Holidays are just around the corner. Everything is decorated. Christmas songs are slowly making their way in playlists. Everybody is slowly getting ready to welcome Christmas.
But with holidays, often comes the feeling of freedom that we can go off the diet, enjoying every bit of food, as it is our last one. That oftentimes results in feeling guilty and taking decisions that are not in our best interest.
I have written a blog that covers the awful decisions that we have often taken after the holidays, which I referred to as Post Holiday Syndrome. However, today’s blog is more about the decisions we make during the holidays. The ones that may prevent us from fully enjoying the time with our loved ones or those, serving us as a trap. I hope you will find some value in this piece and use it as a guide to get the most out of this time of the year.
Can you actually overeat that much?
Every holiday that involves family and friends gathering, is usually accompanied by cultural and traditional meals. Yes, food is calories, food is macronutrients but it is also tasty. So it is absolutely normal to have those traditional recipes around the holidays and enjoy them.
Oftentimes, fitness fanatics like me, or people who are struggling with weight loss, end up feeling guilty for overeating and enjoying those meals. We will talk about guilt a little bit later in the article, but for now, let's focus on the first problem. Overeating.
Yes, overeating means that we consume more calories than we need. And yes that will eventually result in weight gain. However, I highly doubt that we can actually consume 1000 calories more every single day over the holiday period.
Eating in a surplus or a deficit is a stress for our body. That means that the brain will do what it takes to bring everything back to homeostasis or a normal state. That means that if you are eating intuitively, you average pretty much the same calories every day.
Yes, there will be a lot of tasty food, and we will probably eat a bit more. But, for how long? Do you really think that the brain can let us over-consume every day? Of course not. Eventually, we will end up not hungry. Why do you think after a heavy dinner we don't feel like having breakfast. We are too full and the brain knows it. Therefore we do not feel hungry.
It is hard to consume more calories than you are used to. Trust me. I have been trying to bump up my calories intake recently and if I don’t track my food I end up eating way less than I should. Just because I am used to a certain balance, it is simply hard to stay consistent with the new caloric intake. Not every day I feel that hungry. Not every meal I can eat as much as I want to. Yes, I manage because I put effort into it, but if I go back to my intuitive eating, I will find myself lacking calories.
The point here is that even though we feel like we will overconsume, in fact, we are very less likely to gain several pounds in a few days. I know how hard it is to see the scale going with a pound up. But that does not mean that it is extra fat. You cannot gain bodyweight overnight just like you can't lose it overnight. Both are very slow processes. The extra pounds that you may see on the scale can simply be from holding water. You need a far more complicated test to determine whether you have increased your body fat percentage, especially after two days of enjoying the food, even if it's in excess.
Speaking of enjoying the food, brings me to the next very important point I want to communicate.
Do enjoy the time with your friends and family and do not dare to worry about gaining weight.
I have been that asshole, refusing to even try my grandma`s pastry, or dessert, for which she spent a whole day preparing. Or complaining about the types of food present on the table. It did not look like a bodybuilding dish. How can I eat it? It will destroy my physique.
What for? To create even more tension and a bad relationship with my family? To spend the whole evening in a bad mood instead of really connecting and appreciating the time with them?
Relationships are as important as eating healthy and exercising. There is a study in fact, which proves that having one bad relationship in our life, negatively impacts our health as if we are to smoke 15 cigarettes. Daily!
Can you imagine it? We are so cautious of what we put in our mouths. We even make sure to highlight our healthy choices to others when in fact we are doing a disservice to ourselves.
Holidays are for relationships. We should be able to enjoy the time with our loved ones. And oftentimes that happens through the consumption of food. And there is nothing wrong with that. It is not forever. It is just for a few days. Enjoy it!
Still, be mindful.
Of course, by enjoying it I don't mean eating foods that are going to make you suffer. If you are allergic to something, you will obviously avoid it. The point is to not worry that a small piece will make you gain weight.
If there is, let's say dairy in my grandma's dessert and I know that eating it will cause me diarrhea for the next two days, I will obviously avoid it, and make sure to explain why. It is a legit reason, so I can enjoy the rest of my holiday. But if the reason to avoid it is fear of gaining some extra pounds and that creates tension between us, it is really not a healthy approach for me.
Do not worry too much about exercises.
Aaah training. Another very important component of looking great that we often abuse, by not fully understanding it.
Feeling guilty of enjoying the food and potentially overconsuming a bit, often results in two outcomes. One spectrum is to end up avoiding and not being able to fully enjoy it. We already know the consequences of that. The second one is using exercises to compensate for the extra calories.
Again I am talking purely from experience. For a few years, I would do exactly this. I would train hard before and after, making sure to burn a lot more calories than I can consume, with the hope that I will be kind of in the middle and avoid gaining weight.
You probably guess what that causes. That's right. Overtraining. Too much stress on the body. And it has nothing to do with the fact that our body is into holiday mode or whatever. It is more psychological.
If we feel guilty about eating too much, we would gravitate towards the types of exercises that are meant to burn more calories. Cardio-based workouts and circuit training. I won't get into details about cardio workouts. You can learn more about their efficacy in a piece I wrote quite a while ago called: The Truth About Cardio Training.
What I will just say is that this type of training not only causes more stress to your body but actually slows down your metabolism which contributes to more fat gain.
Of course, I am not trying to say that you should watch TV all day.
Be active. Go out. In a lot of places there might be snow already, so why not enjoy a walk in nature, make a snowman, or be involved in a snowball fight.
I am not saying to forget about training. If that's what you really enjoy and it is rather therapeutic for you, 100% go for it. Do mobility exercises, stretching, and practice some techniques. As long as you are not using the training as compensation for the excess calories, you're going to be fine.
Tips on how to stay fit during the holidays.
Now, with all that being said, I hope that we are set for a great and healthy time with our loved ones. But, it won't be me if I don't give you some tips and tricks that you can implement into your routines around the holidays, so you can not only fully enjoy your time, but also maximize your body potential.
1. Eat the protein first.
Protein is the magic nutrient. It is the compound that our body can't live without. And on top of that, it usually comes in conjunction with fat which by the way are also essential. But why? How eating the protein first can help us in any way? Let me explain.
Protein and fats are more satiating than carbs. In other words, you can overheat easily with cabs, as you always crave for more, but when it comes to protein and fats it is pretty hard to consume a ton of it. So, by making sure we first eat the protein we are simply going to limit ourselves from eating too much of anything.
On top of that this will ensure that even though we will enjoy all kinds of foods and alcohol, we are still providing to our body its most desired nutrients.
2. Eat your veggies second.
Immersing ourselves in the tastiness of the food may create a bit of a hard time for our gut. The gut microbiome is incredibly important for digesting and eliminating food. It is also highly important for a lot more processes to our body. Simply making sure we eat enough vegetables will ensure that our gut works as it should, so we do not end up spending more time in the toilet than we need to.
That will also make you feel satiated so it will make it easier to not over consume the cakes and desserts, for which you should not be worried at all. But in case you are still concerned, try eating protein and veggies first and watch what happens to your craving for all of the rest.
3. Drink more water.
I know that it may sound a bit ridiculous, but hear me out.
We all know why water is so important for our bodies. It lubricates the joints, regulates temperature, improves focus and performance, helps digestion, and detoxification.
These and many more functions of the water are highly important, and I must also say crucial for optimal health, but the last one specificity plays a huge role during the holiday period.
As we immerse ourselves into enjoying the foods and drinks, we might end up consuming a bit more toxins than usual. Making sure we drink enough water will help reduce some of the symptoms that may occur after a night of drinking or eating a bit more.
With the abundance of tasty drinks and beverages, we may think that we get enough water but in reality, the amount is nothing compared to the amount we really need.
So getting a glass of water before or after a meal won't hurt at all.
Making sure to drink enough water during those times will ensure that we are easily getting rid of the toxins that slow our body and hydrating sufficiently. That may contribute greatly to the quality of your time with your friends and family. And on top of that, you will be doing a favor to your own body as well.
It's not about appearance, it's about health.
FitlifeBlueprints has never been, nor will ever be about appearance.
Yes, looking good is nice. But do you know what else is nice? Feeling good. Having less pain. Having more energy. Enjoying the food, the activities, and life in general.
What is the point of appearance if we can't enjoy the time with our family? What's the point of dieting and exercising hard if we don't enjoy life. Those simple stuff that connects us and makes us humans.
Health must be a priority to all of us if we want to truly thrive. And health is not restricting, nor is it overconsuming. Health is not being inactive, nor is it punishing yourself. Health is a summary of positive behaviors that allow us to take good care of our body and mind.
It is not an easy task. It is not something we fully master either. It is the pursuit of it that makes us better every day.
Health is far more important than appearance will ever be. Take care of it first and the appearance might come as a side effect.
Enjoy the holidays and see you next year.
Check out the latest episode 19 of Fit Life Radio where I share my own experience with the holidays in more detail.