Your Holiday Survival Guide

Holiday Survival Guide

Let’s face it: It is hard to stick to a healthy eating and exercise plan during the holidays, I’m not naive about that. Everywhere we turn, there are tempting foods, drinks, and treats from office parties to our own traditional family favorites.

When you add in a busy, stressful schedule filled with shopping and get-togethers that make it tough to squeeze in exercise, you have a recipe for disaster as far as the pant sizes are concerned.

The good news is that you really can get through the holidays without gaining weight. It will take SOME effort, but you will thank yourself a thousand times when January 1 rolls around and you have no regrets!

There are 3 main components to surviving the holidays and emerging a healthier, happier person in the New Year instead of the “Oh I feel like crap” that we have all experienced.

Workouts: I know that you don’t want to spend some of your holiday factoring in gym time; so that’s I’ve assembled 4 effective workouts that take a min of 20 minutes to complete and keep your metabolism up long after you’ve finished the final exercise. The best part? These can be done at home with minimal equipment or just bodyweight for those that are in the middle of travel.

Nutrition: Eating supportively during the holidays is a struggle for most. Between the ever-present holiday sweets and the seemingly weekly holiday feast, keeping your calories in check becomes a monumental challenge. In this guide, here is a simple but effective system to help you control the holiday binges and keep you on track.


The Workouts

Disclaimer: These workouts were built for the beginner taking into consideration time constraints, these were not designed for the advanced gym rat or seasoned fitness buff with concrete goals and timelines, for which you would need something more dialed into your current program. Though feel free to give it a go, with enough intensity you’ll certainly reap some benefits. 

-Why It’s Important-

Winter is the hardest time to stay in shape! Just because the sun sets before you get off work and the weather is less than pleasant doesn’t mean your body gets to take a vacation from moving.

In addition, the extra calories that you are sure to ingest and the stress that is hard to avoid make for a dire situation if you are not active.


-What You Need-

Below are 4 workouts that you can do anywhere, anytime. All the workouts are designed to take a min20 minutes, or longer for those crazy people that just want more (waves hand “me!”). These workout will definitely keep your metabolism up LONG after your last set.

If you want any kind of easy to travel resistance (because we can’t always travel with dumbbells and barbells) I recommend buying a set of resistance bands to supplement these workout if you wish. This will increase the effectiveness and you’ll feel it the next day. The Economy Fitness Package [insert affiliate link] is ideal for most individuals. 


-How to Do It-

Perform the following exercises in a circuit format. This means moving from the first to the second exercise, then to the third, with minimal rest. When you finish the final exercise, rest as normal, then return to the first exercise. Repeat for the total number of rounds indicated.

Each workout has a prescribed work-to-rest ratio, appearing as two numbers (e.g., “30/30”). This means you perform each exercise for 30 seconds (or whatever the first number is), then you rest for 30 seconds (or whatever the second number is) before moving onto the next exercise.

Finally, each workout has progressions listed (typically less rest or additional rounds) as a way to ensure you continue making progress. Follow the prescribed progressions each week.


Workout 1 

Work/rest = 30/30

Start with 4 rounds (if time allows you can start with 5 rounds)

  • 1A. Bodywt. Jump Squat
  • 1B. Tricep Push up
  • 1C. Split Squat (switch legs halfway through)
  • 1D. Two Arm Rows (use bands or dumbbells)
  • 1E. Seal Jacks
  • Rest 1min

-Workout 1 Weekly Progressions-

  • Week 1—Reduce rest by 5 seconds
  • Week 2—Reduce rest by 5 seconds
  • Week 3—Reduce rest by 5 seconds
  • Week 4—Add a round


Workout 2

Work/rest = 40/20

Start with 3 rounds (if time allows you can start with 4 rounds)

  • 1A. In and Out Squat
  • 1B. Single Arm Rows
  • 1C. Alternating Reverse Lunge
  • 1D. Push-ups
  • 1E. Burpees (ewwww I know)
  • Rest 1min

-Workout 2 Weekly Progressions-

  • Week 1—Add a round
  • Week 2—Reduce rest by 5 seconds
  • Week 3—Reduce rest by 5 seconds
  • Week 4—Add a round


Workout 3

Work/rest = 15/15

Complete 1 entire circuit, rest 60 seconds, then repeat

Start with 3 rounds

  • 1A. Bodywt. Squat
  • 1B. V-ups
  • 1C. Split Squat Jumps
  • 1D. Mountain Climbers
  • 1E. Lateral Lunge (right)
  • 1F. Lateral Lunge (left)
  • 1G. Band Pull Aparts
  • 1H. Mountain Thrusters
  • Rest 1min

-Workout 3 Weekly Progressions-

  • Week 1—Add 1 round
  • Week 2—No change
  • Week 3—Move to 20/10 x 3 rounds
  • Week 4—20/10 x 4 rounds


Workout 4

Perform each exercise for the prescribed number of reps with as little rest as possible between exercises. Each week, try to beat your number of rounds. Start with 15 minutes of total workout time.

  • 1A. Hand Release Push Ups x 10
  • 1B. Alternating Lunge Jumps x 8/leg
  • 1C. Jog 200m
  • AMRAP in 15min

-Weekly Progressions-

  • Week 1—15 minutes
  • Week 2—15 minutes, beat your rounds
  • Week 3—20 minutes
  • Week 4—20 minutes, beat your rounds


9 Holiday Nutrition Survival Tips

It goes without saying that the holidays serve up some of the tastiest and most memorable meals of the year—with summer barbecues a close second.

Of course, there are Thanksgiving favorites like turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy—not to mention pie! And then we get to repeat the feast for Christmas, this time with cookies (or more pie!) to complete the meal.

But that’s not all: Every holiday party you attend will likely be overflowing with holiday cocktails and calorie-dense hors d’oeuvres. Then, if you work in an office setting, coworkers are bound to share with you their favorite treats (pie!).

I you aren’t careful, this overload of caloric consumption will set you up for a rude awakening in January. Even before the end of the year, chronic overeating and a lack of nutritious foods can lead to inflammation, lethargy, and susceptibility to illness—of course in addition to tipping the scale more than you thought imaginable.

So what’s the secret to having your holiday cake and eating it, too?


We don’t expect you to eat salads and organic foods the entire winter; in fact, almost no one goes through the holidays without indulging here or there.

So we’re going to focus on eating well the majority of meals throughout the holidays. That way, when it comes time to carve the turkey or enjoy dessert, you won’t be regretting one of the most enjoyable parts of the holidays.


80/20 Rule

The 80/20 rule states that 80% of the time, you should eat well and according to sound nutritional guidelines, while the other 20% of the time, you can veer off the nutritious path.

If you find your nutritional habits changing as a result of this rule and the tips below, it likely will become easier to stick with a healthy eating plan during the 80% of your meals. This is a common outcome, where you begin to appreciate proper nutrition more. You might even start to crave healthy meals and the feeling of being in control of your eating.

Another great part about this strategy is that you begin to appreciate the 20% more. Each dessert or indulgence will have that much more significance. In fact, you’ll likely find that you appreciate food in general much more!

How do you apply the 80/20 rule? Stick to a sound meal plan without indulgences for 4 days in a row, then on the 5th day, you can have a treat. This will yield far better results than sticking to the plan for 20 hours and splurging the final 4, so to speak.

Proper Nutrition in Practice

Below are 9 tips to help you stay on track with your nutrition during the holidays. Read them over and put the first 3 into practice immediately. Then, once you have completed those 3, tackle the next one. Keep adding one habit at a time only after you have mastered the previous one. If you take on too much change at once, those changes are much less likely to stick than they are if you change 1 thing at a time.

Included at the end of this guide is a collection of healthy holiday recipes. If you need to make something for a party, or if you’ve run out of ideas for a healthy dinner option, peruse the list and choose one that fits. In addition to nutrition, these have been selected for being delicious and wholesome, so have no fear that what you whip up will be worth it!


1. Set Realistic Goals—While it is a noble goal to lose 20 pounds by the end of the year, it is not realistic. In order to lose that kind of weight, you would have to make major changes to your lifestyle, including essentially starving yourself and exercising more than your body might be able to handle. This extreme of a goal is setting yourself up for failure and a very stressful holiday season.
A more realistic goal might be to maintain your current weight, or to lose 2 pounds a month, which is 1 pound every other week. If you manage your expectations, you can find a goal that is challenging but very much doable, and when you reach your goal, you will be motivated to continue to the next stage.


2. Tell a Friend—Social accountability is a great way to help you stay on track during the holidays. Friends can celebrate your wins and help you through the tough times. By sharing your goals with someone else, you are much more likely to succeed because your goals become concrete and you don’t want to let your friends down.


3. Plan to Succeed—Once you have set a realistic goal, planning is essential to your success. Without a plan, it becomes all too easy to revert to your old habits. This is more important than ever during the holiday season. Make grocery lists and use them to make healthy meals. Never show up to a holiday party hungry. Plan when, where, and with whom you will work out. Taking a few minutes to make sure you won’t give in to temptation and will get in your workouts will go a long way to reaching your goals.


4. Build Your Meals Around Protein and Produce—This is the primary principle of supportive nutrition. Protein will fill you up and help repair your muscles, while produce will add plenty of nutrition and bulk to your meals, allowing you to feel full and your body to have more energy. Follow the portion control guidelines on the next few pages to include enough protein, veggies, and carbs or fat at each meal.


5. Eat Until You Are 80% Full—When you notice you are 80% full, put down the fork and put away the food. It takes our stomachs 30 minutes to signal to our brains that we are full, so eating until 80% full will ensure you don’t overeat. It helps to eat slowly, which is a challenge during this busy time of year, but as you will see, eating slowly can calm your nerves and help you relax—all while helping you reach your goals faster.

Again, follow the portion control guidelines on the following pages to build a solid foundation for portion size at each meal. If you reach 80% fullness before all the food is gone, stop eating. If you are still hungry after you have portioned out your meals as shown, eat more protein or produce until you become 80% full.


6. Eat Breakfast—Those who eat breakfast consume fewer calories throughout the day than those who skip it. Our self-control is weakest at the end of the day, so skipping breakfast will lead to a calorie deficit that our tired brains won’t be able to fight, resulting in whole plates of cookies disappearing. Make sure your breakfast includes high quality protein, such as eggs or meat, and vegetables like peppers, onions, tomatoes, spinach, etc. (veggie omelets are a great choice!)


7. Keep a Food Diary—Write down everything you eat—even if it is only one bite of shrimp cocktail. It has been proven that keeping a food journal results in better weight control than not keeping one.


8. Drink Water—Water helps maintain energy levels, facilitate digestion, and control hunger. Of course, it also has no calories. With increased calories coming from our meals and snacks, skip the sugar-laden drinks and choose water instead. Aim for 8-10 glasses of water per day, and cut out all calorie-containing beverages (sweetened coffee/tea, soda, juice, energy drinks, etc.).


9. Limit Alcohol—Alcohol is high in calories, and since it is in tasty liquid form, those calories can add up quickly. It’s also a depressant, meaning your mental and physical performance (and self-control) will be decreased and your stress levels will go up. Limit yourself to 2 drinks at parties and 1 drink throughout the week.



Healthy Holiday Recipes

These are SOME personal substitutes that I have used and enjoyed during the holidays (and MAYBEEEE other times of the year lol), some some do take a bit of time but hey, its the holidays and it’s well worth it 🙂


Bacon and Chive Sweet Potato Biscuits

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Yields: 12 servings


Photo courtesy PaleoOMG

Photo courtesy PaleoOMG

  • 1 large sweet potato or yam (equivalent to 2 cups mashed)
  • 3 Tbsp. Coconut Flour
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 6-8 strips of bacon, diced
  • Leftover rendered fat from bacon
  • 3-4 Tbsp. chives, thinly diced
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • Himalayan sea salt and pepper, to taste


  • Preheat oven to 415 F.
  • Poke holes in your sweet potato with a fork.
  • Place in oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until soft.
  • Once the sweet potato is done baking, turn over down to 375 F.
  • When your sweet potato is almost done cooking, place your diced bacon into a skillet and brown until crispy. Then place your cooked, crispy bacon on a plate covered with a paper towel to soak up the excess fat. The fat that is left behind in the pan, you will use in your biscuits.
  • When your sweet potato is done, peel and place in a bowl and mash with a fork.
  • Then add in your eggs and mix well. Add bacon fat and mix.
  • Add in your dry ingredients: coconut flour, baking powder, garlic powder, and salt and pepper.
  • Finally add your diced cooked bacon and chives. Mix thoroughly.
  • Now line a baking sheet with parchment paper and use a large spoon to drop your biscuits on the sheet, shaping them as needed. Try to make them all equal in size so they cook the same.
  • Place in oven and bake for 22-27 minutes.
  • Let rest.
  • Top with some melted grass fed butter or ghee.
  • Notes: if you don’t use bacon/bacon fat, add ¼ cup coconut oil, melted.

Original recipe from PaleoOMG


Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes


  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1-2 Russet potatoes
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. chives
  • 1 container plain Greek yogurt (about 1 cup)


  • Wash and peel potatoes. Cover potatoes with water in a large saucepan. Bring water to boil and then turn down to medium heat and cook for 10-15 minutes. Cook long enough that you can put a fork through them.
  • Put 2-3 inches of water in the bottom of your steamer pan. Bring water to a boil and then turn down to medium to high heat. Wash and then cut cauliflower in 2-3 inch pieces. Steam for 10-12 minutes.
  • Combine potatoes and cauliflower and mash. If you have a food processor, you can get a smoother consistency.
  • Add butter, salt, white pepper, chives, and Greek yogurt. Mix thoroughly.


Christmas Cranberry Granola

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Yields: (24) ¼ c. Servings


Photo courtesy Healthy Living How To

Photo courtesy Healthy Living How To

  • 1 cup each, Coconut Flakes, Walnuts, Pecans, Hazelnuts, Almonds, Pepitas
  • ¼ cup Chia Seeds
  • ¼ cup Coconut Oil
  • ½ cup Unsweetened Applesauce
  • 2 tsp. Cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp. Himalayan Sea Salt
  • ¼ tsp. Stevia Extract Powder
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1 Recipe Sugar-Free Dried Cranberries (see next page for recipe & directions)


  • In a large bowl, mix together nuts & seeds.
  • In a separate small bowl, mix together coconut oil, unsweetened applesauce, cinnamon, Himalayan sea salt, stevia, and vanilla extract.
  • Add the sauce to the nuts & seeds and thoroughly mix.
  • Line a large baking pan with parchment paper and evenly spread out granola.
  • Bake at 250 F for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring in 15 minute intervals.
  • Rough chop cranberries and mix with granola once cooled.
  • Store in a sealed Mason jar or container.

Original Recipe by Healthy Living How To

Sugar-Free Dried Cranberries

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 8 hours

Yields: 6 servings


  • 12 ounces Cranberries
  • ½ cup Water
  • Sugar-Free Sweetener
  • Sweetening Options (choose 1)
  • ½ tsp. Stevia Extract Powder
  • ¼ tsp. Stevia Extract Powder + 4 Tbsp. NOW Xylitol, Non-GMO
  • ¼ tsp. Stevia Extract Powder + 6 Tbsp. NOW Erythritol Granular


  • In a saucepan add ½ cup water + sugar-free sweetening option.
  • To the sweetened water add 12 ounces of cranberries.
  • Stir cranberries around to coat and turn heat to medium-high.
  • Cook cranberries for about 10 minutes until they have all popped. Use the back of a spoon to pop the cranberries that are stubborn.
  • Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
  • Line a sheet pan with doubled up paper towels and then lay a sheet of parchment paper over top.
  • Spread cranberries out and dry in oven at 170 for 7-8 hours.
  • After 4 hours take cranberries out of the oven and using spatula transfer them to a new sheet of parchment paper, spreading them out some.
  • Return to oven for another 3-4 hours.
  • The cranberries are done when they are no longer wet; you choose how chewy you want them. The longer you go the chewier they are.
  • Let cool, separate and store in a sealed container.

Original Recipe by Healthy Living How To


Ginger Spice Cookies

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yields: 25 (2 ½ inch) cookies


Photo Courtesy

Photo Courtesy

  • 2 cups coconut flour
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 3 Tbsp. unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ tsp. Stevia Extract Powder
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup melted coconut oil
  • ½ cup sugar-free vanilla syrup (DaVinci and Torani make good ones)
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. pure almond extract
  • Unsweetened almond milk (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 325 F, grease a baking sheet or line sheet with parchment paper.
  • Stir together the coconut flour, walnuts, shredded coconut, sweetener, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, and baking soda in a large bowl.
  • Whisk together the sour cream or coconut milk, oil, vanilla syrup, eggs, lemon zest, and almond extract in a 4 cup measuring cup.
  • Add the egg mixture to the coconut flour mixture and stir just until incorporated. (If the mixture is too thick to stir easily, add the unsweetened almond milk, 1 Tbsp. at a time until the consistency of cake batter.)
  • Drop 1-inch mounds onto the baking sheet and flatten. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on racks.

Original Recipe from Wheat Belly


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In Health and Awesomeness,

Travis Signature 300x62 Worlds Shortest Blog Post

Travis Merritt, BS, CPT, (and other cool letters behind the name) is the Owner of Fitness Revolution in Rowlett, TX.

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