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”? 

About the Author

Coach Stevo

Coach-Stevo-Logo.pngCoach Stevo is the nutrition and behavior change consultant at San Francisco CrossFit. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Chicago and an MA in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University. He teaches habit-based coaching to wellness professionals all over the world and he contributed to Intervention by Dan John in 2012. 



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