How do you limit the overindulgence associated with the holidays without being the Grinch that steals all of the fun out of the holidays? The holidays are meant to be a festive time of year. Life is to be enjoyed but moderation is the key to a happy and healthy life. As personal trainers, we are entrusted to provide sound health and fitness advice and to improve the quality of life of our clients.

The best way to approach this difficult aspect of our duties is by providing personal training clients with a plan that allows them to balance holiday joy with common sense.

Here are 5 fun but useful tips that help you do just that.

*Eat before the party.
*Prioritize Nutrition over taste.
*Fill your plate with healthy food first.
*Educate about what constitutes a good food choice.
*Show the math.

Let’s get into the details….


1) Eat before the party: Often times a client will try to create a big calorie deficit by not eating all day prior to a social gathering. The logic is that by not eating all day he will have created a sufficient calorie deficit to offset a night of gluttony.

After not eating any healthy food choices for the entire day he finds himself famished. By the time he makes it to the buffet his blood sugar level has dropped through the floor and his appetite has soared through the roof.

Suddenly he hits the buffet like a bucking bronco released from the gate. All inhibitions are overridden by a ferocious appetite and he begins attacking the buffet using a plastic shovel kids use to build sand castles on the beach. Now instead of having a day of good nutrition with a reasonable cheat, he is filling himself with calorie dense yet nutritionally poor food.

If he had eaten according to a good nutrition plan all day he would have been less tempted to overindulge and the excess calories would have just averaged himself out over a few weeks to be null and void providing he resumes a healthy eating plan.

2) Prioritize nutrition over taste: People have a very strong emotional attachment to their favorite foods. Giving up an empty calorie treat is a very difficult choice for a client that is used to an undisciplined eating style. What you or I may eat for a snack is likely to taste like a Milkbone dog biscuit to them.

A seasoned healthy eater has developed a different mindset than that of an undisciplined eater. The first observation, when faced with a food choice, should be what food is healthiest followed by which tastes best. It’s the holidays and it only comes around once a year so a little overindulgence is to be expected.

But not all cheat foods are created equal. If your client places nutritional value first and compromises from best to worst she will likely make better choices than the if taste is her only consideration. Somewhere between eating like a Saint and eating like a Saint Bernard lies a happy medium.

3) Fill your plate with healthy food first: A plate can only hold so much food. If the majority of the real estate is taken up by healthy food and the more decadent food is used to trim out the back forty than the calorie count will be much lower.

That assumes that your client doesn’t build a scale model of the Sears Tower with cookies and cheesecake in the center of the plate. I suppose a zoning law limiting him to one story structures is also warranted.

4) Educate about what constitutes a good food choice: I have heard just about everything regarding why a person imagines that some nutritionally defunct garbage is healthy for her. Someone once tried to convince me that cheesy French fries are a complete meal because a potato is both a vegetable and a carbohydrate and cheese is a protein.

What this person was ignoring is that French fries are made with a starchy tuber that is deep fried in hydrogenated oil and that cheese is made mainly of saturated fat. Using her nutritional standards as a benchmark one could conclude that a cigarette is also a vegetable because tobacco comes from a plant and a cigarette is produced in a plant.

It’s easy for a client to be misled into thinking that her junk food meals are nutritious if they focus only on the macronutrients and on the taste.

5) Show the math: The numbers don’t lie! If a client loses weight in November and December he will go into January with a much better chance of hitting his summertime goals than if he packs on ten extra pounds during the holidays. Starting a summer shape up in January is like starting a marathon five miles behind the starting line and wearing a weighted vest.

Not only will the client have more weight to lose but he will have less time to lose it. Show him how while losing 2 pounds a week that extra ten pounds and the missing two months will impact his goals. People tend to view the world through rose-colored glasses on. It’s rather sobering to see the light of day spelled out in a numeric value. Don’t use a pie chart however that tends to turn up missing around the holidays.

Each client of yours needs one or more of these reminders even if she has heard them before. You could make a handout to share them, you could link them to this blog. Or, you can share each reminder verbally during a session. Help your clients get through the holidays by providing them with these ideas and others that you have. It’ll make everyone even more thankful when the holidays have passed.

Learn more about NFPT’s Fitness Nutrition Specialist Course.

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John Rutnik

John Rutnik is a NFPT Certified Personal Trainer. He holds an AAS in Electrical Technology and has been a certified personal trainer since 2008. John has been involved in physical fitness and weight training since the late 70’s and is an avid outdoors man. He became a personal trainer after rehabilitating himself from a spinal injury he sustained in a car accident and losing 70 pounds. John later obtained ISSA Certifications as both a Fitness Trainer and Specialist in Sports Nutrition and became Lead Fitness Trainer at Anytime Fitness in Schenectady NY. His training philosophy is “no man left behind,” everyone deserves a chance to succeed.