Holiday Helpfuls

Illustrated by Jacqueline Davis Moranti
The holiday season has officially begun, you know what that means?! Delicious feasts and scrumptuous morsels everywhere! I'm definitely a big foodie, I absolutely heart food and the holiday season tends to be the time of the year where I over satiate myself. I mean how can one resist a giant pumpkin pie sitting in front of them, or a glass full of your BFF's famous holiday eggnog? Thankfully one of my good friends is a personal trainer and nutrionist, Sean Hickman, with tons of experience for situations such as this! He was kind enough to pass along some convenient expertise. Believe me, I'm taking notes!

A lot of people ask me what I do to stay lean during the holiday season. With all the delicious food, desserts, drinks, and egg nog, one can get carried away with their eating habits and find themselves back where they started. Being a physique competitor and personal trainer, I'm always in demand. Staying lean is a huge priority for me. Since I've been clean bulking, (purposely gaining weight by increasing the amount of calories I intake to acquire lean mass) I really have to buckle down this year and keep the fat gains to a minimum while maintaining a caloric surplus. Here are a few tips that I'll follow throughout the holiday season to make sure that I stay anabolic and seize the day. 

1. Assess if you're eating it because you're hungry, or because it's there- It's a huge difference between the two. Believe it or not, even a small cup of stuffing (cup your hand to see the size) can have over 300 cals. Always make sure you're eating to replenish, not because you're bored. 

2. Limit how many Calories you drink. I completely understand if you're going to have a drink or two with your family. Just be mindful that you're not drinking too much if you're focused on your diet. In one glass of beer, it's almost 100 cals inside. Even a shot of vodka has 55 cals, plus whatever you chase it with. Protein shakes are always great though, especially after a workout (We'll get to that a little bit later)

3. Organize your plate into sections. Meats, veggies, complex carbs are all a great idea. If you're a vegetarian, portion it into proteins, carbs, and veggies. Only have a portion of meats/protein and carbs. Greens and veggies you can go to town on. Then squeeze in whatever else if you can. A palm sized portion of meat is 4-6 oz. Cupping your hand as if you were holding a rock, is a full cup for veggies and carbs.(4 oz of turkey is usually 24oz)  Easy to remember if case you forget.

4. Gotta Work it Out! I'm a huge fan of doing cardio before big meals. Weight loss is after all, cals you put out more than the cals you put in. Most times I'll do cardio the morning of Thanksgiving day. Cardio also helps to promote digestion. Which you'll need for big meals. Lifting weights helps too, it forms a pathway for the food to travel down. A combination of both can do wonders for your physique and will help your psyche when it comes time to eat.

5. Grabbing seconds might just be the worst thing you can do. To prevent this, make sure that you eat enough to fulfill your hunger needs. Don't eat to fill your belly up, even if the sweet potato pie smells that good. Treat the meal like any other meal. Eat up, reach your macro-nutrient goal (protein, carbs, fat) and relax. Unbuttoning the top button of the pants might also help. 

6. Eat During The Day, stick to your meal plan. Treat the dinner as another meal. Waiting to eat only increases the chances that you'll overeat. Which is what you're trying to avoid. Even healthy snacks during the day can make a tremendous difference between a regular sense of hunger and feeling like a dungeon dragon. 

Keep focused, stay true to your game plan, and you'll get through the holiday get together in no time. 

"Sean Hickman is a NSCA certified personal trainer who has worked with many clients, ranging from everyday moms to college athletes. A 24 year old NPC physique competitor, Sean also is a powerlifter who is currently in his junior year of college for Kinesiology."
I hope Sean's tips helps you get through the holidays without pulling out the big girl pants! I will definitely keep these in mind especially tonight! Happy Thanksgiving/Hanukkah readers! 


  1. These are great tips! I especially like number one as it's an easy question to ask yourself that can stop the nibbling before it even starts! All the rest are great too and I am definetly going to use them!. Would love to see some more work out / healthy living tips like these.

  2. This is one of my favorite illustrations of yours! I love all of the details on the table setting and the turtleneck/bow outfit. I was thinking--wouldn't it be fun to get a bunch of bloggers together who we know are also illustrators and do a holiday illustration swap? Let me know if you are interested and know anyone else who might be--could be fun!


  3. Eeeep, one of the best comments ever! I love it when people tell me about my work, good or bad because it means I've caused a reaction! Yes, I would absolutely love to participate! Shoot me an email at


Thanks for the sweet whispers! XO