Eating Your Way Through the Holidays
by Lee Labrada
Just mentioning the word “Holidays” brings to mind scenes of stuffing yourself silly with food and laying sleepily on the couch thereafter. The Holidays bring to mind tables spread with a banquet of food ranging from turkey and stuffing to pumpkin pies.
Contrary to what most dietitians and trainers will tell you at this time of year, I don’t think that it is well advised to deprive yourself of enjoying the feasts associated with the holidays!
You see, we are social creatures and we live not in a vacuum, but amongst our families, friends, coworkers and peers.
This time of year, everyone is talking about relaxing, having fun, and eating lots of good food. And to deprive yourself of all of this sets you up for a “fall,” from a psychological standpoint. My feeling is that if you’re going to eat, eat now when the mood is right and the timing is right.
However, if you do indulge, give me your word that on the day after each Holiday during these times you’re going to back on your training and nutrition program. Do we have a deal?
The logic behind this approach is psychological. And it’s about control. If you feel deprived, then perception is reality. Feeling deprived only makes you think more and more about that which you are depriving yourself of. It becomes a vicious cycle that results in your spinning out of control. In the case of eating, it ends up with a food binge.
Now let’s look at the “control” part. If you tell yourself, “I’m going to allow myself some of my favorite foods on this particular day so that I can enjoy myself in the company of my family and friends,” then at that point, you have taken control.
You, essentially, are giving yourself permission to indulge in these things knowing that:
a) you can have them
b) once you’ve had them, you’re going to get back on your program. The result is that you don’t feel deprived, and you feel in control. It actually builds self-confidence and even more control for future situations of the same kind.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not espousing binging or overeating to the point of making yourself sick. But, what I am saying is that you should cut yourself a little slack on Thanksgiving, Christmas and important holidays as long as you’ve made a commitment that on the next day, you’ll be right back on your program. You play, you pay.
Remember that the point of our Lean Body Program is to develop a holistic, life-long habit that you can sustain in the course of your daily life. Progress is the key, not perfection.
As long as for every step “backwards” that you take, you take two steps forward, so to speak, you are still making progress.
Binding yourself with unrealistic expectations of self-control only sets you up for failure and makes you feel like you’ve let yourself down. You end up feeling guilty. And this is the worse thing that you can do to yourself.
Now, those things having been said, here are some tips you can use to help you navigate your way through Thanksgiving and other holidays:
1. Eat your protein first, and eat more protein. I suggest that you start out with some white turkey meat or some other lean meat first. Eat a small portion of lean meat before beginning on mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, breads and rolls, etc. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier tip, your body uses more calories to digest and assimilate protein that it does for carbs and fat. The protein also has a stabilizing effect on your blood sugar and will help you to feel “full” more quickly.
2. Eat moderate portions. I would suggest that you eat slowly and moderately, pause, and then continue to eat if you feel the desire to. By eating smaller meals, you won’t be “stretching your stomach” which can make it difficult to become full again in the days following the holiday. Give yourself “permission” to go back for seconds and thirds, but allow enough time between your seconds and thirds for your body to utilize the meal.
3. Eat before you EAT! Don’t skip your morning meals on the day of the holiday thinking that you can then pig out later in the day. That’s counterproductive. Your body can handle only so many calories at one time. You’ll feel much better, and your blood sugar will be stable if you have your morning meals first. If your blood sugar is stable by the time you sit down for your holiday feast, you will tend to eat less and more importantly crave less.
4. Tell yourself, “I have made a conscious decision to eat this. I am in control. Tomorrow I will resume my program, again, under my own control and self-volition”.
5. Use low fat substitutes when possible. Now, I realize that during holiday meals we tend a lot of fat-laden foods. But, if you have a choice between a lower fat and a higher fat equivalent, choose the lower fat equivalent if possible. Dairy products like milk, cheeses, sour cream, and even butter all have low fat substitutes that are barely detectable when added to or used with your foods.
6. And now, for a very, very important tip. Give away your leftovers. If your fridge is stuffed with tempting foods, it’s almost impossible to get back on your program the day after your holiday. You’ll want to keep going back for more and more. At this point, you may rationalize, “I’ve already blown my diet, and I might as well finish all of this good food. It’s going to go to waste.” Well, remember that you don’t want to waste your body, your health, or your hard work in the gym, either. What’s more important, the food or your body?
7. Cardio is important if you’re going to be “chowing down.” Try hitting an extra session of cardio the day before and the day after the smorgasbord. Go for a brisk walk after your holiday dinner. This will help to kick off digestion.
8. Speaking of digestion, it would be recommendable for you to pick up a bottle of digestive enzymes at your local health food store. Digestive enzymes are very beneficial, especially if you’re loading your body down with large meals. I keep a bottle of digestive enzymes in my cupboard at all times. Whenever I have large meals, I’ll take a couple of tablets, not only to ease the fullness, but also to ease the strain and demand on my digestive system.
9. When you get in the gym the next day, be sure to increase your repetitions; work out a little bit longer. This is not something that I normally recommend, but in light of the high calories the day before, it’s not a bad idea. If you’ve been on a strict nutritional program, you may encounter some water weight gain in the days following your holiday meals. Drink plenty of fluid and exercise. Immediately get back on your diet the next day. The fluid will take care of itself in a couple of days; it’s nothing to worry about.
I hope that you will find these tips helpful in navigating the Holiday table!
Until next week, I am
Your Lean Body Coach™
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