Peppermint-flavoured drinks are pouring left and right from all the cafes, and holiday decor is taking over foyers — I think we can all agree that the holidays are upon us. The holiday season is tempting and a widely-accepted excuse to eat whatever and weigh whatever. 

But to a competitive powerlifter (who probably has a national-level competition coming up), the holiday season is a challenge.

So you’re here for one of two reasons. Reason number one is that you have a competition early next year and must start your diet early because you NEED to lose weight. Then there’s reason number two; you’re trying to figure out if there’s a way not to overindulge, so making weight will be a breeze. In this post, I’ll explain why a fellow powerlifter would benefit from starting their diet early, what to expect, how to respond to other people, and some tips to help you get through the holiday season without turning into the Grinch.

At the end of the year, there are usually 1-2 regional competitions that can allow powerlifters to qualify for the national competition at the beginning of the following year. And the national competition can enable powerlifters to prepare for the world competition near the middle of the year. As you can tell, being a competitive powerlifter is a year-round responsibility, so the holidays? It’s a crucial bump in the road that brings local lifters to the national platform. Powerlifters looking to cut weight or compete in a pre-qualified lower-weight class will want to ensure that they CAN make weight without sacrificing their performance. It also makes sense to start as early as possible if we know our tendency to gain weight during the holiday season. 

For example, suppose a 76 kg female powerlifter tends to gain 3-4 kg over the holiday season. In that case, they may want to reduce the potential even by half by practicing portion control throughout the holiday season. She will still need to go on a diet after the holiday season if she wants to compete in the 76 kg class in the national competition, but because she was mindful during the holiday season, the gravity of her weight cut won’t be as severe.

Having multiple strategies will allow you to navigate better in different situations (aka have the flexibility to enjoy the holidays AND continue whatever your nutrition goal may be). Click the image for more information.

The thing is… dieting during the holiday season can be daunting compared to dieting any other time of the year.

As soon as the holiday music turns on or the weather goes below 10 degrees, people find every excuse to stay warm at home or by diving into holiday-themed foods (i.e. apple pies, cheese and deli platters, shortbread cookies, stuffing and the list continues). And that has been widely normalized – not the “healthy” alternatives, going to the gym in the cold or being on a diet. Everyone knows that the “diet begins on New Year’s Day.” So you need to adjust your expectations as you plan to continue your diet during the holiday season. Not to ensure other people understand you but to keep your peace and minimize the holiday stress.

When you or your family are preparing the food for a holiday party, you can either make separate dishes for yourself (more work) or make ingredients/meal swaps (requires the compromise of others).

My mom makes pescatarian-friendly dishes whenever my parents prepare food for any party. In the rare case that doesn’t happen, I would usually suggest reducing the fried foods on the table by either baking or grilling.

When you’re visiting someone else’s place for the holidays, you can either make a suggestion (requires the compromise of others) or watch your portion sizes (requires mental effort).

Usually, holiday plans happen weeks ahead so once the RSVP are in, you can either let the host know about your dietary restrictions. If that’s not the case and you’re crashing a holiday party, watch your portions. Go for the proteins first before diving into carbohydrate-rich dishes. Maybe limit to 1-2 plates, or hold off on the alcoholic drinks. There’s always a compromise to be made without totally hating the entire experience.

But how will you handle the comments and questions at the holiday table?

Here are some pointers for you:

  • You can’t control how people react, but you can control how you react. So this might lead to many “agree to disagree” conversations, which is okay. We can coexist with people who are different from us; I mean… there are over a billion other people.
  • Refrain from pushing your beliefs and goals upon other people. You have no idea what other people think or have been thinking. Again, we don’t need to be the same people to enjoy the holiday. We can be unique.
  • It’s common practice for people to push you to eat the food on the holiday table (I mean… technically, they did work to present that for you), but no guilt is needed. If it doesn’t align with your goals, you can say, “no, thank you, maybe another time,” or if you’d like to sugarcoat it, add a compliment before you turn away.

It does get easier, believe me.

Now in terms of food choices, my most excellent advice for you is to involve holiday-themed foods in your meal prep – this way, it doesn’t feel like you’re completely depriving yourself of the holidays. [PS. I’m all for simplicity, so the recipes below are pretty minimal.]

Chocolate Peppermint Protein Shake
Savory Pumpkin and Sage Soup
Protein Ginger Snaps
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Cauli
Vanilla Sweet Potatoes
Apple Crumble
Mini Pumpkin Pies
Roast Turkey Breast

Lastly, don’t let other people make you feel bad for choosing to dial in on your nutrition during the holiday season. Tis' not the holiday season of guilt.