The holidays are upon us! Family and friends getting together, Christmas lights and decorating the tree. Parties and food! Oh the food! I love food and I hope you do too! This time of year can be full of stress though. Stressful because of the expense of the holidays and stressful because of all the food.
Today I want to share some tips on how to mitigate those extra calories while still enjoying and participating in all the holiday fun, without all the guilt or a significant change in your waistline!
DIETING DURING THE HOLIDAYS
First off, let’s talk about dieting during the holidays. My advice is not to diet during the holidays. You want to set yourself up for success when dieting. You don’t want to be faced with forbidden food at every turn while you’re in a calorie deficit. What happens when you “slip up” and have a piece of pie?
Have you ever fallen into the all-or-nothing trap? Have you ever thought, “Well, since I’ve already messed up I might as well eat another piece!” It escalates quickly from one piece of pie to the whole pie. You feel guilty, you start having negative self-talk, you feel bad about having too many servings of food, etc. It’s a negative cycle that causes undo emotional and mental stress, which can increase the cortisol hormone, also known as the stress hormone. This can make you hold on to unwanted weight or even encourage weight gain.
So how do you enjoy the holidays? The secret is in your mindset and your goals. Get rid of the all or nothing mindset. It has been shown time and time again to only encourage failure and then to fail harder!
Setting an expectation for yourself to not indulge while a feast is before you is like setting a bowl of candy in front of a kid and saying not to eat it. When no one is looking, the child will quickly eat as much as they can and eat more than they would have if they were “allowed” to do so.
Change your mindset to allow yourself to indulge and you will actually eat less than if you try to refrain from it.
CHANGE YOUR GOALS
The next thing is to change your goal from a calorie deficit to maintenance, which is eating at your TDEE. Or you could go for a weight gain goal in the form of muscle mass, which needs a calorie surplus. Those two goals will allow you to eat comfortably going to holiday parties and enjoying the food with no guilt.
There is another aspect that will help you make it through the holidays with little to no significant weight gain. This is where the metabolism and bioenergetics of nutrition come into play. But I think it will help explain how the human body works so you can use it to your advantage.
Our bodies are made to respond to different signals, or information. Signals could be resistance training to tell the body to build more bone or muscle. Another signal is endurance training that tells the body which form of energy to use. The human body is made to adapt to the signals it’s given.
The body uses what is called ATP or Adenosine triphosphate, as it’s primary source of energy. The body breaks down the food we eat into smaller energy sources. For example, carbs are broken down into glycogen. Our body then goes through the process of changing that glycogen into ATP for use as energy.
There are three different pathways the body can turn the food we eat into ATP. Some pathways are faster than others and some provide more energy than others but take longer to turn into ATP. When you hear someone talk about the fat burning zone, what makes it the fat burning zone is the pathway the body uses during a particular exercise to primarily use fat stores for energy over another source.
When we eat food, particularly carbs, (there’s a lot of those going around during the holidays!) carbs are the fastest form of energy for the body to use. We eat it and the energy is used and stored as glycogen within the muscle fibers and liver. Any extra goes to fat.
Have you ever heard of fasted cardio or fasted workouts? When we are in a fasted state our bodies are depleted or have limited glycogen stores. If there are not enough glycogen stores the body is forced to use one of the other two pathways to create ATP. And most people are hoping that it’s fat stores being used.
Have you heard of athletes “carb loading” before an athletic event, such as a marathon or swim meet? The purpose is to “load” up the glycogen stores within the muscle and liver for quick and sustained energy for the race to follow.
Now back to our Thanksgiving dinner. If you enjoyed a hearty meal that included pie while doing the Thanksgiving thing, you shouldn’t feel guilty for it! The next day your body is primed full of glycogen stores! Which is great, especially if you signed up for the local 5K Turkey Trot and are trying to set a new personal best. Why? Because glycogen is the body’s fastest and easiest form of energy. Basically, consider that Thanksgiving meal as your carb loading meal. Use that energy for your benefit and not as a punishment.
DO SOME HEAVY LIFTING
Carbs aren’t just for cardio though. There is a lot of energy needed during heavy lifting! Now is a great time to up that resistance, try for extra repetitions or add an extra set! Use that energy because you can and not because you have to.
Going along with weight lifting, another thing to consider is muscle building. I hate to break it to you, but you will not become the Incredible Hulk during the holidays. It takes many months of hard work to build muscle. You could choose to go through a muscle building phase during the holidays.
By doing an intense resistance training session the morning of Thanksgiving and exhausting the muscle fibers, the rest of the day your body will need and use extra calories from the feast to rebuild and repair the muscles from that morning. Again, no guilt or punishment. You are helping your body by giving it the signal to make new muscles and bones through resistance training and then providing it with the energy to respond accordingly.
So load up and enjoy that turkey and pie without any guilt! Food is meant to be enjoyed! Holidays are meant to be with people! And diets are not meant for holidays!!
Leave a comment if you found this helpful! What questions do you have?