8 February 2019


by Jacob Schepis 0

With the holiday season fast approaching, this time of year brings with it a lot of anxiety and uncertainty for fitness enthusiasts. Whilst this period is one that, should entail lots of priceless memories, cake, alcohol and gluttony, the first thing my clients ask me is: “Jacob, how do I approach my diet and training…

With the holiday season fast approaching, this time of year brings with it a lot of anxiety and uncertainty for fitness enthusiasts. Whilst this period is one that, should entail lots of priceless memories, cake, alcohol and gluttony, the first thing my clients ask me is:

“Jacob, how do I approach my diet and training during the holidays?”

What I always reiterate to my clients is that a few days of indulging and YOLO moments isn’t going to derail your physique goals, so chill!

Unless said individual is in a contest prep, or has a weight class that they need to make in the coming weeks, I’m really not concerned at all if they don’t track their macros, have an alcoholic beverage or 10 and take some time away from dieting to enjoy the finer things in life…

I say, f*** dieting and take a break…

Sure, in an ideal world we would all be well served staying adherent to our plans 24/7, 365 and hitting our goals irrespective of periodic calendar events…

However, just like one day of sound nutrition won’t create your desired physique, one or two days of ‘off plan’ eating isn’t going to break your physique or turn you into a blubbering whale, nor will taking a week or two to have a break from dieting…

The key to making the most of your holiday festivities and not un-doing all of your hard work during the year comes down to:

  • How you approach the silly season;
  • Your mindset surrounding nutrition; and
  • How well you plan for some time away from diligent and accurate nutrition…

What I like to do with my clients is to take a Diet Break during the Christmas period as to alleviate the restraint of ‘dieting’ and allow them to enjoy their holidays without feeling guilty. Quite simply, a diet break ins’t a free pass to undo all the habits, behaviours and hard work that was established in previous dieting phases, however it is a time to ‘chill’ out and reduce the physiological and psychological stress that comes with dieting.

How To Structure A Diet Break

Here is what a diet break looks like for my clients:

  • Set a concrete timeline -1-2 weeks;
  • Pick key moments/events where you will enjoy, free from the numbers;
  • Set a date for when you will resume your subsequent nutritional phase;
  • Increase kcal intake to/above maintenance calories;
  • Reduce the number of variables controlled; e.g. weighing and measuring foods every second day or protein tracking only;
  • Maintain similar meal timing/structures/frequencies – 4-5 meals, even distribution of protein at similar times to previous dieting phase.
  • Increase the flexibility in food consumed – introducing 1-2 new foods each day/week into your ‘normal diet’;
  • A focus on weight maintenance or controlled weight gain – setting parameters around what is and is not an acceptable amount of weight gain..
  • Treat it as you would any other dieting phase – adhere!
  • Accept any ‘regression’ aka weight gain, embracing the lifestyle gains and allowing it to motivate them in their subsequent nutrition phase.

Christmas is often a time of ‘yo-yo’ dieting and distress for many as they feel like they lose control of their circumstances, routines and structure.

However, planning in times of ‘low adherence’ is vital to success in subsequent phases where adherence is more important, not to mention that missing out for the sake of being ‘hardcore’ is something you’ll one day regret, believe me, I know.

A diet break, during the holiday season, is a time where you must learn to adjust, be adaptive to your circumstances and find balance between enjoyment and control. Easy in theory, much harder in practice, so here are 6 tips to make your diet break a booming success…

6 Tips To Make Your ‘Break’ A Success

1. Eat the god damn food.

If you’re worried about putting on a few kilo’s from eating some fruit cake, roast and other delicious points, just remember, there are those less fortunate that don’t have the privilege of eating home cooked meals. If your nonna or old lady force food down your throat, put a smile on their face and accept their offer… In alignment with ‘picking your moments’, be sure that these occasions are as well planned out as reality allows. 

2.Don’t stress or obsess.

Avoid ruining your holidays by obsessing about numbers, avoiding food, and trying your hardest to scrape through the holidays without eating off plan. There is more to life than looking shredded 24/7 and you’ll only receive some serious ‘greasy’s’ from your extended family if you bring your own tupperware to Christmas lunch…

3.Pick your key moments.

Prioritise your moments of pleasure, such as Christmas Lunch, New Years Eve etc. If you use every meal as an opportunity to ‘eat the god damn food’, you may just blow the budget somewhat. If you are selective when choosing to ‘eat the god damn food’, you can still enjoy the holidays without bursting buttons on your pants. Map them out in your diet break and make sure that on these days you allow yourself some leeway to eat free from the numbers and constraints of dieting. 

4. Be realistic.

A diet break isn’t designed to promote fat loss. To lose any weight over the christmas period is a damn good effort, but thats not the focus of taking a break. Lets not forget that most of you are NOT physique athletes, so setting realistic goals and expectations over the holidays is a must. Hence, most of you should be aiming to either:

A) maintain your current weight and/or;
B) Keep the weight gain to a minimum.

These are far more realistic goal’s and will allow you to enjoy without as much guilt!

5. Train harder.

During the holidays, it’s likely that you’re sleeping better, resting more and have more energy and motivation to train. Channel it and make sure this period is some of your finest work in the gym. If you’re not travelling, continue to follow your training program, get it done first thing in the morning and ensure you’re putting all those extra calories to good use!

6. Increase your NEAT

As noted above, the holidays bring with it a break from the 9-5 routine and afford many of us more time to get outside and move. Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis aka all non formal exercise makes up a solid chunk of our daily metabolic rate, and if you’re eating more food, it makes sense to make sure you’re moving a little more to ensure that the energy imbalance isn’t too heavily skewed in favour of fat gain.

This doesn’t mean you should become overly neurotic and never sit down, but instead using your free time to take a walk, go hiking, explore, play with the kids, clean the garden and rely less on machines. Not only will your waistline thank you, but so too your mental well being.

Below are some abstracts from emails I have sent to clients in relation to my advice during their diet break to give some context as to how to apply a diet break:

The plan of attack for your 7 day diet break:
Starting weight: 68kg
New Kcal Target: 2000kcal (increased from 1500)
Track: Protein Only – 130g p/d
Enjoy: Carbs and fat of preference.
Measure: Weigh 80% of food, especially calorie dense food on days that aren’t a key moment you choose to enjoy, free from the numbers.
Meal Timing/Frequency: Follow similar meal structure/frequency that you have been following during the cut, except on main days (see below).
Our goal is to come back first week of Jan weighing between 68-69kg, tough I know, but time to loosen the reigns and put into practice all the skills and lessons you’ve learnt from our previous fat loss phase, just having more calories and flexibility.
Main days (Christmas & New Years Eve) is as follows bro:
– Don’t track.
– Don’t weigh any food.
– Don’t think about calories.
– Focus on your friends, family and the occasion.
– Eat whatever the f*** you want, and enjoy anything and everything.
– Don’t make yourself feel sick.
– Drink alcohol if you wish, just don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.
– Don’t over think things, own your decisions, except that you haven’t been perfect and make sure you’re back to the plan come Boxing day/New Years day.

A snippet from a message to a client on having some perspective and forethought before choosing to indulge…

The more we being to appreciate that there are people starving, dying, terminally ill, without loved ones, alone, diseased or with nothing to look forward to, the more we begin to realise how unnecessary binging and being glutenous on days such as Christmas is. Harsh, but true. So, whenever you feel like indulging, take a moment to think of those less fortunate. This can help put sh** in perspective and make us appreciate the things that actually f***ing matter.”


So, take a break. Embrace the food, weight gain, memories, good times and sun. We don’t need to be ‘dieting’ every day of every year to make progress, and more often than not, if we learn to take a step back (not 10) it can help propel us forward…

On behalf of the JPS team, we wish you all a merry christmas and a happy, safe and prosperous new year!


Coach Jacob





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