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Navigating Your Health During the Holidays

holiday weight gain

Carbs aren’t your enemy. They can be a friend, even during the holiday season

The holidays are a season of joyous celebrations and cherished traditions, as well as the perfect time to catch up with loved ones over great meals. However, overindulgence in rich foods and festive drinks can quickly derail our nutritional goals and lead to unwanted weight gain, leaving us with a price to pay for the new year. 

So, what's the solution to keeping your health and metabolism in check during the holiday season? 

The key is building a deeper understanding of the factors that play into your metabolic flexibility, which is your body's ability to switch between burning fats and carbs based on their availability. 

We turned to our Lumen metabolic coaches to discuss how you can equip yourself with mindful eating strategies, responsible drinking habits, effective exercise routines, and healthy coping mechanisms to deal with festive stress. This allows you to enjoy the season's joy and pleasures while honoring your body's nutritional needs and prioritizing your physical well-being during and after the holidays.  

Understanding the Nutritional Pitfalls of the Holiday Season

The holiday season often brings with it a tradition of feasting and merry-making, which, while enjoyable, can impact your health and metabolism. Many find themselves indulging in an array of rich foods and drinks, including turkey legs, pecan pies, pot roasts with gravy, mashed potatoes, chocolate cakes, and sugary ginger cookies, alongside soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. These items, packed with fats, sugars, and empty calories, are tempting but can contribute to unwanted weight gain and a spike in body fat.

This festive overindulgence is further compounded by a more sedentary lifestyle during the colder months. Combining increased calorie intake and reduced physical activity can lead to significant changes in your body (1). Highly processed foods and those rich in saturated fats and simple carbs, common during the holidays, can rapidly spike blood sugar levels and disrupt energy efficiency and fat metabolism.

Consuming sugary sodas and soft drinks with meals can also negatively impact your energy efficiency and reduce fat metabolism (2). 

Moreover, constant exposure to these rich foods may alter brain pathways and hormone regulation, increasing the urge to eat more than necessary.

Keeping Tabs on Portions and Carbs

The best way to enjoy holiday foods without derailing your health and nutritional goals is by keeping tabs on your portion sizes and carb intake (3). Many of us tend to underestimate the amount of food we consume, especially amid great company, joy, and music. 

One of the most efficient ways to track your food and carb intake is by using Lumen to provide insights into how your meals affect your metabolic flexibility. Lumen can inform you whether your body is burning fat or carbs and provide personalized nutritional advice on what you should consume and avoid on a certain day.

"This whole experience has changed my relationship with myself. Knowledge is power, and I feel more informed and empowered than ever to mindfully address my activity levels, eating habits, drinking habits, and sleep hygiene. I’m working toward greater self-care, and a content and healthier me."
Kary, USA

Tips to Prevent Weight Gain During the Holidays

Our Lumen Metabolic Experts and Coaches share their tips on navigating the holiday season in a mindful way. 

Tip #1: Alcohol and Holiday Celebrations

Alcohol is rich in empty calories and can prevent your body from burning fat. 

Drinking alcohol can stop you from reaching overnight fat burn. Detoxifying alcohol is a top priority for your metabolism. But this delays carb burn and makes it harder to reach morning fat burn.
Brea Lofton, R.D Nutritionist at Lumen

The following tips can help you reduce your drinking during the holiday season: 

      • Track how much alcohol you consume. Using a drink-tracking app can help. 
      • Set a drinking limit before a party. Determine the maximum amount of alcohol you'll have before an event or night out. 
      • Alternate between alcoholic beverages and plain water or non-sugary beverages. This can help you pace your drinking throughout the night. 
      • Stock up on low-alcohol or non-alcoholic beverages. If you're hosting a party, you can purchase non-alcoholic spirits, wine, and beers. 

holiday weight gain insight

Tip #2: Mindful Eating During the Holidays

Keeping track of how much you eat and your food choices during holiday gatherings can also help you maintain your metabolism. 

Here are some strategies that might help: 

  • Avoid mindless grazing. Try to eat and chew attentively, and stay aware of how much you're having. Research has found that eating while distracted can cause a person to consume more (4). 
  • Try to use smaller plate sizes. This can help with portion control. 
  • You can also try looking at the nutritional labels of foods you consume or looking up the recommended portion sizes for different kinds of foods online. 
  • Try keeping less healthy holiday treats and snacks out of sight so you're less likely to snack on them. Alternatively, you can stock up on healthier options like seeds, fruits, and vegetables. 

Also, try to limit your intake of processed meats, such as ham and sausage, and your consumption of refined carbohydrates, including pasta, white bread, pizza, and sweet desserts. If you're hosting, you'll do yourself and your guests a massive favor by preparing healthier snacks, such as nuts, seeds, and vegetables with a dip. 

Eating more carbs than your body needs blocks fat burn. Excess carbs get stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver. You won't get back to fat burn until those reserves are used up.
Brea Lofton, R.D Nutritionist at Lumen

Tip #3: Staying Active During the Holiday Season

Research has found that exercise training during the holiday season can help prevent weight gain and reduce the effects of holiday feasting on your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and insulin sensitivity (5). 

Intense exercise, like high-intensity interval training (HIIT), can increase your metabolic rate. Research suggests that this exercise can help boost the amount of proteins in your skeletal muscles that play an important role in energy metabolism and muscle contraction (6). 

lose holiday weight

Studies have also found that low or moderate-intensity exercise can have a similarly favorable effect on the skeletal muscle proteins involved in fat and carbohydrate metabolism (7). 

The key here is to get moving during the holidays. If you aren't fond of exercising in the cold, make it a point to work out indoors. For example, you can go swimming in an indoor pool or perform static exercises from the comfort of your own home. 

Being more active brings you back to fat burn sooner. Higher activity levels help your metabolism burn through the carbs you recently consumed to increase the likelihood of getting back into fat burn in the morning.
Brea Lofton, R.D Nutritionist at Lumen

Tip #4: Managing Stress and Emotion-Driven Eating

While it sounds counterintuitive that people experience more stress during the holiday season, studies suggest that this time of the year can be linked to increased stress for different reasons. 

One possible reason is the higher alcohol intake during this time of the year, which can induce stress and disrupt your sleep patterns. There is also stress that comes from loneliness, meeting many family members, party planning, holiday shopping, and managing finances (8). 

Greater stress levels can spike adrenaline, causing carb burn. Hormones like adrenaline put the body into fight-or-flight mode, which switches you to carb burn to prepare you to run away from danger.
Brea Lofton, R.D Nutritionist at Lumen

The best way to handle the holiday stress is to have realistic expectations of yourself and others. Create a budget that will keep your spending in check and delegate tasks for planning, cooking, and prepping to those around you. Don't be afraid to say "no" to planning roles you know will drive your stress levels up. 

Try to keep your sight on what truly matters. Focus on spending time and connecting with people you love rather than stressing over party planning or whipping up the "perfect" meal. 

Tip #5: Navigating Social Pressure and Peer Influence

It can be tricky to navigate the social pressure to eat and drink more. It boils down to being firm with your no's and having predetermined limits set for yourself before stepping foot into any party.  

You can also bring your own low-calorie dish to an event and let your friends and family know about your fitness and health goals so they don't unintentionally push you to go past your limit. 

gain weight christmas

Must-Try Healthy Thanksgiving and Christmas Recipes 

Embrace the holiday spirit without compromising on health with our motto: "Same traditions, better choices." Brea Lofton, R.D. at Lumen, not only shares her top health hacks for festive favorites but also introduces Lumen's unique combo meals.

Designed by our expert nutritionists, these meals provide personalized nutrition plans every day, tailored to your metabolic measurements. With Lumen, enjoy satisfying and healthy holiday meals that keep you on track with your goals.

1. Low-Fat Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

This recipe provides a healthier alternative to traditional mashed potatoes by incorporating cauliflower, which adds a creamy texture without the need for excessive butter or cream. Using low-fat broth and Greek yogurt further reduces the fat content while maintaining a rich flavor.

Nutritional Information - Per Serving (assuming 4 servings): 
Calories: Around 150-200 kcal, Protein: 5-8g, Carbohydrates: 30-35g, Fat: 3-5g


- 1 medium-sized cauliflower, cut into florets

- 4 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

- 2 cloves garlic, minced

- 1 cup low-fat chicken or vegetable broth

- 2 tablespoons low-fat Greek yogurt

- 1 tablespoon olive oil

- Salt and pepper to taste

- Chopped fresh chives for garnish (optional)


1. In a large pot fitted with a steamer basket, steam the cauliflower and potatoes until they are fork-tender. This will take about 15-20 minutes. Transfer the steamed cauliflower and potatoes to a large bowl. Use a potato masher or a fork to mash them until smooth.

2. In a small pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

3. Add the sautéed garlic, low-fat broth, and Greek yogurt to the mashed cauliflower and potatoes. Mix well until everything is well combined and the mixture reaches your desired consistency. You can add more broth if needed.

4. Season the mashed cauliflower and potatoes with salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the seasoning according to your preference.

2. Low-Carb Green Bean Casserole

This low-carb green bean casserole is a delicious and healthier alternative to the traditional version, making it suitable for those following a low-carb or keto diet.

Nutritional information - Per serving, assuming 4 servings:
Calories: Around 300-350 kcal, Protein: 10-15g, Carbohydrates: 10-15g, Dietary Fiber: 4-6g, Fat: 25-30g


  • 1 lb fresh green beans, trimmed and halved
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)


1. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook for about 2 minutes, then immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the minced garlic and sliced mushrooms, cooking until they release their moisture and become tender.

3. Pour in the chicken or vegetable broth and bring it to a simmer. Stir in the heavy cream, cream cheese, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Cook until the cream cheese is fully melted and the sauce has thickened slightly.

4. Add the blanched green beans to the skillet, tossing them in the creamy mushroom sauce until well coated. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes to heat the green beans through.

5. In a small bowl, mix the grated Parmesan cheese and almond flour. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the green bean mixture in the skillet. Transfer the skillet to the preheated oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the casserole is bubbling.

6. If desired, garnish with chopped fresh parsley before serving.

3. Crispy Parmesan Brussels sprouts 

Low in carbs and fat to allow you to incorporate vegetables into your nutritional intake and stay within your macros during your holiday meals!

Nutritional Information - assuming 4 servings per recipe:
Calories: 116 calories, Carbohydrates: 5g, Fiber: 1g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 9g


  • 1lb brussels sprouts 
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/3 cup (30g) parmesan, finely grated
  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs


1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F.

2. To prepare the brussels sprouts, trim the base, cut in half and remove the loose, rough outer leaves.

3. Place in a bowl, pour over oil and toss gently. Sprinkle the vegetables with garlic, salt, pepper, parmesan and breadcrumbs.

4. Toss to coat, then spread out on the tray cut face down.

5. Roast for 20 minutes, flip then roast for a further 10 minutes until the outer leaves are deep golden brown and crispy.

6. Finally, immediately transfer to a warm serving bowl. Scrape loose parmesan breadcrumbs off the tray and sprinkle, then serve immediately, and enjoy!

4. Low-Carb, Low-Fat Turkey Meatloaf

This low-carb, low-fat turkey meatloaf is packed with flavor and uses cauliflower to add moisture without the need for excessive fat. This can be incorporated into a holiday meal to stay within your macros, get in your protein, and still enjoy this popular holiday dish!

Nutritional Information - assuming 6 servings per recipe
Calories: Around 200-250 kcal, Protein: 25-30g, Carbohydrates: 5-10g, Dietary Fiber: 2-3g, Fat: 10-15g


  • 1.5 lbs lean ground turkey 
  • 1 cup finely chopped cauliflower rice
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce (no sugar added)
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Cooking spray (olive oil or canola oil)


1. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).

2. In a food processor, pulse cauliflower florets until they resemble rice. Alternatively, you can use pre-packaged cauliflower rice. Finely chop the onion and bell pepper.

3. In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, sauté the chopped cauliflower rice, onion, bell pepper, and minced garlic until the vegetables are softened. Set aside to cool.

4. In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, sautéed vegetables, tomato sauce, chicken broth, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, dried thyme, dried oregano, salt, black pepper, and smoked paprika. Mix until all ingredients are well combined.

5. Transfer the turkey mixture to a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Shape it into a loaf.

6. Bake in the preheated oven for 45-55 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C).

7. Allow the meatloaf to rest for a few minutes before slicing. Serve slices with your favorite low-carb vegetables or salad.

5. Zesty Orange Buckwheat Chocolate Cookies

These holiday treats are low in carbs with one cookie counting as roughly just one carb serving from your nutrition plan! Give these a try to spice things up for your holiday treats! 

Nutritional information - per serving (recipe yields 12 cookies):
Calories: Around 150-180 kcal, Protein: 3-4g, Carbohydrates: 15-20g, Dietary Fiber: 2g, Fat: 9-12g


  • 1 cup light buckwheat flour
  • ¼ cup almond flour
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup ghee, butter or coconut oil, softened
  • ½ cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips, or your favorite dark chocolate bar, chopped
  • 1 tsp orange zest


1. In a medium bowl, mix together buckwheat flour, almond flour, baking soda and salt.

2. In a mixer bowl, beat ghee, butter or coconut oil with coconut sugar on high for about 4 minutes. Add vanilla and egg. Stir in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips and orange zest.

3. Chill dough for a few hours, or even better, overnight. This allows the buckwheat to mellow. You can also bake these immediately and they will still be good!

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop 1-inch dough balls onto sheet. Flatten a bit, if desired.

5. Bake for roughly 12-13 minutes. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack. Enjoy!

Leave it to Lumen to Help You Plan Your Holiday Season

It's always best to plan ahead by creating a healthy nutritional plan and setting health-centric goals. Here's what you can do. 

Empower yourself with metabolic measurements

You can stay well-informed and build your holiday health and nutritional plan based on your own metabolic measurements. 

holiday weight

Lumen provides these measurements and in-depth insight into how your body burns energy. This means you can adjust your holiday dietary habits and exercise routine with confidence that you're working in harmony with your body's personal and specific needs—and not against them. 

Make your nutrition personal 

There's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet plan. Ultimately, what works for other people might not work for you, and vice versa. This is where a customized and personalized nutritional strategy comes into play. 

With Lumen, you'll be better equipped with a roadmap that fits your metabolic profile and holiday routine. Our carb cycling meal planner adds a layer of flexibility, allowing you to indulge in special holiday goodies without derailing your progress. You'll be able to navigate holiday meals with more ease and enjoy spending time with your loved ones without worrying about your health and weight. 

Surf the holiday spirit while staying committed to your health

Through real-time progress monitoring, Lumen helps you gain momentum and stay motivated and driven. You'll be able to track how changes to your diet improve your metabolic health and flexibility and celebrate your victories along the way. 

"Lumen is helping me track my macros. Never in my life will I have known when my body was burning fat versus carbs. I can now structure my workout schedules around this info!"
Fys, USA

Additionally, the continuous feedback loop allows you to adjust your eating plans as necessary, keeping you on track with your goals as you enjoy the festivities and holiday cheer. 

Post-Holiday Recovery: Bouncing Back

If you aren't quite happy with your progress during the holidays, here are strategies to help you bounce back during the new year and get back on track. 

      • Start by reaffirming or setting new goals for the new year. Make sure these goals are realistic, specific, and achievable. 
      • Find a workout routine that gets you excited. You are much more likely to commit to an exercise routine you enjoy, so don't be afraid to experiment to find what works best for you. 
      • Make quality sleep your priority. Practicing good sleep hygiene, like creating a conducive bedroom environment and sticking to a regular sleep schedule, can help. 
      • Restock your fridge and pantry with healthy options. Opt for more fruits and vegetables, and try to minimize your intake of processed foods. 
      • Track your progress with Lumen. This device measures your metabolic flexibility, allowing you to create more personalized nutritional plans that honor your body's needs. 

The Holidays Don't Have to Be a Hiccup in Your Wellness Journey

Keeping yourself on track simply boils down to having a game plan in mind. Set limits for eating and drinking, incorporate exercise into your routine, and determine what triggers your stress during the holiday season. 

Most importantly, don't lose sight of what truly matters. The holidays are the perfect time to catch up with your loved ones and enjoy great company. Lumen takes the guesswork out of the equation, so you can focus more on connecting and spending quality time with the people you love. 


[1] Schoeller D. A. (2014). The effect of holiday weight gain on body weight. Physiology & behavior, 134, 66–69. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.03.018 

[3] FoodData Central. (n.d.). USDA. Alcoholic beverage, wine, table, red. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173190/nutrients 

[3] Harvard School of Public Health. (2016, July 25). Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar. The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/carbohydrates-and-blood-sugar/ 

[4] Casperson, S. L., Hall, C., & Roemmich, J. N. (2017). Postprandial energy metabolism and substrate oxidation in response to the inclusion of a sugar- or non-nutritive sweetened beverage with meals differing in protein content. BMC nutrition, 3, 49. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40795-017-0170-2 

[5] Bhutani, S., Wells, N., Finlayson, G., & Schoeller, D. A. (2020). Change in eating pattern as a contributor to energy intake and weight gain during the winter holiday period in obese adults. International journal of obesity (2005), 44(7), 1586–1595. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-020-0562-2 

[6] Robinson, E., Aveyard, P., Daley, A., Jolly, K., Lewis, A., Lycett, D., & Higgs, S. (2013). Eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of food intake memory and awareness on eating. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 97(4), 728–742. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.112.045245 

[7] Ramirez-Jimenez, M., Morales-Palomo, F., Ortega, J. F., Moreno-Cabañas, A., Guio de Prada, V., Alvarez-Jimenez, L., & Mora-Rodriguez, R. (2020). Effects of Exercise Training during Christmas on Body Weight and Cardiometabolic Health in Overweight Individuals. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(13), 4732. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17134732 

[8] Hostrup, M., Lemminger, A. K., Stocks, B., Gonzalez-Franquesa, A., Larsen, J. K., Quesada, J. P., Thomassen, M., Weinert, B. T., Bangsbo, J., & Deshmukh, A. S. (2022). High-intensity interval training remodels the proteome and acetylome of human skeletal muscle. eLife, 11, e69802. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.69802 

[9] Ryan, B. J., Schleh, M. W., Ahn, C., Ludzki, A. C., Gillen, J. B., Varshney, P., Van Pelt, D. W., Pitchford, L. M., Chenevert, T. L., Gioscia-Ryan, R. A., Howton, S. M., Rode, T., Hummel, S. L., Burant, C. F., Little, J. P., & Horowitz, J. F. (2020). Moderate-Intensity Exercise and High-Intensity Interval Training Affect Insulin Sensitivity Similarly in Obese Adults. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 105(8), e2941–e2959. https://doi.org/10.1210/clinem/dgaa345 

[10] Bhutani, S., Wells, N., Finlayson, G., & Schoeller, D. A. (2020). Change in eating pattern as a contributor to energy intake and weight gain during the winter holiday period in obese adults. International journal of obesity (2005), 44(7), 1586–1595. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-020-0562-2 

Reviewed by Brea Lofton, RD Nutritionist at Lumen - by Lumen Editorial Desk

Brea has a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition & a Master’s degree in Nutrition & Food from Texas Women’s University. She has been a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for 4 years thus far. She is very passionate about uplifting others by empowering them with information regarding well-rounded nutritional intake and lifestyle practices and how they can impact overall health & wellness. She is currently a Nutritionist in the Customer Experience department at Lumen the world’s first metabolic tracking device through the breath. She has experience in a variety of nutrition-related matters, including nutrition counseling and developing community nutritional initiatives.