My Advice for “Holiday Eating”

 | 21 Comments  | Articles, Health, Nutrition


Well it’s almost here. We are near the peak of the holiday season (if you happen to be celebrating, which you might not). Thanksgiving is over and Santa-time is just ramping up. Whatever your beliefs and/or traditions are, it’s times like these that can really wreak havoc on your diet and exercise routines. Travel, business, extra obligations, holiday goodies, family meals, parties, a tight budget, and stress can all have a negative affect on your health.

Usually during this time of the year I see magazines and the internet flooded with articles pedaling holiday “diet plans”. They often have titles like, How to Survive the Holidays Without Gaining Weight or 10 Quick and Easy Substitutes for Unhealthy Holiday Favorites. Some articles say it’s ok to eat a big meal here and there but try to avoid alcohol and extra snacks. Some might say that you can go crazy on desserts if you keep your regular meals in check. Others maybe say that as long as you do everything in moderation and up your cardio you won’t gain a pound.

Personally, I can’t get with all that nonsense. It all seems pretty clear to me. Here’s my take on “holiday eating”:
Go ahead and binge if that’s what you want to do. Yup, seriously. BUT, if you do, you’re going to have to but on your big girl (or boy!) pants and just accept the fact that you’re going to feel awful and guilty. If you DO feel awful and guilty, you can use all that anger and disappointment to push yourself harder than you ever have before in the new year. You can make a fresh start and turn all those negative feelings into motivation.

If you DON’T want to feel awful and guilty, then stick to your regular diet and exercise routines.

It’s that simple!


Here’s Why You Feel BAD

When you overeat you feel awful afterwards for a variety of reasons. First, psychologically, like I mentioned above, you might feel guilty or regretful or disappointed in yourself. A high level of fitness is not something that is gotten without a good amount of sacrifice and very hard work. It takes time, money, energy, focus, drive, and, sometimes, even pain to complete difficult workouts daily and prepare and eat a healthful foods. When you binge on processed carbs and sugar it can make you feel like you’ve thrown all those hours and hours of hard work away on something that was enjoyable for about 10 minutes.

Physically, a binge on junk can actually throw your whole body chemistry way off track. Bingeing on sugar can cause your insulin levels to spike to help control your blood sugar levels. Once the insulin helps absorb the excess sugar, your blood sugar levels drop dramatically and you crash. A blood sugar crash will leave you exhausted and miserable. And cyclical binges and crashes can lead to chronic fatigue, liver problems, and even diabetes. Sugar’s bad for you skin, too. It causes wrinkles and acne. (I wrote an article about it, you can read it here.)

We all know what happens when you drink too much. A hangover can feel bad but it actually really messes with your body. Over drinking can cause inflammation of the lining of your stomach, dehydration, sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, and electrolyte imbalances. Too much alcohol can also disturb chemicals in your brain causing broken sleep patterns and mood disturbances. (I wrote an a article all about drinking, too. You can read it here.)

And let’s talk about the real villain, highly processed carbs. They look so small and innocent sitting out there on the appetizer table, those little salmon puffs or pepperoni roll-ups. First and foremost, highly processed carbs cause inflammation in your body. Chronic inflammation can lead to illnesses, fatigue, even heart attacks and strokes.

Researchers have even discovered that eating a bunch of processed food can cause your gut bacteria to get all out of whack. A 2016 study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research  conducted a rat study to determine what happens to gut bacteria when processed foods are introduced. Researchers divided the rats into three groups. The first group ate healthy rat chow only. The second group cycled between processed junky human food and rat chow. The third group ate only the junk. Both groups that ate the junk had totally different kinds of gut bacteria than the rat chow group. When your gut bacteria is thrown off it can lead to a whole host of problems, including problems with digestion, allergies, metabolism, depression, and anxiety.

And guess what? The rats that cycled between the junk and rat chow? They totally binged on the junk every time. They weren’t able to practice their “holiday moderation”, haha.

So, like I said, it all seems pretty simple to me. Do it and feel yuck or don’t and feel good. If you end up feeling bad and regretful, make it your warrior fuel come January 1st, 2017.

Happy Holidays!

Love, Zuzka


Sources: Harvard Health PublicationsSelf MagazineNational Institute on Alcohol Abuse and AlcoholismThe Atlantic

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21 comments on “My Advice for “Holiday Eating””

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    Private  |  Erie, PA, USA

    I’m kinda bothered by this notion of attaching guilt or shame to indulgence. It’s really prevalent and although I, of course, think there’s a better life to be had in healthy eating and exercise, this attachment of guilt to something as basic as eating as part of participating in the very human tradition of the occasional feast troubles me. Its hard to put into words… I guess, for me, part of what I’m doing when I treat my body well with good food and exercise is honoring it and feeling grateful for all it can do- that I’m healthy and able bodied. If I indulge, especially because I’m participating in a cultural tradition that solidifies and celebrates my ties to friends and family, I try to be a friend to myself about it. I wouldn’t shame somebody I love because they over did it at a holiday dinner, even if i was prepping a healthy meal for them the next day. I’d hope they enjoyed their nice treat and had a great time with their loved ones. I guess I don’t find the guilt very productive.

    That said, do what’s best for you. If you’re super solid on your diet and fitness goals over the holidays, high five. I bet your loved ones were really happy to spend time with your awesome self and hope you had a great time. If you over do it and need extra naps and start the new year a little jiggly (or still jiggly, or super jiggly), high five. I bet your loved ones were really happy to spend time with your awesome self and I hope you had a great time. The big goal is to have a happy life, isn’t it? Either way, what I’ve seen of this community and from Zuzka is a lot of positive support for each other, so I hope you keep cheering yourself on.

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      Private  | 

      My words exactly… I know that I’m living a healthy lifestyle in general, which makes me not giving a damn if I happen to eat more Christmas cookies during holidays than I would in my normal days. Being healthy and enjoying life – that’s how I’m trying to live. Stressing out over eating too much this or that on occasions like Christmas doesn’t really match with that “enjoying life” part. If I stick to my healthy lifestyle after the holidays, which I will cause it’s just the natural way of my life, indulging during Christmas will have – in a long-term view – no affect on my health at all.

      That said – I’m not drinking alcohol at all this Christmas due to an objective reasons, and I don’t mean I’ll be eating cookies by handfuls – I have enough after just few. But I’ll be definitely enjoying Christmas with everything that goes with it. With no guilt – I’m not really that obsessed.

      Merry Christmas everyone! 🙂

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        Private  | 

        Ditto ! Being healthy and enjoying life , that’s how I like to live too 😊

    • private avatar image

      Private  | 

      Thank you for sharing , I like your perspective . Very true indeed and will keep in mind this holiday season . Attaching guilt and shame to food especially when participating in family reunions which doesn’t happen often is counter productive .

  2. private avatar image

    Private  | 

    Great advice, Zuzka, and realistic. I love Christmas time and the foods and goodies that go with it. That being said, I have allowed myself a 5# weight gain without a lick of guilt attached through the holiday season for the past 10 years. I don’t overdo it, but I do enjoy in small amounts and don’t beat myself up over it. It just isn’t worth it. Live loved!

  3. private avatar image

    Private  | 

    Hi Zuzka! I need your help! I haven’t been able to get back to my fit body since I started college. I do eat at least 3 meals a day, which I prepare. And the meals are mostly healthy, specially lunch, which consist in a bunch of veggies, some rice, and chicken or tilapia. I also do your workouts every day, but somehow this is not enough. Since I am doing double major AND a part time job, i find myself overly stressed and I tend to have sleep depravation (sometimes i go to sleep at 3 and wake up at 8am :/ ). The last month and a half I found myself very packed in work, and I noticed I’ve been developing anxiety and stress eating (specially junk food). I also noticed I put up some weight too. Now that i am out of school, I want to push my workouts and watch my diet more carefully. The challenge is keeping it up when the semester starts all over again. It seems that with time I start to neglect my body more and more, which adds to my stress and anxiety.
    Anyway, this winter break i was planning to workout every day, but an opportunity to attend a conference came up and I accepted. The trip is a little less than a week, and there is talks during ALL day. I am probably not going to be able to workout :(. I know the food that they serve is kosher, and their breakfast is full of carbohydrates. Their lunches are okay, there is big plates of salads, and their meat plates are not so tasty and quite scarce. My question is, how can i make it work? I mean, yeah i can easily steal the whole salad plate, but I need protein! I need something that keeps me full! This is why I jump on the carbs in the morning because I know I will be hungry and in a terrible mood if I dont :'( . I was thinking, would you advice taking your protein blend even if i am not exercising? Maybe it is not enough for a daily intake of protein but at least it is something. Or what would you advice me to handle my diet?
    I was good at this a few years back, but since I’ve been slowly neglecting my diet and body, it is like trying to learn it all over again.
    Thank you, Zuzka. Sometimes I which you are physically by my side so you can help me make this journey a success.

  4. private avatar image

    Private  |  Hanford, CA, USA

    Thank you, Zuska! Perfect advice.

  5. private avatar image

    Private  | 

    Hi all,
    I would like to share my middle of the ground approach. When given the holiday buffet of treats, I make sure to eat only the things that 1) look tasty to me, and 2) actually taste good once I get a bite. If it isn’t good, I tactfully get rid of it. NO sense in consuming empty carbs that ALSO taste bad (Zuzka has said something like this before). Then, if I eat until I’m stuffed and feel sluggish and gross the next day, I remind myself how much I ENJOYED it and how much fun it was to share yummy treats and drinks with my friends and family. Next I drink my water, resume my normal healthy diet, and get my butt to the gym. It may take me a few weeks to work off the extra holiday calories/inches come new year, but I accept it and expect it ahead of time. No guilt. I weigh the same at 36 as I did when I was 15, and since following Zuzka in the ZGym, am stronger than I have ever been. Seems to be working so far…
    Happy Holidays, Everyone!

  6. private avatar image

    Private  |  Maui, HI, USA

    I made it though two christmas parties Following the guidelines that Zuzka provides and a few bites of some sweets. I made and brought with me the pumpkin brownies Zu has in her recipe box and those were a hit. I was able to eat dessert and feel content and satisfied with those. I woke up the next day feeling super empowered. The self control of not giving in to all the sweets was a mile stone for me as I’m usually one to try everything…twice! I am super dedicated to have a strong fit toned body that to finally have will power to overcome the cravings was tremendous. Its like a miracle. Funny how the low carb desserts made with coconut flour swerve sugar and pumpkin were more popular than cake cookies and chocolate dripping in cane sugar and white carbs that fill in those lines we work so hard for… it’s like the Taste buds knows what’s up:)
    Thanks Zuzka for existing

  7. private avatar image

    Private  |  Seattle, Washington

    This is a stressful time of year. People tend to over eat around family and especially this time after such a crazy election.

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