Surviving The Holidays
by: Ashley Nicole Rouston
Holidays can be great because we spend time with family and get to eat a lot. However, the very same holidays can get us worried about the gains we are getting. So, with the holiday’s coming up, I thought this would be a perfect subject to write around. Let’s be honest, it is not uncommon to gain a little holiday weight this time of year. An extra 5-10 pounds during the holiday season is pretty normal.
So many times I've heard them time and time again. Any of these sound familiar?
- I'm not coming to the gym tomorrow it's New Year's Eve.
- I'm taking the week off, it's Christmas and I feel jolly.
- I've got so much shopping, cooking, and cleaning to prepare for the holiday I don't have time to workout.
- Why train during the holiday? I'm going to blow my diet anyhow.
So, let’s go over a few things we can do to keep it under control:
Managing The Water Weight
When you are on a stricter diet, watching the type and amount of carbohydrates you are consuming still means it will be normal for your body to retain some water weight during the holiday season. Why? When you consume a higher amount of carbohydrates for a period of time, your body will replenish these as stored muscle glycogen levels which causes water retention. This will usually happen if you tend to deplete your muscle’s supply of glycogen by eating a reduced carbohydrate diet before the holidays hit and/or even deplete the carbs through weight lifting. Consuming your normal amount of water and waiting a few days will help you reduce the “weight gain stress” which can cause you to gain more weight. So don’t fret, that water will get you.
Don’t Over-Do The Cardio
If you are like me, your first instinct when eating crappy or consuming extra foods is to step on that treadmill and burn it off! Along with doing cardio, it is more important to get your diet on track. However, if you are like me, you probably under-eat to counteract those holiday meals. This can cause problems! In fact, consuming less calories and burning more calories starts to cause muscle loss. After all that hard work you have been doing all year, losing muscle is the last thing you want at this point. You also risk crashing your metabolism by yo-yo dieting like this. The best advice is to get back to your clean eating and weight training but keep the cardio light and the calories at a healthy macro-nutrient intake. It is not about doing more cardio or eating less. Moderation is key!
It is easy to lose motivation around the holidays with all of the food and Christmas parties going on. Don’t get me wrong, it is completely okay and normal to take a little bit of a break. However, let’s not forget about those goals you set during the beginning of the year. One of the best ways I have found to keep motivation around the holiday time is to start a new training program. Get in the gym and switch your routine up. If you were doing more repetitions and sets before maybe switch it and add another day with lower repetitions and higher weights; give those muscles some confusion for a bit. Changing your routine will allow you to stay motivated. Plus, the best part of eating goodies is using them during your workouts, i.e., lift heavier, better pumps, etc. We all know feeling sore is a good motivator.
If you are serious about a show or other event coming up after the holiday’s, maintaining your awareness during your food consumption will be helpful in the long run. Before you head out for those Christmas dinner’s, take a look at what food options you could consume in small amounts that are a little healthier for you. Doing simple things like sticking with the white meat (leaner meat), keep your portions lower, and consuming lots of water can help you have a healthier holiday. Be aware of the extras and go easy on them. You are not going to ruin your hard work if you do indulge a little on the holiday food. But, keep in mind some of us have different goals. And if your goal is to avoid holiday weight gain watching those extras can go a long way. To trim some calories go easy when adding things like gravy, cheese, dips, and whipped cream. If you don’t LOVE it or don’t feel like you HAVE TO HAVE IT, DON’T EAT IT. Look for foods you truly desire and skip dishes that you can get on a more regular basis. Planning ahead means you can avoid a last minute disaster such as overeating.
Let’s be honest, we all beat ourselves up about overeating. So, to counteract this reaction, try and set realistic goals for yourself. I will eat “X” amount of food and no more. By setting realistic goals you will be happy with yourself for achieving them instead of hating yourself for giving in a little bit. For example, alcohol consumption might be part of your holidays. This might not necessarily be a part of everyone’s holiday’s but for most this can be about as abundant as the food. If you’re like me, you are a sucker for a good wine. As tempting as it is, limiting your alcohol consumption is a must if you want to maintain a healthy weight during the holidays. If you are still wanting to consume a few drinks I would recommend a Red wine or some low calorie/low carb beers like Michelob Ultra. Again, MODERATION is key!
Fill Up On The Good Stuff and Don't Skip Meals
Now, most people would think I am talking about the cookies and cake balls, but… I am talking about the veggies and lean protein. By filling your belly up with lean protein (white meat) and veggies (maybe leave out the French onions and cream of mushroom soup) you will be less likely to consume the bad things. After you have filled yourself up on those, indulge on a few items you love. By this time you won’t be able to over-eat these foods and will be able to enjoy them. Additionally, don't skip meals throughout the day. Most people think because they are consuming a large meal on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day they need to skip out on other meals throughout the day to save those calories up. However, by keeping yourself full throughout the day you help curb the appetite later in the day and give yourself a little self-restraint to over indulge. You want to still eat your breakfast, have a light lunch and maybe a small snack like normal. So, eating strategically will be key to stay on course. Keep in mind the types of foods you are eating and when. If you are going to consume something high in sugar try to eat it earlier in the day. By doing this you will burn it off and use it for energy throughout the day instead of potentially storing it as body fat.
Let’s be honest, during the holiday’s, cuddling up in a warm blanket with your Netflix shows and binge watching sounds so much better than trekking out into the cold to go to the gym. We have all experienced this rut. Being conscious of it and taking steps to prevent it can change the outcome of your body during the holidays. So keep those bodies moving and stay active. A nice way to stay active and be quick in the gym is to incorporate some High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Along with holiday’s most people’s excuse is the lack of time they have to get a workout in at home or make it to the gym. What if I told you HIIT is the saving grace? If you are running short on time but are looking for an effective fat burning routine HIIT is for you. High- Intensity Interval Training is a faster paced cardio training where you will continuously increase and decrease your heart rate to give it the most beneficial fat burning effect for days to come. Give yourself 10-15 minutes of this and you won’t regret it.
Get Rid Of The “All Or Nothing” Mindset
One of the easiest things to do during the holiday is to think, “Well I am going to eat like crap later this week anyways so I might as well just enjoy the whole week”. This is where the holiday weight gain train begins. By putting yourself in the mindset that you are going to eat bad so you might as well continuously eat bad you are already setting yourself up for failure. Instead, think of it as a balance thing. I am going to enjoy myself on Christmas so this week I am going to stay on track with my diet and weight training and give it 100%. We have learned in our years of weight training and maybe even competing, if you are like me, that if you are not mentally prepared for something you are already asking for failure. Most of the day to day tasks we deal with are handled mentally first. While we may be speaking more towards the physical part of the holidays, the mental part of it is by far the hardest. Just as we train our bodies we need to train our minds to be prepared for this holiday stress. Don’t forget you can change the way you think even after you have had that initial thought of “oh well what’s one more cookie”.
So, to sum up this article, being mentally and physically aware of yourself and your goals during the holiday season will ultimately determine how successful you are. If your goal is to avoid weight gain being conscious of how much, how little, and how often are going to be your go to’s this holiday season. If you're someone who just wants to have some fun and doesn’t really care if they gain a little weight in the process, you eat those cupcakes girlfriend but remember MODERATION is key!