From about the 3rd week of November to the beginning of January, I see so many people stress over their nutritional strategy. These several weeks are undoubtedly festive and fun, but, if you have a fitness and physique goal and are actively in the process of achieving it, well, the holidays can also be a source of great anxiety. You don’t want any regression…but you also want to enjoy your life and have balance. After all, you REALLY look forward to that special side dish at Thanksgiving, the holiday drinks at Christmas, and let’s not forget all the holiday events you get invited to.
So, you have a goal which you are dialed in on achieving and important to you. You’ve worked hard, made great progress…and you don’t want to come “unglued” and regress. However, you know you LOVE this time of year and don’t want to be obsessive and secretly heating up your chicken and rice in the microwave and trying to pawn it off at the dinner table. Been there, done that.
So what’s to be done? How CAN YOU, in fact, “have your cake and eat it too”?
Well, what follows probably is not the “hardcore” advice or words of wisdom you were expecting to get. I see so many coaches teaching you how to make your meals ‘diet friendly’ and how to burn off the holiday meals. But after too many years of diet foods at the special events, I stopped the advice of trying to make it as close to plan as possible. Instead, I want you to do the opposite – enjoy the foods you do not have that often. Remember we are after long-term fat loss, and it must come with the sustainable strategy.
Unless you’re in the home stretch to something like a contest or a photo shoot, then I think it is downright ridiculous to skip a holiday meal in favor of rigid dietary compliance. Don’t you dare break out the Tupperware and your pocket scale at the family dinner table while everyone else is partaking in the food festivities and enjoying themselves. You know you’re not going to enjoy yourself and nor will anyone you’re sitting with. Let’s not forget that depriving yourself can lead to future binges.
Part of finding balance in living the ‘fitness lifestyle’ is learning to ENJOY times like this and this especially includes holiday eating – Thanksgiving, Christmas, whatever. And enjoy it GUILT FREE. THAT is balance. Holiday dinners and the social/family aspect behind them are an integral part of enjoying the holiday to the fullest for many of us. And if this applies to you, you should.
DO NOT get all disordered in your thinking and feel you have to ‘make it up’ the next day with guilt cardio, skipping meals, “two a days”, cutting carbs, etc. You just wind up missing the ENTIRE POINT of this post. Accept the great off-plan and “bigger-than-it-should-be meal” as part of your journey’s bigger picture. Accept that you’ll be a bit heavier and be holding some water and your glycogen stores will be topped off. You didn’t gain 5 lbs. of fat. Easy come easy go. Going into “crisis mode”, with a bunch of guilt, is the exact WRONG WAY to handle this.
In this season, you have to pull out your calendar and plot the parties. This is one of my favorite strategies to use with clients: CALENDAR PLOTTING. This is where you plot out the potential ‘off plan’ meals so you can look ahead and see what is coming. This will also keep you accountable to not going overboard. 10 holiday parties with no food rules or guidelines will lead to you packing on the extra pounds. We don’t want that. But we also want you to enjoy SOME of these events.
Mark them on your calendar. Plan for success THIS festive season. Plan to partake and enjoy; after all, it’s a tremendously fun time of year, and of course, a time for new memories to be created. I’d never suggest NOT partaking. That’s not the goal we have for my clients-or anyone for that matter. That’s not a lifestyle and that’s not sustainable.
The long-term sustainable approach REQUIRES you to include these fun events that you WANT to be involved in. Now, normally, my next advice would be something like- “you can still eat whatever you want, but you don’t have to eat HOW MUCH you want.” I often say just to control the amounts and you’ll be just fine.
But during holiday season, THAT’S not always “fun” either.
But you can do it for SOME of the festivities.
So this brings me back around to the calendar. Plot every party on your calendar. Again, plan to go off and ENJOY it. No guilt.
BUT, and this is the big BUT, you need to be as good as you can be (meaning your best reasonable effort) on all the OTHER days that there are no parties or events planned.
THAT will keep you on the path you’re on.P.S. Check out my podcast all about the specifics behind calendar plotting. This strategy has now been used by hundreds of clients, and its so simple!