think about the adaptation phase the way you would exercising, we will use running for an example. Let’s say you have not been running regularly, and decide you want to train for a 5 or 10 kilometre road race. What do you think would be a better way to approach your training:

  1. Start with walking or light jogging a manageable distance, while monitoring how your body responds and gradually increasing your pace over time? Or…
  2. Jump right off your couch and run as far as you can, as fast as you can?

I hope you took option number 1…is it possible to train for a race by jumping in full throttle? Sure, it is possible….it is also possible that your body will become stiff and sore, your morale will be low, and you will be unlikely to complete your training and run your race.

Think about Keto adaptation with the same mindset, because you are attempting to train your body to use a different fuel source, and at first it will not like it. Applying the same logic we did with running, what do you think would be a more ideal approach to Keto adaptation:

  1. Cut yourself down to 20 grams of total carbs per day, no excuses, no exceptions?
  2. Try an (honest) assessment of how many carbs you eat in a typical day at baseline. Start your adaptation by eliminating all added sugars for a week, reassess, and go from there?

In this case, I hope you chose option #2…could you be successful with option number 1? Maybe…however it is more likely that you would have very intense cravings for carbs and sugar, would feel miserable, and would not stick to your plan to become Keto adapted.

As a reminder for my specific case, I had 2 months of adaptation which involved completely cutting out all added sugar, grain, and alcohol. I also spent at least a month prior to that time experimenting with cutting out grains, in preparation for the Whole 30. 20 grams of total carbs per day is very low, and I moved the target up to 30-40 grams per day, but these levels were not unrealistic for me based on my long adaptation and planning period.

Lifestyle changes to continue

I will continue to not include grain, legumes, or added sugar as frequent parts of my diet, they will all be treats. I found during the whole 30 that my digestion improved when I removed beans as a main staple, and the removal of grain and added sugar has made making good food choices and controlling appetite much easier for me. On days I am looking to keep a fast going, I will incorporate a bullet proof coffee, these have become a nice addition.

Let’s Talk about it [Video]

What is Next?

The holidays are coming, so my next posts are going to be related to making and sustaining healthy lifestyle changes, and not allowing life circumstances (like the holidays) to disturb your progress. Thanks for checking out my post, like if you like, comment with any questions!