Confession: The holidays always stress me out a bit. Not as a partygoer or lover of homemade rolls and Christmas cookies, but as a nutrition coach. I feel incredibly invested in every single person I work with and I don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t enjoy their typical family traditions or, even worse, feel guilty when they inevitably slip up a bit.

We’ve had several team discussions lately about how we as coaches can help those we work with have the best holiday season possible. These discussions aren’t centered on avoiding holiday weight gain, but on helping people maintain the positive eating habits they have worked so hard to build and to avoid spending the entire holiday season feeling guilty or deprived.

One way we can do this is by helping individuals recognize the benefits of moving into maintenance mode during the holidays.

We know that in order to lose body fat, you must be in a calorie deficit (eating fewer calories than you are burning). But what happens when you’re in a calorie deficit for too long?! A few things: you get burnt out, you start to feel unmotivated because you’re hangry all of the time, and you eventually hit a plateau in your progress. This plateau isn’t a result of your wilting motivation, but a natural physiological response. As we push calories lower to achieve our fat loss goals, our metabolisms adapt to those changes, requiring us to continually drop calories lower and lower in order to see more results. This process, called metabolic adaptation, is a testament to the fact that we are not meant to strive for fat loss forever!

And that’s where maintenance mode comes in.

Maintenance mode means eating at maintenance calories, or eating about the same amount of calories that you are burning each day. There is no set calendar or timeline for when you should move to a period of maintenance, but feelings of burnout or plateaus in progress are both indicators that it could be a good time to bump up your calories for a few weeks.

There are many benefits of moving to maintenance mode beyond addressing burnout and plateaued progress. Shifting your goals from losing fat to maintaining your fat loss can help combat negative effects of diet fatigue and can provide a mental and physical “reset” so that you can eventually return to fat loss mode with even better results in the long run. The holiday season is a perfect time to spend some time in maintenance mode because it can give you some added flexibility to loosen up on tracking and enjoy some of your favorite foods and family traditions.

So how do I do it?!

If you’re working with a coach, talk about the possibility of moving to maintenance mode over the holidays. Your coach wants nothing but the best for you and will talk you through a game plan that works with your goals, your timeline, and your needs. If you are tracking calories or macros on your own, take a few weeks to slowly bring your calorie goal up towards maintenance (baseline) calories then hang there for a bit. A maintenance period could be a short as 2 weeks, and as long as you want it to be!

Because you’re eating roughly the same amount of calories as you’re burning, your weight should stay steady and you should be able to maintain the body composition changes you  have made while enjoying more food and more flexibility. It gives you the opportunity to loosen up on tracking and take the opportunity to practice the skills and habits that you have learned while focusing more on the important things, like spending time with family and friends.

I know the holidays can be tough when you have nutrition goals, but there are so many ways to enjoy the season while still feeling your best. I have so much good stuff I want to share that I can’t share it all here, so be sure to sign up for my email list where I’ll be sharing my BEST tips each Friday in a weekly email. Have any specific questions about tackling this holiday season? Leave ‘em below!