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Is it okay to break my diet over the holidays?

Kristi King
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Everything in moderation! If you know that you are going to a party or will be having a large meal—plan in advance so that you can have some of the "good stuff." Eat a sensible breakfast and lunch and maybe exercise 30 more extra minutes every day to help you maintain and not gain! Fill your plate with veggies and fruit to help overeating those high calorie types of foods. Allowing yourself to partake in moderation will help you prevent from over indulging. Its okay to enjoy a small slice of pecan pie, just don't eat the whole pie!

Neal Spruce
Neal Spruce on behalf of dotFIT
Fitness Specialist

It is okay to break your diet over the holidays as long as you make it up if you are striving to arrive at a weight loss goal by a certain date. Otherwise, put your diet on hold and just maintain your weight throughout the holidays by averaging an equal amount of calories consumed and burned, which will be determined by your weekly weight change.

The good news is that the free Sharecare Fitness App can do it all for you, including telling you what to do each time you enter your weekly weight. The goal through the holidays is to manage the average daily intake and burn. If you are trying to lose or maintain weight, the key is to focus on the average deficit (the difference between intake and burn) rather than your daily deficit. This allows you to "cheat" on festive days and compensate for it on other days in order to stay perfectly on target.

For example, you set a goal to lose 2 pounds in December. One pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. Therefore, for the month of December, you will have to burn 7,000 calories more than you eat in order to lose 2 pounds. We don’t care how you do it. The basic formula: Time period = 30 days; goal of 2-pound loss = average daily deficit of 230 calories (30 days x 230 = 7,000 calories, or 2 pounds).

Example: A 180-pound man with a sedentary job who exercises 30 minutes, three days a week would average approximately a 2700 calorie per day burn (via the Sharecare Fitness App). Using the 2-pound loss goal, the average daily calorie intake will have to be 2400 calories. Let’s say that during a festive day he really lets go and consumes 5,000 calories (some of those would probably be from alcohol, which is generally the factor that results in excess calorie consumption).

Two-day remedy: as long as you know you are going to blow it ahead of time, always prepare by cutting the previous day’s calorie consumption in half. In the case above, he would consume four meals totaling 1,200 calories the day before, then consume 5,000 calories the day of the event, and repeat the 1,200-calorie menu the following day. This brings the three-day calorie intake to 7,400. Assuming he burned 2700 calories per day on average, the three-day calorie output would total 8,100, and he is virtually back on track. Use this formula anytime you wander off goal.

During the holidays, it's okay to have small portions of your favorite holiday foods. Don't, however, completely come off your diet or throw it aside. Share or split your favorite treat with someone rather than eating the whole thing, or just have a few bites. Most of the time this will satisfy your craving. It's easy to gain a few pounds, but so much harder to lose them!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.