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The Worst Fitness Mistake During the Holidays

The worst fitness mistake during the holidays

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The holiday season isn’t a great time to lose weight. It can be done, it just takes a little extra consideration.

You might not even be concerned about losing weight during the holidays. Maybe you just want to enjoy the festivities in full and not feel like you’re holding back. That’s totally understandable. Whether you:

🟢 Want to continue to make progress because you’ve been consistent lately

🟡 Just don’t want the holidays to UNDO the progress you’ve made so far

🔴 Haven’t been consistent but don’t want to end up in worse shape at the end of it all

…there’s a common mistake that can get in the way.

I’ll tell you how to avoid it without missing out on any of the fun this season has to offer.

The Runner-Up

As with all competitions, there’s a second-place contender in this race for the worst holiday mistake you can make. It is… drum roll, please…

Trying to follow a strict diet and exercise plan.

👆This really isn’t a good idea ever, regardless of the season. But the holidays are an especially bad time to test the limits of your willpower.

Even if you have the ability to turn down all the yummy goodness the holidays have to offer… why?!

I would argue it’s better for your health to fully participate in family and social gatherings than to sit at home by yourself (or in a quiet corner at a party) disengaged, lonely, or worrying about calories.

The more likely outcome is you’ll be fighting a losing battle all season long. The harder you try to restrict foods and beat up your body with intense exercise, the easier it becomes to lose control and get thrown off track.

That’s the worst of both worlds — you’ll be killing yourself most days to try and make progress, but then when you go off the rails at parties or even just at home on your favorite holidays, you won’t get to fully enjoy it because it’ll be shadowed with guilt and shame.

And your progress will be nonexistent.

But, remember, that’s just the runner-up. There’s another mistake that’s far more common.

The Worst Mistake

In our house, the worst holiday mistake you can make is forgetting to set out a glass of scotch and some dark chocolate for Santa on Christmas Eve along with his milk and cookies

But that’s the worst HOLIDAY mistake. The worst holiday FITNESS (i.e. diet, exercise, general health) mistake you can make is a bit different.

As I already said, it’s not a good time to follow a strict diet and exercise program (not that there’s ever a good time for that), but the bigger mistake more people tend to make is this:

Not doing anything at all.

Not only do you not have to do anything strict, you can keep things super simple (more on that soon), but first you need to know the reason this mistake is particularly harmful.

The Cost

The cost of not doing anything at all has nothing to do with weight gain. The average person only gains 1.3 pounds over the holidays. Not a huge deal.

The real cost is that it shoves you toward long-term failure.

Think about it this way: My 5-year-old is great at easy math. But we can’t just repeat “2+2” over and over again. Eventually she has to take the next step and tackle harder problems if she wants to improve.

In the same way, anyone can eat a little better and be a bit more active when it’s easy. But you don’t learn anything that way, and it turns into a destructive pattern I’ve seen many times…

You start in January, but then some virus hits the family and throws things off. You try again in the spring until you’re wrapped up in planning spring break, taking vacation, recovering from vacation, etc. Don’t even get me started on how busy and stressful summer can be.

So every time you decide to work on yourself, you have to go back to the beginning again, never building on your progress or moving to the next challenge.

This isn’t judgment. We just have to be honest — there will ALWAYS be things that come up, all year-round, that make healthy habits difficult to stick with. Unless you’re ready to take action at busy times (like during the holidays), you will NOT have the right mindset to be successful later.

You can go too far with this and take on things that are too difficult and impractical for your life (i.e. the runner-up mistake). Or you can take a more realistic approach.

What to Do

The advice is very simple: Have a plan.

You don’t have to obsess over counting calories (that’s something we never recommend). You don’t have to skimp at holiday get-togethers. As long as you have some kind of plan, it doesn’t matter exactly what it is.

A few quick examples…

🏋️‍♀️ If you already have an exercise program, don’t give it up, but decide what’s realistic for THIS season. Should you scale back to just 1 workout per week? Can you adjust your program and skip certain days where you know you’ll be busy or gone — better to plan a week off than to accidentally take 2 months off.

(There are SO many options. Email me if you aren’t sure how to handle your schedule and want free help with this.)

🥬 If you’re working on better eating habits, could you stick with it but allow more flexibility on certain days? (Be specific about that flexibility.)

🍪 If you’re trying to lose weight, could you set a realistic boundary for indulgences (e.g. “I’ll fill one small plate with treats but then won’t go back for more” rather than, “I’ll just have 1 small cookie and stop.”)

💪 Or should you shelve weight loss awhile and focus on something like building strength? The holidays are a great time for that because your workouts will feel infinitely better as you eat more food.

Whatever you decide, keep it simple, stay realistic, but have a plan.

What If You Mess Up?

Even if you fail at every turn, don’t give up, and don’t put yourself down because of it. Use it as an opportunity to learn. Ask yourself, “Why did I fail?”

Are you still trying to do too much? Does your current plan take too much away from your bigger priorities (like enjoying time with family)?

Are you even working on the right things? Did you make a goal like, “I’m going to not eat added sugar,” when what you really need to work on is getting better sleep, managing stress, or eating more protein and veggies to defend against cravings?

Even if you get to the new year feeling a few pounds heavier, as long as you never gave up, you’ll still have an easier time ramping back up after the holidays. And you’ll be more likely to be successful because of what you learned while staying mindful during a busy time, so you don’t have to start over at the beginning again.

One more bit of tough love:

It can be hard to know the right questions to ask yourself in order to properly learn from your mistakes. There’s a good chance you won’t be able to do it on your own.

If you’re ready to go into the holiday season with the right mindset that can create long-term change, the best way to do it is with help. Apply for our online coaching here.


The biggest fitness mistake during the holidays is when you do nothing at all to build better habits with diet, exercise, and general health. Unless you’re ready to take action at busy times like now, you will NOT have the right mindset to be successful later.

That said, the second biggest mistake is trying to do too much.

Instead, continue to work on yourself now — or at least don’t continue to put it off until January — by taking simple steps that fit realistically into THIS season. Keep it simple. Be realistic. But have some sort of plan.

If you’re ready to go into the holiday season with the right mindset that can create long-term change, the best way to do it is with help. Apply for our online coaching here.


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