Ahhhhh home for the holidays…how relaxing and comforting. Or is it? Why is it that the most festive time of the year causes the most stress for us worried about “falling off the wagon” with our nutrition? These are some of the questions we ponder: do I bring my foodscale and weigh out my food beforehand? Should I just bring my own food so I don’t have to be tempted at all? Do I trust myself to give this moderation thing a go? Should I pre-plan with MyFitnessPal first? Do I just say “fuck it!” and enjoy whatever I want today? It’s just one day. Or maybe I’ll fast so that I can eat whatever I want at dinner. That’ll get family off my back while ensure I stay within my macros.
STEP 1: BREATHE. Stress and anxiety is part of the reason why our fat loss efforts halt, so let’s remember to breathe and put things in perspective. What you’re dealing with is the epitome of a first world problem.
STEP 2: Are you working against a timeline? For example if you have an athletic competition coming up and it is something you’ve been training hard for, sticking with your diet should be a priority if you want to perform well. It’s up to you to make sure your friends and family understand why this event means so much to you. If they do, they will get off your back about not eating grandma’s dessert.
STEP 3: If you’ve been yo-yo dieting, restricting-and-binging, or constantly on some sort of diet, what you need to do is counterintuitive. Resolve to NOT diet. In fact, resolve to never diet again. Free yourself from the confines of the shitty “clean” foods you’ve been eating and give yourself unconditional permission to eat. Holiday food doesn’t always come around on holidays…if you want it, you can buy it. Food is everywhere.
Your fitness idols have the body they do because it is effortless to maintain. It is effortless because it is a lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle because they have ingrained habits. The most effective habit is called moderation. Moderation is not as sexy as a diet pill, but it has longevity. Longevity = success.
Here are tricks and hacks you can use on d-day:
– even if you’re not hungry, EAT A SNACK. This can be as small as 1-2 rice cakes, a tbsp of peanut butter, or a yogurt.
– stick to water only and have a glass beside you at all times. Drink a full glass before you start eating.
– place a napkin on your lap as if you’re at a high class restaurant. This will automatically slow you down as you’re more aware of what, how much, and how fast you’re eating.
– before putting anything on your plate, scan the dishes and think about what it will taste like. Imagine how you will feel after eating it – how would your stomach feel? Will you bloat? What thoughts might go through your head? Do you really want it?
– because you know you’ll have seconds, load 80% of your first plate with veggies and 20% with whatever else looks the most appealing to you; load 50% of your second plate with veggies and anything else you had your eye on (desserts included).
– be present and interested in the people around you and how their lives are going. You probably haven’t seen your uncle or cousin in a while. Try to learn something new from them and you might be surprised to find out you like them a little more.
– get your workout in this day. There are plenty of 24/7 gyms around these days. If not, train outside (seeing as we have a Spring Christmas) or find an alternative indoors.
STEP 4: If you’re not training for anything, you’re already fairly lean and you have good nutrition habits (ie. moderation), good on you. One planned evening of overeating is not going to derail your efforts. Your consistency over the long haul is key to your success. In fact, make it a refeed day. Have FUN and enjoy your friends and family! It’s just not worth stressing over holiday food.
I am a big believer in achieving balance between mind, body, and spirit. Hyperfocusing on my diet while neglecting social situations makes me feel isolated and alone. On the other hand, if I take up short-term pleasure by overeating several days in a row, I know I’ve just extended the timeline to achieving my long-term fitness goals.
But is my long-term fitness goal in line with my values and vision for my life? Why am I pursuing it? How will that benefit not just me, but those around me? What happens after I’ve achieved my goal?
Seeing as we tend to self-reflect this time of year, I encourage you to ask yourself the same types of questions.