Eating Around the Holidays and Traveling


It was recently asked of me my thoughts on eating while traveling and around holidays.  I think it’s a great idea to touch on some of the obstacles here and some potential fixes to things many people commonly have troubles with.

Here are my thoughts:

  • Have a plan.  If you go into a day without a plan, you’re setting yourself up for failure.  This goes for every single day, not just around traveling or the holidays.  What’s your breakfast going to be?  How well does that satiate you until your next meal, or do you have a training session coming up after this meal—if so, how long until then and are you fueling for the work?  Do you prep your lunches ahead of time, and if not, WHY NOT?  Do you have a plan for dinner when you get home?  Failure to plan is planning to fail—this couldn’t be more true when it comes to your fueling protocol.
  • Even more important than having a plan is EXECUTING the plan!  It’s easy to make excuses about how it ‘didn’t work’ to stick to your plan, but again, I would argue that virtually every time that happens it’s due to a failure to make it work.  Don’t use the common excuses that you decided to go out to eat with co-workers, there was donuts in the break room, or whatever other reason you might have to fall off your plan.  I’ve had last minute lunch plans come up when I’ve already packed a meal, so I ate my pre-made lunch and met my friend(s) out and had a coffee.  If you hang out or work with people who will give you a hard time for executing a plan, that can be a topic for another discussion, but I would suggest making a stand or finding new friends!

Easy right?  Well, we’re all human and sometimes things just simply don’t go to plan.  The point I want to make first and foremost is to try to have and execute a plan whenever possible.  If you stick to a plan 90+% of the time, I think you can make an argument that you have a little bit of room for slippage when a special event or exception comes up.  If, however, you rarely plan your meals, you rarely have an idea of what your food profile really looks like, and you have a very undisciplined, loose approach to eating and fueling your body, your concern needs to be creating and executing that plan 365 days of the year rather than asking about what ‘food hacks’ can be bestowed to you around the holidays.

So, let’s say you stick to a good plan most of the time and you’re wanting to do the least amount of harm while out with friends or around the holidays.  Here are some suggestions you might want to try that I like to use—granted, this is all user-specific, but for the most part I find these approaches to be helpful:

  • Eat your protein first.  The order that you eat your macronutrients can drastically affect how much you can eat and what your ratios will look like when you’re full.  Whether it’s cookies and snacks that are available before the main meal at your family’s holiday gathering or chips and appetizers at a restaurant, filling up on stuff like that usually means you didn’t leave as much room for your healthier ‘mean meal.’  Fill up on meat as much as possible and there’s a good chance you’re not going to be able to overdo the other stuff (or at least not nearly as bad!)
  • To take number 1 a step further, you can even preface your meal with a protein shake.  If you’re like me, when met with a pizza and an empty stomach, I can do some serious damage.  However, if I put down, say, 30-40g of protein in a shake before I even start, I end up eating less pizza and my overall macronutrient ratio isn’t AS BAD.  I think a common approach is that when people know something isn’t good for them, they go off the deep end and have a ton of it.  Having less of a bad thing isn’t as bad as having more of a bad thing—everything you eat has an impact on your body, so ‘trick’ yourself into having less of it.  Is it perfect?  No way!  But a 40g protein shake and 2 pieces of pizza isn’t nearly as bad as eating 3/4 of the pizza.
  • Don’t do some excessive fast prior to eating a big holiday dinner because you’re trying to ‘save up’ caloric intake.  So many people I know don’t even eat breakfast before a thanksgiving meal at 2pm because they want to be able to really mow down on some food.  Just…..don’t.


Again, these pointers are not a free pass to eat bullshit and act like you got the OK from your coach to do so.  Everything you put in your body is going to have an effect on it, and every choice has consequences.  Nobody is expected to eat 100% clean all the time, but a MAJORITY of your eating habits need to be more or less dialed in and with a plan and purpose if you’re going to justify your deviations from that plan.  Your food profile and training regimen largely depend on one another in order for you to find success, so above all, make sure you are viewing food as fuel—because it is!

I hope those pointers help—I’m sure a lot of more regimented, dialed-in athletes and coaches will have a few eye rolls with this one, but I’m going into this with the assumption that you otherwise have a handle on a solid plan with your food and can afford some slack in your diet from time to time.  This is an attempt to offer pointers that have less of a negative impact around times of deviation from the plan.  First and foremost, though, you have to have a plan in place that you regularly execute.

Keep up the great work everyone!

RLTW <1>

—Coach Phil

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