Top 10 ways to avoid holiday weight gain and still party

The season is over, it's snowing outside, you're pounding nut roll like you're getting paid for it. Off-seasons are for gluttony and sedentary life right? Wrong! Well, wrong if you have hefty goals of breaking PR's, pushing your limits and arriving fit this spring. Does achieving that goal mean losing some excess weight as well? Holidays can get our eating and exercise routine off track, making it hard to keep our New Year's goals and resolutions within reach. We spoke to Registered Sports Dietitian Emily Werner of Cycle-Smart about some tips and tricks to enjoying the holidays without killing your season before it starts. What follows are tips for easy and effective ways to keep your goals in shouting distance this holiday season, all while enjoying libations and making memories.

Fresh fruit is a great way to start your day.

Fresh fruit is a great way to start your day. The fiber in the fruits helps you feel full and the sweetness will help dull that sweet tooth. Photo: Emily Werner​

1. Eat your breakfast

It's true, the old axiom "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day" for not only curbing appetite and overall wellness, but it's also a rule to live by. A healthy breakfast is a great way to start off any jam (pun intended) packed holiday travel fest. "Saving your calories" for a big meal always ends in overeating and discomfort. We have all cracked when the cookie tray is in sight and then we start bargaining with ourselves, "I'll go on a long ride tomorrow, I'll burn this off in no time." For days when heavy eating and possible overeating is in the foreseeable future, try to consume a small healthy breakfast before your travels. I suggest a savory breakfast, something with veggies both raw and cooked if possible. A meal like this will manage hunger cravings and keep your brain firing on all cylinders. Now you can make it through a conversation with someone you don't know and still have the energy to smile and nod, smile and nod.

Coach Emily suggests "Don't skip breakfast! Research shows that we are more likely to be more physically active later in the day if we consume breakfast. Try to include lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for added fiber to stay fuller longer."

 Drink around 8 glasses of water

Drinking around 8 glasses of water per day will aid your digestive system and keep your immunity functioning at top-notch​

2. Drink plenty of water

The human body is more than 60 percent of water (crazy right?!). Blood is 92 percent water, the brain and muscles are 75 percent water and bones are about 22 percent water. We need water, not only to digest food but to keep cool and for overall function. When we're dehydrated we crave to offset that missing water in our bodies. Soda and coffee are liquid and contain water, but for the holiday's reach for the real stuff. Keeping your hydration in check is key to making it to the other side and bounce back fast for training. Consuming water will keep your stomach full, in turn keeping you feeling full longer--there is only enough room for so much water and beers with Uncle Al. Drinking around 8 glasses of water per day will aid your digestive system and keep your immunity functioning at top-notch.

Healthy Options

Not enough healthy choices? Make your own or buy some options for the gatherings.​

3. There are no healthy options? Then create some!

Sometimes I find myself hoping there are healthy options at family get-togethers only to arrive with none to be found. Don't sit around saying, "I'd eat healthily but there's nothing here." You can help yourself by making a healthy side dish or other option for your family: win-win! You'll find that most people are looking for something in this category as well. This doesn't have to be a "Vegan-Gluten-Free Palio-Kale Smoothie." It can be as simple as making cookies with less sugar or substituting stevia or bringing some fruits, nuts, and cheese as an appetizer. My go-to potluck dish is baked sweet potatoes (which are great for fueling cyclist's bodies) with coconut oil or green beans with sliced almonds and light olive or grapeseed oil on top.

Coach Emily suggests "Bring a holiday favorite dish but with a healthier spin. For example, this sweet potato casserole recipe (full recipe below) still tastes wonderful but is less calorie-laden than the traditional dish".

trails on your fat bike
Offsetting your day with a romp around the local trails on your fat bike will get you some extra calories no problem. Photo: Jordan Villella

4. Offset your day with exercise

If you're looking to work off some pre-holiday tension while earning that extra piece of the pie, look into a quick workout before the day begins. Starting your day off with a caloric deficit will keep you on track for your weight goals. I find that early morning workouts keep me energized and focused throughout the day. Look for something quick and easy, you don't have to ride to the moon, just have fun and ride happy.

Colorful plates and smaller portion size

Colorful plates and smaller portion sizes will help you stick to your goals this winter and fly up those hills in the summer. Photo: Emily Werner​

5. Control portion size

Just because the plates are big doesn't mean your portion size has to match. Aim for closed-fist sized portions, this allows you to eat more variety. Eating smaller portions lets you try everything on the table and not feel like you overate at the end of the day.

Coach Emily suggests "To prevent overeating try using a smaller plate. This way you will put less on your plate and have proper portion sizes. Also, try to eat slowly and savor every bite".

Colorful Plates

Feast your eyes with colorful food and plates to satisfy the senses.​

6. Colorful plates

If you look at your plate and see mostly browns and whites, I'm guessing you're a meat and potatoes kind of eater. Over this holiday season look to add some color to that monochromatic plate. Veggies and fruits come in all different colors, with a wide range of benefits going with each. Variety is the spice of life, look to consume more colorful dishes as well as branch out and find some new holiday favorites.

Coach Emily suggests "Eat vegetables and salad first, wait 10 minutes, and then go back for the entrees and desserts".


Join holiday traditions that involve exercise. This one in Los Gatos, CA involves transporting food and drink up a 2500 foothill.​

7. Have a walk or break after dinner

After dinner is over and everyone is gearing up for the dessert round, it's best to take a break and let things sink in. This is a perfect time to take a trip outside and walk the dog or have a snowball fight with the kids. After consuming so much food we can become sluggish, only wanting to lay around and watch TV. After a small bout of walking or exercise, you'll feel energized and happier. When you come inside you'll be ready for some warm pie and coffee.

Choose to drink something interesting

Choose to drink something interesting that you can enjoy. Don't just mindlessly throw down the egg nog with reckless abandon. Photo: Jordan Villella​

8. Pump the brakes on super celebrating

We all like to party down during the holiday season but too much partying can lead to poor food choices and even worse, stomach problems and headaches. Look to drink a glass of water in between every beer or glass of wine. This will help your body process the alcohol and leave you with no hangover in the morning. Nothing can ruin Christmas morning faster than a pounding headache and a seasick hangover feeling, so, hydrate enough even at parties.

Turkey Ride

The Los Gatos Turkey ride is a tradition of biking and camaraderie.​

9. Hangout with your family and friends

This is what the holidays are really about, getting time in with the family and reconnecting with loved ones. Even though the days are centered on eating and gifts, look to learn more about your family and friends. Swap some stories around the fire, talk about the old times and enjoy the day. You'll notice that your family is much more interesting than any extra piece of pie or cell phone game.

A good piece of chocolate cake

Sometimes a good piece of chocolate cake surrounded by friends and family is what we all need.​

10. Let yourself off the hook

For cyclists, the off-season is for taking a break and regrouping. Getting ready for next year's goals and challenges that lay ahead. So give your mind and body a break and give in. Enjoy that extra cookie, beer or piece of cake, because you deserve it! Studies show that athletes achieve better physical gains and perform better when they exude a low-stress mindset and remain "calm at the wheel." Let yourself regain that calm stillness, that comes with a period of mental rest and relaxation. With rest, you'll be happy and ready to meet the next year with eager eyes. Don't worry, your rollers will be happy to greet you before you know it, so live it up while you can!

Coach Emily suggests "It is important to remember the concept of "everything in moderation". You do not need to be a perfectionist with regards to healthy eating, and that piece of pie won't ruin your season".

What do you think, do you have a tip or any advice to add that can help your fellow riders?

If you'd like to contact coach Emily for your nutritional goals you can do so here.