If you could pinpoint one month out of the whole year that would be the toughest month to lose weight, you’d choose December, right? Um, no!! Most people are content to maintain their weight over the holidays, or even keep weight gain under 10 pounds. Yet on Thanksgiving Day in 2018, I found myself needing to lose 13 pounds before the end of the year.

At the end of May, I signed up with HealthyWage (an app) in order to challenge myself to get back to my “wedding weight.” Yes, I vividly remember the number which appeared on the scale in March of 2009 when I got married. I chose to use HealthyWage because it provided accountability and motivation, which I really needed in order to meet my goal. I wagered $510 over the course of 7 months—my prize money would be $1,143. I figured that 7 months was plenty of time to lose 38 pounds. I certainly didn’t think I’d get to the end of November and still have more than 10 pounds to lose. To make matters worse, my birthday is in December.

I started strong in June with my 2nd whole30 (first was in January), losing about 12 pounds. I continued to make healthy choices in July; then in August, I began using LoseIt (another app) to track calories. I didn’t eat gluten, dairy, or sugar most of the time. I went to the gym and worked out typically 3 or 4 times a week. Yet, my weight plateaued, and by the end of September, I had begun to eat too much junk. What really alerted me to this was when I almost plopped a box of Little Debbie pumpkin rolls into my shopping cart at Kroger. Yuck! I do love everything pumpkin, but ultra-processed snacks like that should never be a temptation. So, beginning October 1, I began another whole30. Unfortunately, I ended up contracting bronchitis around October 12. I felt awful, and all I wanted to eat was Thai chicken soup. My husband graciously picked up take-out from our favorite Thai restaurant and I chose to partake in all of it, including the rice, thus cutting that whole30 short. However, I persevered with LoseIt and finally saw the magical number “199” on the scale on October 22. Reaching the “under 200” mark felt amazing, but I still had 17 pounds to go to win my bet.

About a month later, a few days before Thanksgiving, I had a reality check. The number on the scale had actually gone up a bit. I realized I would have to do something drastic in order to meet my goal. I began researching keto and signed up for a 2-week [free] plan at dietdoctor.com. During my research, I also consulted a friend who is a fitness and nutrition guru … she had experience with a ketogenic diet and offered invaluable advice as well as immensely helpful encouragement.

If you’re not familiar with the keto diet, the basics are that you eat a lot of fat and not many carbs. Specifically, 75% of your daily calories should be from fat. Also, you need to consume no more than 20 grams of net carbs a day (net carbs are carb grams minus fiber grams). I upgraded LoseIt so I could track macros and committed to meeting the numbers for keto. I increased my gym workouts in intensity, length, and quantity. I rarely ate fruit, just a few berries here and there. I refrained from drinking alcohol (mostly). I also incorporated intermittent fasting. I always left at least 12 hours between finishing dinner and starting breakfast, and some days my fasting window was even 13 or 14 hours. Towards the end of December, I decreased my calorie intake and I did the type of intermittent fasting where you consume only 500 calories twice a week (not back to back). I drank a LOT of water and I weighed every morning to track my progress… until finally, I stepped on the scale and it displayed my goal weight – 183. I have to admit, I was absolutely elated!

Yes, it is hard to make healthy choices and to limit carbs and calories around the holidays—but it is not impossible! I didn’t eat pie on Thanksgiving, but I did have 3 pumpkin truffles, a much healthier choice. In December, I took a vacation to Chicago and stuck with my keto plan. On my birthday, I had one-quarter of a [free] carrot cake bundtlet from Nothing Bundt Cakes—it was so delicious that my husband had to stop me from eating his quarter. I had half of a glass of red wine with Christmas dinner. However, I also worked out during my vacation, on my birthday, and on Christmas.

So while it’s certainly not ideal to attempt to lose weight over the holidays, it is doable. Turns out, it does not ruin Christmas to forgo Christmas cookies! And yes, it was worth every moment of sacrifice to receive that check for $1,143 in the mail! I was so excited to reach my goal! I rewarded myself with a new pair of Nikes and some new (smaller-sized!) clothes, as well as some pampering at the nail salon.

If you have a weight loss goal you want to achieve, I highly recommend HealthyWage. You can play with the calculator to figure out what your prize would be without making a commitment. Click here to try it out! And feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about anything I’ve discussed in this article.