It’s a HoliDAY

The holidays can be tough for most people with food – tradition, temptation,  social gatherings, cabin fever, etc. This general article starts the conversation on how to navigate the holidays while prioritizing whole foods, and your health.

For a person who cares about their health, the holidays can be a stressful time. Many people end up with guilt, stress, and self-loathing. Some mark the holidays as a wash because they don’t know that it can be any different! But, as with anything, if you want to make it better, YOU can make it better. Let’s talk about how to make “it” better!

Focusing on the big picture

  • Whole Foods+Functional Fitness = Health
    • While this is overly simplified, we firmly believe that what the majority of people are missing in their life when it comes to health are #1 Whole foods (foods that came from the ground or once had legs. Generally seen as “healthy” foods) and #2 Functional Fitness (how often, how intense and your technique are also taken into account here), and that the absence of these two things leads to the majority of health problems that people encounter.
  • PRO/CHO/FAT – What and Why – Read this!

Now that we know the “big picture”, let’s set some ground rules.


…there is no such thing as good or bad when it comes to food. There is only better or worse, relative to your goals. There is no such thing as good or bad when it comes to food. There is only better or worse, relative to your goals.


…which is a follow up on the first point – There are no good foods. There are no bad foods. Only foods that will be better or worse for progress to your goals or help you push for your ideal or optimal health.


…if we have an ideal health or goals related to our health, we should always be able to make progress towards them – even over the holidays! It comes down to priorities and strategies to be able to follow through with what you want to happen.

Great. We got those out of the way… if you don’t feel like you have a handle on those, reread!

If our goal for the holidays is to keep pushing towards optimal health AND enjoy ourselves, take part in a family tradition, etc. we totally can! Let’s talk about how:

#1 Planning ahead

  • Do you know what’s coming? If you know what’s coming and what your schedule will look like, you can then plan your nutrition around those things. You have to know what your goal is and what you want (simple option – have whole foods and “best” meals that you can have while maintaining your exercise routine) and THEN plan with that in mind.
  • Social Gatherings – if you’re going over to someone’s house or out to eat and you know the menu (if you don’t know, find out and make your plan ahead of time), pick the whole food options first, and then expand and bring your own missing pieces. Do you have a whole protein source? For most social gatherings, this can easily be accounted for. What about a dense carbohydrate source? Most meals like this have processed carbs, or whole carbs that have processed ingredients (potato mixes, “sugar” salads, etc). Does the meal have veggies? Pick a color and bring some veggies! What about a whole fat source? Nuts, seeds, oil that the meat is cooked in… all solid options!
    • Is it bad to have a processed carb in one of these meals? NO! But, you CAN make this meal better. How? Add a veggie. Boom!
    • If something pops up that you didn’t plan on having and you know it won’t agree with your stomach, then don’t have it. Slow things down, and prioritize your future self!

#2 Draw Boundaries

It’s important to own your choices, and do what you want when you want. If you want to eat all the processed food sitting in front of you, you totally can. Nobody is going to make you eat whole foods OR processed foods, so you have to own that choice. What’s great about choices, is that you have them. You always have a choice! Focus on making meals “better”, not good or bad. Avoid all or nothing, and if the meal you’re about to have is a 4 (on a scale of 1-10), try to make it a 5. What can you add? A veggie? Maybe more veggies in place of the processed food? Now how do you make it a 6? Maybe eating enough to be satisfied, not stuffed and sickly full? How do you make it a 7/10? Are you having water or a calorie dense beverage? What about an 8/10? Maybe remove more of the processed food and add more of the whole sources? What’s a 9/10? Maybe eating slowly? What’s a 10/10? Probably avoiding the processed food entirely and having exclusively whole food?

It’s worth noting that this 1-10 scale is based on your goals! A 10 being a 10/10 ideal meal to help you reach your desired goal, a 1/10 being the least ideal meal for you relative to your goals.

Do you not feel empowered to draw boundaries at social gatherings? Try exercising beforehand! Exercising and prioritizing you and nobody else before a social gathering can help build your willpower and make you feel more passionately about your health. I like to do a quick 10-20 minute workout with some bodyweight movements and a cardio movement to rev the engine a bit. Gets me going, and gets me ready to power through any social gathering around this time.

That’s a good bunch on social gatherings and boundaries, but what about at home?

Glad you asked!

Let’s explore a universal phenomenon discovered by Dr. John Berardi:

Berardi’s First Law:

If a food is in your house or possession, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate, will eventually eat it.

The corollary of Berardi’s First Law is:

If a healthy food is in your house or possession, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate, will eventually eat it.

Don’t underestimate the millions of dollars that go into making processed foods irresistible. They taste good. They are meant to be really hard to avoid. Vegetables are designed to make you live healthily and free of disease, so trust veggies over processed foods! So, don’t bring home leftovers from that social gathering. Don’t buy the discounted holiday treats to always have a stock of at home. Surround yourself with whole foods, and you will eat the whole foods. Surround yourself with processed foods, and someone will eat them eventually.

Solution? Focus on making your meals better, and avoiding surrounding yourself with temptation out of a guilty obligation. If someone gives you a processed food to bring home and you don’t want it, say no. If you can’t handle saying no, then maybe say yes and throw it away when you get home. Not ideal, but here we are.

#3 It’s a HoliDAY

It’s a holiday. A single day. It’s not from Thanksgiving through the new year! This is where I think things get most difficult. Tradition, disruptions in routine, temptation, and many other distractions are present during the holiday season. Here’s my advice:

Stay the course. Prioritize planning ahead and building “better” meals that are filled with whole foods. Focus on exercising during this time. It helps!

Nick Gifford (CF-L3)
Nick Gifford (CF-L3)Author
Nick Gifford, Head Coach and Owner of Gifford Fitness, CrossFit Red Lion and Gifford Barbell has coached over 3000 athletes since 2012. He has worked with athletes from all walks and stages of life, focusing on health and wellness, balance, and pursuing excellence. Nick specializes in working with Teenagers in Sports Performance and Weightlifting.