Can I have my cake and eat it?

Let's take a look at how to do this while on holiday – so that you don't completely ruin your shape.

How often do you head into the holiday season promising yourself to 'behave' and not to go overboard – only to come out the other end frustrated, and 10 or so pounds heavier?

 3D digital render of a Santa exercising on a tread mill isolated on white background

I see so many people creating a futile pact like this with themselves, year after year. Not only do they never really get into shape – but each January actually sees them adding new weight to their existing quota.

I left this quandary behind years ago when I made the sensible approach part of my life. I live year-to-year without restrictive eating.

I eat all of my favorite foods a lot of the time but... I stay active and ensure that I don't take in more energy than I burn.

I'm not going to go into extensive detail here – but rather, aim to focus on the approach of enjoying and 'surviving' a holiday trip with your health and fitness in check. After reading this page, I'd invite you to take a look at the simple fitness strategies I use.

(You can also dive deeper into the specifics of how to diet and how to get fit on those respective pages.)



Each year I’m astounded at the bizarre and hocus pocus tips which circulate the media just before holiday season – advocating how to stay fit during your break.

I find a lot of it to be quite impractical, and sadly – quite laughable.

Some of these suggest that you: "avoid rich foods, chew slowly, drink lots of water, eliminate alcohol, put your fork down between mouthfuls, eat in silence, turn the TV off, eat smaller meals and not to mix carbs and protein."

Yeah right! 

Good luck with pulling any of those off while it's festive season – unless you're a robot. If you're anything like me, you'll want a far better deal.

Picture yourself seated alongside family members or friends all having a jovial time and tucking into tasty offerings specially (and painstakingly) prepared for your intended eating pleasure... 

Happy dinner

Except if you're competing in a fitness contest soon, or have dietary 'issues', why punish yourself?

Although I'm usually focused on Al, pretty much anyone can apply the sensible approach I use. It allows for holiday fun while not letting you get too far out of whack with your fitness. It's quite simple, and I use it every Easter, Christmas and other holidays throughout the year. (read more about 'sensible' on the FAQ page)

Can you eat whatever you want whenever you want – and stay in shape? No. But there's plenty leverage for enjoying those special meals, treats and toasts, so that you won't feel deprived.


Correctly applied – they could work for you too.

1. get to grips with your daily energy requirement

This might sound like a long shot but think about it for a minute. Even people who aren't fitness buffs, usually know 'what' and 'how' much they eat to stay at their current weight. If, however, you're more acquainted with fitness, you know we're talking about daily caloric-expenditure (TDEE) here.

2. balance energy intake with output

I view TDEE as elastic – especially for vacation breaks. It involves 'averaging' the week out so that you're not in too big a calorie-surplus day-after-day. This way, you avoid packing on the pounds – unless you're offsetting the additional intake with physical exercise.

(By the way, my advice is to always include physical activity during the holidays.) 

This game of numbers also depends on what type of vacation you're on. For example, a ski-holiday will elevate your calorie allowance significantly. On the other hand, if you're cozily lying in front of a fireplace and reading all day...

Well, you get the picture.


I use my own TDEE much like a bank account – particularly when I know that dinner's going to be a big event. I like having a little credit in hand. I may opt to cut carbs earlier in the day, or fast until lunch or mid-afternoon. 

That way, I get to the evening feeling hungry and with lots calorie credit available. It allows me to eat more than average, or to go for something rich and 'unhealthy'. Or both!

This is what I do most of the time anyway, but it's particularly useful during the holiday season.

What if you're a morning person, and can't resist a hearty breakfast – buffet style? You know, the fruit, cereal, yoghurt, honey, toast, bacon and egg.

You can certainly have it, but know that the rest of your day's nutrition should be proportionately reduced to fit with your TDEE, or you can use the frequent but smaller meal size approach.

Whatever fits your holiday design or your fancy. Just be sure to stay as close to your TDEE as possible.

3. moderation does work

It's not only in the little things you do, but also the overall approach of moderation.

What if you're unaccustomed to your body's needs, don't know the nutritional value of food, or how to eyeball your nutrition/calorie intake?

Honestly speaking, it's probably not the best time to start thinking healthily.

For now though, try and use your common sense.

Look to eat moderately, try and stay active and hopefully you'll hit me up in the new year for advice on how to get informed, organized, and how to apply the sensible approach. 

I'd love to help you on that!


Its primary goal is to keep you from being alienated.

This is how you get to remain socially engaged and eat real food alongside a fit and healthy way-of-life.

Those crazy tactics I mentioned in the opening paragraph will all but leave you out in the cold.

'Sensible' ensures that you're part of the festivities – not cheering from the sidelines while you nibble on your carrot sticks and sip your mineral water.


If you’re a regular to, you’ll know a bit about the sensible approach. 

It's the way I stay in shape all year round while never increasing more than 3-5 lbs – at the most. I can usually trim that in less than 2 weeks. 

It's dead easy to do. You've just got to want to.

If you’re 3-4 weeks out from a physique or figure contest, or your wedding date is a month or so away – then it’s perfectly understandable that you'll have to be regimented.

But if not, why ruin the fun and festivities?

Holidays are meant for celebration and a 'little' overindulgence – both of which are essential elements of a healthy lifestyle.

Inactivity and too much food will cause you to gain weight, but on the other hand, depriving yourself isn't healthy, either.

Aim to stay active and enjoy yourself.  Just don't go totally overboard.  

And please, take a look at those simple fitness strategies I mentioned above.