What’s a Weight Neutral Holiday (& Why You Should Aim for One)

by Coach Stevo
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What’s a Weight Neutral Holiday (& Why You Should Aim for One)

For the last few years, my family has not had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Instead, we all meet in Boston, get really dressed up, and go to a really fancy buffet. My brother loves this buffet and he believes his mission in life is to eat every single item on offer. He started texting me about it in August and as we get closer, he sends me updates with his “domination strategy.”

“The key is gonna be to start with the breakfast foods first, then lunch, then dinner. Treat it like standard day, just in a hour. Trick my stomach that way.”

“No, seafood first. Crab, shrimp, oysters. Like that.”

“No wait, dessert first. Sweet stuff makes me hungrier!”

This is a very big deal for him. We take notes for him so he can revisit his tactics and last year he ate servings of 24 different items. Two years in a row he’s eaten himself sick. He ate so much last year that he couldn’t do anything for the rest of the day but moan on the couch.

But when he got home to New York two days later he weighed the exact same amount as when he left. That’s a “weight neutral holiday.”

The whole idea behind this approach is to treat a holiday exactly like what it is: one day. In my brother’s case, a single meal (there’s no fridge full of leftovers when you go out to eat on Thanksgiving). This is counter to a lot of advice you see in fitness and health magazines which offer “low carb Thanksgiving” options and “low cal stuffing” recipes, but let’s get real:

Thanksgiving is special.

It’s about bringing family together to share a communal meal. A feast that celebrates being thankful for the bounty in our lives. And there is nothing bountiful about low cal stuffing or communal about bringing your own low carb turkey.

And if you treat Thanksgiving as special, if you think of it as a single meal event, then it’s a heck of a lot easier to get back to the lean habits that you are mastering on the other days of the year.


Here are some strategies that make that transition back to your healthy habits as quick and effortless as possible:

  • My friend Josh Hillis gives his clients two rules for keeping Thanksgiving Weight Neutral: “The first rule of Thanksgiving is that it’s free. But the second is that it’s one day.”
  • If you’re a planner (like my brother), dedicate all your planning energy to the days leading up to and the days after Thanksgiving. Circle the big day on your calendar and start thinking about how you’re gonna get back to the kale salads on Friday.
  • Recruit co-conspirators. Pretty much everyone feels like crap the day after a big holiday feast. Announce to your friends and family, “Hey! Who else feels like crap?! Wanna go get salads?”
  • Perform a big, healthy ritual the day after. Take a yoga class. Lift some weights. Go for a big ol’ hike with your sweetie. Anything that reminds you how good making healthy decisions feels. Use this as your line in the sand to say, “Thanksgiving is over. Now it’s back to being who I am: a healthy person.”
  • Offer to cook the night after. Everyone puts their planning efforts into the Turkey Day, but you can save your cooking mojo for a healthy Friday dinner. Most people will appreciate a return to sanity, and it will give you control over one of those all important transition meals.
  • Get out of there! My brother leaves and gets right back into his routine. My mother flies home and immediately joins her walking group. My clients all call me at the airport and tell me they’ll see me in class on Monday.

What are your strategies for having a “weight neutral holiday”? 


  • Meta Sienkiewicz

    A friend of mine hosted Thanksgiving dinner a few times, inviting several friends. After the dinner we would go out for a long, long walk. It’s fun to go out and see what people in the neighborhood have done with their homes, and if there are football or Christmas decorations up. Probably it’s not enough to take care of the extra calories but it does give a little kick to the metabolism.

  • Lindsay

    When I read the title of this article and saw the picture I thought it was going to be about healthy recipes, etc. I was pleasantly surprised to see someone take a practical approach, why hadn’t I thought of that?! I think this makes absolute sense and I plan to strive for it this holiday season 🙂 thank you coach stevo!

  • Paige

    Thanks for posting! I’ve practiced this the last couple years. It makes it easier if you GO somewhere, like a relative’s home. Then you can just wash your hands of the situation and get out without any leftovers. It also helps you to plan out what you will eat because you know that, realistically, you won’t be able to have every dessert or whatever your weakness is. You have to decide what you want the most. The really great thing is, you won’t be sick like everyone else!

  • Lets

    All this helps if you have the $ to do it. Not very many people these days have money to go out to a restaurant on Thanksgiving. Then to take a jab at “fitness and health magazines which give healthy ideas to a alternative like “low carb Thanksgiving” options and “low cal stuffing” recipes is plain arrogant. Then your last bullet is to “Get out of there!”. Leave as soon as your belly is full. Because after all “YOU are trying to lose weight and its all about YOU.”
    Thanksgiving is special. And there are many ways to make it that way. A loud, crowded, restaurant where the employees have to work to feed you and your horde and not be with their own family isn’t what many consider making the holiday special.

  • Mari

    I planned months ago that I would enjoy Thanksgiving with my family, since its only one day and then get back on the wagon. My mom is also on MFP and she is doing the same with me. We are gonna go to the gym that morning like we usually do but we are gonna indulge. Our only rule is not to over eat. When we feel full that’s it.

  • Colleen

    That awkward moment when you hit your goal weight on Thanksgiving Eve!! Happy, but also really motivated to have a weight neutral holiday this year.

  • Anna DeAngelis

    Last year I started going to an exercise place that does group only fitness classes like Zumba, POUND, Pilates,etc. and the day after Thanksgiving they did a Black Friday Blitz where they did 4 exercises each 30 min long.
    This year they are doing the same thing. Love that I can indulge and then burn off the next day.

  • Michelle R

    Perfect timing on this article!!! Just what I needed to hear!! I was planning on doing just this, but it is often hard to “get back on the wagon” the next day, so thank you for the tips, and for putting things in perspective for me! We’re hosting ~60 people, so all the cleaning/prepping just means more calories burned today for some good eats tomorrow!!

  • shawnsBrain

    I ate whatever I wanted on Thanksgiving day and didn’t think twice about it. The next day, I got back on the trolley with my regular workout and nutrition plan. I was up a couple pounds for a few days but then was right back where I should be.

  • shawnsBrain

    Also: I do similar at Christmas. I’m not training for the Olympics and a few days a year where I splurge doesn’t hurt my overall goals.

  • Talya Solomon

    When I saw the photo I thought this was going to be one of those everything in moderation reminders but was pleasantly surprised . I designate a once a month cheat day and hollidays are a perfect oportunity . I can be a reall glutten but am always pleasantly surprised how well I bounce back . I think it even helps spead up my matabolism !

  • Callie33021

    I had not even seen this article but pretty much followed the recommendations. My husband and I went on a month-long road trip, and except for the fact that one meal each day was at a restaurant, I did everything possible to eat healthily and not deviate too much from what I had been doing pre-trip. Even with restaurant eating, I perused menus in advanced and planned what I would order. On Thanksgiving, I ate a little of everything without overdoing it. Because, my eating habits have truly changed, it was easy to get back on track. I also made it a point to be active throughout the vacation. No, I was not attending Zumba classes, but I was walking and hiking each day. In the immediate days before Thanksgiving, I cut back on calories a little so I could have a guilt-free holiday. I will follow the same plan for Christmas and New Years.

  • Lenkel

    When I first saw the title I thought weight neutral meant what it sounded like. A time when although you may not lose weight, there is no reason to gain it! I thought simple strategies of common sense and personal responsibility would be spoken about. Seeing a picture of a healthy yet enticing plate of food to go along with the article, I found it bizare that this was considered a new breakthrough but figured if it inspired anyone then it was a positive thing!

    I was wrong. This mess of an article is something Id love to discuss with the writer as I am alarmed that a professional can spirt such pure garbage to a public audience. In no way shape or form should it be encourage let alone taught, that bingeing rituals like the one described in your article are appropriate. That is exactly the dangerous and ignorant approach that make it hard for people to get right back on track. Its important for adults to act just as that- adults.

    On Thanksgiving eating a plate with a small scoop of each yummy food only ends up a bit higher than normal calorie intake. In fact because everyone waits for this one meal and there are so many tastes usually people end early and eat less (or at least earlier) then other days. It is only when adults think a free pass means a expedition of getting ones self sick passes as a holiday. As a certified nutritionist and mental health therapist I can tell you that this idea of bingeing and restricting is not only a nightmare, but its really sad adults are preaching it.

    Eat sensibly and enjoy the same meals. There is no need for low cal stuffing although healthy options at the table are enjoyable to. Salad is not a demon. Never treat it as a bingeing then restricting event. And just listen to your body and grow up. Working with individuals with devastating food disorders and mental ocd disorders affecting their relationship with food, I can tell you it is pitiful to hear of seemingly healthy adults who just dont know how to not overeat during the holidays. Please lets use our common sense. And please lets not use this article.

    Will not be replying. Happy Holidays al!

    • Jim Dean

      Wow, self righteous much?
      The authors advice seemsto make sense to the rest of us, so…

      • MDRaider06