9 WAYS TO AVOID WEIGHT GAIN OVER THANKSGIVING: or the Holidays

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Ok so this might be click bait... the title works, but really, this is not a post about surviving Thanks giving or "getting through it"

The holidays are there to be enjoyed...Ah the holidays? The good ol holidays. The time of year we want to enjoy and relax and throw caution the wind but alas, we want consistent weight loss like all the time always forever and ever... (I say this in jest)

The holidays, when food is the devil and we will sin. When one dessert isn't enough, one day isn't enough. When we are so full we might be sick but go on then, one more treat won't hurt.

It's the holidays... I've enjoyed a few holidays now whilst in my "fitness journey" I've been all in, all encompassing of the days festivities and A) not binged or B) not only eaten one pea. Wahooooo!There's an in between. There's even a relaxed approach to have u not stressing on the day, before the day or after. 

The truth. 

Will you undo progress? I guess the question is, what is progress to you?And what does it mean? What type of progress is gonna be undone in one day? Ok let's call it 3 days? What is it that we are scared of? What is so terrifying?

I don't advocate these, but even if you have been on a strict, clean, restrictive diet/meal plan whatever you want to call it, then 1 to 3 days (off this) may result in some regression. (Ie bloat, gain a pound etc) but more than anything physical at all, it may mentally throw you. 

If your sole goal has been weight loss & you haven't been focusing on consistent, habit building, lifestyle changes but instead just going balls to the wall with cardio, low carbs and losing weight (not fat)...

If you haven't been trying to build on to your shape or gain some muscle or control your hormones or up your calorie threshold, if you haven't been eating in a way that is sustainable and instead, leaves you just focusing on dropping pound after pound (whether it's water muscle or fat) then yes. In 3 days you may feel guilty, you may get bloated, you may beat yourself up, you may feel like you failed, you may call this regression. And No one wants that because nope, it doesn't feel nice. And yes, because we attach to progression or goals rather than that in the way in which we get there. 

But we don't have to put ourselves in that position. And we don't have to be there year on year. Dieting, messing up, dieting some more, new years resolutions in check, by March, out the window, summer body hurrah and then holiday podge recoil us back to the promise we will diet for good this time. (Btw diet for good is not a thing) NEVER DO THIS!I want to put your mind at rest so that even if some physical regression happens, that you have the control and where withal to not let it mess with your head. 

 Christmas day 2015

Christmas day 2015

 The day after...

The day after...

Ok... let's go... Let's say you were (on a diet prior to the holidays) and you were eating 1400, 7 days a week. No "treats" no flexibility. Come the holidays let's say you go balls deep in ALL the food and have 4000cals (this isn't a silly number. It's quite respectable tbh) and lets say the day after you eat all the left overs too and have 3000cals. 

Your week might look like this...

Mon 1400

Tues 1400

Weds 1400

Thurs 4000cal

Fri 3000 cal

Sat 1800

Sun 1400

Mon 1400

Your usual total is 9800 (average of 1400 a day)

Your holiday week total is 14400 (average of 2050 a day) 

Ok. This realistically could be a surplus (meaning your eating more calories than your burning, meaning you possibly may gain weight. But here's the thing. Supposedly it takes 3500 extras calories (on top of your maintenance) to gain 1lb of fat. (actual fat)

If your deficit is 1400. Let's say your maintenance is 1700 cals. 1700 x 7 equals 11900 and at this number you would stay the same weight. If we added the extra 3500 cals to this our total would be 15400... Ok so wait... go back a lil bit.

If your dieting and yet for 3 days you stop. And you have the 4000 cals one day. 3000 on another because... leftovers and let's guess at 1800 the next because... der, holiday mode. We still calculated your total intake at 14400, 1000 cals under the amount science says you would gain weight at. Hurrah hurrah... 

SIDENOTE: (Since writing this blog I have read a fab article by physiqonomics on this subject. You can read it here. He is saying the same thing,but a little bit more succinct and he's funnier, go check it out)

Once you've finished this article mind lol... 

You with me still? Yes?

But your worried? You always gain weight over the holidays you say...Ok look, this is true. So do I. But remember, weight is not fat. And just as easily as "weight" can go on, so can it come off. 

 Before Christmas dinner

Before Christmas dinner

 After christmas dinner

After christmas dinner

You may see the scale creep up. But fat gain doesn't happen over night, and what happens in a week can be balanced back in a week. 

The worst case scenario (and I say worst like let's rule out a meteorite hitting earth and wiping out all your loved ones and leaving you alone with only a cockroach to talk to) other than that, the worst case scenario is that you gain a few pounds. 

Most of that weight isn't gonna be fat. I repeat myself I know but I need you to know too, like really know. A lot of it will be water retention. Some will be glycogen restoring your muscles. Sodium may bloat you. The actual food volume weighs something. If I eat for 6 people in 1 sitting, I'm gonna weigh more. Because... science. 

In terms of what you weigh, which I don't like using as such because there is this inner unicorn in me that wants you to know that weight doesn't matter. That the gravity in which is pulling you down onto the earth is just, a technicality. That the number means nada and your soul is what's full of beauty.But I get it, your soul has some goals and you may use the scale for progress (fine) but we must use it in a smarter way than jumping on the scale and just taking it for face value. 

Your weight will fluctuate daily. So we want to look at the average weight over one week. Let's look at your week in weight (an example, noones true readings) 

Mon 68kg

Tues 67.5kg

Weds 68.8kg

Thurs 67kg

Fri 70kg you freak out

Sat 70kg you freak out

Sun 69.5kg oh my god you started at 71kg you have fucked things up and waisted all our efforts previously... 

For the record, your average weight this week is 68.6... still 2.5kg under your starting weight. 

The issues start not with the food you eat on the day. Not with potential weight gain but with this... Most people on restrictive strict low cals either do one of two things. They freak out so much the stress causes them to eat even more, say faaak it, we've ruined everything, and carry on eating in truck loads. They end their "diet" carry on eating in a surplus and continuously gain back the pounds they lost, plus some.

Or this happens...

Mon 1100cals hard train add more volume add cardio

Tues 1100cals hard train add more volume add cardio

Weds 1100cals hard train add more volume add cardio

Thurs 5000 overindulge more cos starving and only one day of joy. Faaak it I'm exhausted

Fri 3000 ah screw it there's left overs. Il sort it tomorrow. Can't be arsed to train. 

Sat 2000cals Can't go back yet. It's Saturday. Gonna live my life il burn 500 cals on the stair climber though to make up for it. 

Sun 1000 restrict. Burn 500 on stair climber.  but I'm lazy for rest of day.

Total of 13300 (1900 per day) 400 per day over your norm of 1400 per day. Not far off what your average was in the previous example...

Accept this time you've added in cardio which you hate, restricted so much prior to the event that you now eat more over the break.

You have done way more volume, with way less calories in the lead up so you are more lethargic over the break too and your NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenisis) The moving/walking/fidgeting we do etc has reduced... Basically the extra volume added some increased expenditure but also tired you out so you generally did less overall.  

So you basically spent more time in gym for no reason.... you felt more hungry with the added cardio. You felt drained with all the training, you felt guilty from all the food you ate that you tried to cancel out with all the training, and basically, you are in fact, worse off, because you are starting the following week feeling a bit rough. 

BUT!!! THERE IS ANOTHER OPTION for anyone that is on some sort of "cut" (ie trying to drop fat" Again, please know I only use calories as an example. Just so that it is seen very obviously how the numbers balance out. Whether your tracking or not, we are still eating calories. Be it that you take note of these or don't, the body is still doing what we do with them, the same, using them, or storing them... Tracking can either chill a person out, or freak a person out, so I always advise that you know which one you are, and if you don't, try either, and learn from the situation. 

So...Someone on a strict cut/diet could have a week that looks like this

Mon 1400 train normal

Tues 1400 train normal

Weds 1400 train normal

Thurs 3000 yay but not binge. Rest day

Fri 2000 ooo this feels good rest day but go do a long walk. Stay active. Mess about

Sat 1800 easing out of it the food coma, but don't want to diet again yet. Stay active, go for a walk. Digest that food :)

Sun 1400 back on track but still take a rest from training in the gym cos your with family. Energy all week for good NEAT and trained 3 times. Same volume as usual 4 days. You just split it into 3. Nothing excessive or extra. 

Total cals 12400 (average per day 1770) Slightly over your norm, not crazy. May still bloat, but hey, who doesn't love a food baby? Still not above the likely weight gain numbers, more than likely maintenance. Training same so your body is used to the energy output prior to the holidays. Post the break, you are more than likely to have more energy from the calories and carbs. Use this fuel to lift heavier rather than to do more fat burny stuff.Strength gains good. Lifting more, muscles under mores stress so adaption is bigger, ie bigger gains in density & muscle size over time. Body feels tighter due to glycogen restored. Butt plumper. Waist will go back to previous weeks measurements cos water retention is gone. You more than likely will see your body pleased of the diet break. Cortisol levels that may have been high from dieting will lower and you will benefit from the few days off. You have regulated to your current norm without losing energy, time and sanity. HURRAHHHH!

Your weigh ins the week after may look something like...

mon 69.5

tues 69

weds 69.3

thurs 69.5

fri 69

sat 68.7

sun 68.5

Average 69kg (.4 or 1lb) heavier than the week before. This is 1lb. ONE POUND!!!

If this 1lb is enough to freak you out (and I am not judging, I too have been there so so many a time) I guess I would just ask you why? What rush are you in? What does this 1lb represent to you? Is it worth being upset over?

The following week you could reduce your calories by 10% per day for a few days and I will assure you, you will be back to you post holiday weight this week. 

This example above is just an example. I have read so many posts on this matter this week. IG is rife with HOW TO BEAT THE HOLIDAYS. Some giving advice, some recoiling and telling you to eff it all and eat all you want. This is not a way to "survive" or "beat" the holidays, this is just a (long arse post) trying to break down for you, as nicely as I can, the reasons why we should all just chill the eff out!

I swear, the chilled out version is so so much more enjoyable. 

Still need convincing? If so, read on... actually read on anyways as I may say something wise. I also may not... Sorry!

So you weren't on a diet before. You are just maintaining. You are happy where you are. But no, you don't want to regress. You don't want to jeopardise or rock where you are... The same principle as above applies. Lets say your maintenance is 1800 cals. Maybe you have a couple less treats in the lead up to the hols, just because its easy enough to lose a spoon of peanut butter or not have a bag of popcorn or just skip your flat white for a few days.

Mon 1700 train normal

Tues 1700 Train normal

Weds 1700 Train normal

Thurs You don't track but lets guesstimate 4000cals. Rest

Fri You haven't felt restricted in the lead up but theres still leftovers so you have 2500 and do a little home workout cos you get cabin fever and want some endorphin's. sat 1800 rest

sun 1800 rest

Weekly total this week is 15200 at an average of 2100

Remember (in general) it takes 3500 extra cals to gain 1lb in actual fat per week. So I would need to eat 1800 x 7 plus 3500 which would equal 16100...Hey presto. We are safe from fat gain too. Training stayed the same so no energy output differ, the body enjoyed the rest and my sanity is still in check.

It has taken me years to figure this out. To stay calm through the holidays. When people would say it was impossible that I gained 7lb in the few festive days, I would squeal at them. ITS TRUE I DID!!! And I felt hard done by and I hated these other faaaakers that seemed to stay balanced. But here is the fundamental difference between gainers over the holidays and maintainers during the hols...

The gainers... (like I used to be)

  • I restricted too much in the lead up that I would binge on the days off
  • I did excessive cardio to try and out do the calories, which in turn made me more hungry so I ate more, or made me more lathargic so I burned less cals in general. 
  • I felt guilt, so I ate more
  • I gave up cos I weighed and saw weight gain so wrote off the whole week/2 weeks/month. 
  • I stressed about it so I held more water.
  • I avoided training altogther cos I was burnt out and I hated exercise. 
  • I ate mindlessly, overate to prove I was "a carefree fun human" during the festiities
  • I didn't gain anything at all, just bloat, but the fear, stress and disordered thinking sent me a wol and into a mental panic. 

The maintainers... (Like I assumed only existed in My Little Ponies or viccy secret models)

  • They don't restrict excessively before hand, so when it comes to the actual hols they don't feel the need to "over do" it
  • They don't change their training before hand with adding in excess cardio, so their hunger queues stay the same, their energy balance continues the same
  • They don't feel guilty, because they are living a balanced life that allows them food, and more of it. 
  • They don't weigh, note the bloat, but are aware it is just that. 
  • They don't stress about it, hormones stay level and regular.
  • They keep training consistently or smartly by breaking up their days to fit their life that week (or they miss some workout days but know nothing will happen so don't worry about it and carry on as normal post holidays.
  • They eat mindfully, stopping when full, or near enough :) 
  • They gain, but aren't attached to this as are not always trying to drop weight and are happy to maintain for a week or so knowing it will probably do their body good. 

 

So, heres a recap of what you can do to enjoy this festive period!

  • Keep training the same.if you are travelling and need more rest days, take it, or split your 4 day week into a 3 day week by adding a few exercises to the other workouts from the missed one.
  • Don't do excessive cardio, but keep NEAT up and do some added liis etc.
  • Have eating habits in place that enable you to not feel like you are ever on a diet as such and learn what your hunger queues are and mindfully eat in general.
  • Use the extra carbs and calories for making strength gains in the gym the following week. 
  • Enjoy the food. 
  • Rub your food baby. 
  • Track/don't track, whatever is a positive or non destructive event for you. 
  • I HAVEN'T SAID THIS YET BUT, AIM EAT CONSISTENT PROTEIN HITTING YOUR PROTEIN GOALS. And eat veg where you can... because health.

Thats it... stay sane. Don't do anything drastic. Live life. Get back on track. Please please note, the holidays are there to be enjoyed. That means relaxing with friends and family. It doesn't have to mean excessive food, but if you mum is a feeder then hey, enjoy it. Relax. Don't tie yourself to the endless goals, know you are amazing and worthy of love and belonging, Turkey food baby or not and just think unicorn thoughts. Life is short. Enjoy the food!