Turkey, ham, or pot pies?
Cookies, buckeyes, or “tree bark”?
Cheese and crackers or shrimp cocktail?
Pumpkin pie or cheesecake?
Stuffing, green bean casserole, or mashed potatoes?
Budweiser or Jack?
There’s so many choices this time of year.
We know we’ll have to make them.
And it’s not exactly like the person making the dish has our waistlines in mind.
If your’e creating a dish for a social event or a holiday gathering, you have exactly ONE objective:
Make that culinary treat the most decadent,
fantastic, scrumptious, and mouth-watering
delectable the world has ever seen.
Make it so rich, so creamy,
and so fantastic that every single person
at the party raves about it,
begging you for the recipe.
And as the cook, that means a few things:
Sugar. Brown sugar. Molasses. Powdered sugar. Corn starch. Butter. Cream cheese. Peanut butter.
Basically, sugar and fat with a side order of salt.
So, what we need to do is skip all of that, eat a nice, little side salad with some light dressing, and go home, right?
Of course not.
One of the biggest rules of successful, sustainable diet plans is that you can eat whatever you wish.
Seriously. Read that line again.
You. Can. Eat. Whatever. You. Wish.
Just plan for it, make sure it fits your goals, and enjoy.
One of the biggest tools I hope my clients come away with is the ability to create a caloric buffer in order to eat what you desire.
Are whole, “clean” foods a good idea? Yes, of course.
But a non-stop diet of olive oil, salmon, and rice will make anyone a little loopy in the long run.
We are all hedonistic creatures. If we don’t give in from time-to-time, we will go crazy with deprivation.
Your body composition is a function of what we eat MOST of the time, not ALL of the time.
So, what’s the plan? What do we do in order to be sure to stuff our faces silly and still maintain our weight and health?
Here is a list of strategies I give to clients. Follow these and you will all but ensure your health is unaffected by your gluttony.
1. Choose the days you will incorporate this plan. Aim for 4-5 days total.
Possible choices: Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and one other social gathering.
On all other days, you must be on point with your diet.
This is extremely important.
If you’re going to be gluttonous 4-5 times over a month, you need to maintain your deficit on the other days.
2. Fast for the entire day until your big meal.
Ideally, your big meal should be in the late afternoon/early evening.
This will turn the 16-hour fast into a 20-hour fast.
With some coffee, water, diet soda, etc. it shouldn’t be too big of a deal.
If you must eat something, chow down on all the green veggies (no dip) you need to.
If there’s absolutely no way you can make it that long, have 25ish grams (4 oz.) of lean meat or a cup of fat free cottage cheese to hold you over.
But if you’re used to the protocol, an extra four hours shouldn’t be a problem.
3. When it’s meal time, fill up your plate with your entire, daily protein allotment of lean meat (the ham or turkey) first.
You might need to bring a scale unless you are comfortable with estimations.
For this, take your protein number, move the decimal two places.
That’s how many POUNDS of meat you will put on your plate.
Example: Protein is at 180 grams. That’s 1.8 pounds of turkey or ham. Giddy up.
If you ate a small bit of protein earlier in the day, be sure to subtract it from your daily total.
4. The rest of your plate, if there’s room, fill up with “others”.
The mashed taters, green bean casserole, a roll or two, etc. There are no choice limits. Pick as you wish.
5. Eat your entire protein allotment.
Use the carbs as a “taste change”. Don’t eat pounds of mashed taters. Eat pounds of meat.
Every once in a while take a taste of the “others” on your plate.
Don’t limit yourself in choices.
If you eat your entire protein allotment in one sitting, chances are this will naturally occur anyways.
5. After dinner, get a dessert plate. One dessert plate.
It can have whatever you wish on it. But one plate only.
Don’t make it “heaping” – it shouldn’t have volume to it.
But make sure you get a good taste of everything you desire.
These are your sweets for the day. No grazing the cookies and goodies. So make it count.
6. If you will be drinking, make it red wine or unflavored liquor with zero calorie mixers.
No beers. Keep the booze for after the meal, as well.
Drinking in the fasted state is an easy way to get blasted quickly, making it difficult to make good choices.
7. After your meal, have an “off switch”.
I don’t want you to put a time limit on your meal, since that encourages binge-style behavior.
But once you’re done with your meal and dessert, switch your mode to “off”.
Have an actual, physical trigger for this.
Put in a toothpick. Or a piece of gum. Or go on a walk. Or help mom with the dishes. Or go shoot some hoops, weather permitting.
But you should have something which triggers the off switch.
Once this trigger occurs, your mindset needs to change. You are back in fasting mode. And stay there.
8. You should always keep in mind that after your “cheat meal”, you should be full, satisfied, and happy.
You should never eat yourself to the point of feeling ill or sick.
If you’re doing this, you are not truly enjoying your food.
Nobody enjoys the feeling of over-stuffed gluttony. Keep this in mind.
9. If your meal is a “feast” in the morning, simply switch the fast.
Eat your huge meal. Then fast for the second part of the day.
This is admittedly much more difficult.
When your meal comes in the latter part of the day, chances are the meal will keep you full for the remainder of the day.
If the meal is in the morning, you will probably be hungry towards the end of the day.
If you need some food, keep the fat and carbs really low and eat some veggies. AKA – ham and veggies or turkey and veggies.
This strategy is especially helpful for Christmas morning feasts.
10. If your family eats massive meals multiple times per day, pick one of those meals.
You will need to learn how to skip the others.
If you eat to your heart’s content three times in one day, you will easily gain a pound or more of fat in one twelve hour period.
11. Lastly, if you are training, the day after your feast, get in there and smash weights.
You should see a strength bump. Training after a feast almost always equates a strength gain. Enjoy it.
Using this plan, will you gain weight? Probably.
Most of it will be water weight.
And since this plan is created for use over multiple days during the holiday season, I would lose your scale until a week after the last time you utilize this plan.
Trust in the process. Enjoy your food and time spent with loved ones. Forget your weight.
And I will guarantee you this: If you stay on point with a well thought-out diet and fitness plan for all of the other days, you know, the ones where you DON’T incorporate this plan, when you step on that scale a week after New Year’s, you will be LIGHTER than you were before the holidays began.
How’s that for a resolution?
After I posted this article, I began to look around at the various fitness personalities on the ‘net. I follow a few on Twitter, I “like” a few on Facebook, and there are a few sites out there I visit regularly. And I noticed something. The “Plan For The Holidays” type articles are not en vogue right now – AT ALL. Everywhere you look, you see “You should be able to eat freely!” “Worry about nothing!” “If your diet can’t survive one day of gluttony, it’s a shitty diet anyways!” And my personal favorite, “Worrying about an eating plan helps foster eating disorders!”
Hmmm, this got me thinking. First off, heaven forbid I don’t agree with anything the internet gurus say. Most of the people who are saying to “take a day off” and “eat as you wish” are some of the most influential, popular, and lucrative names in the biz. I look up to them. 100%.
But I don’t agree with the thought that we should all just forget about everything – macros, diet, fitness, health, etc. several times per year simply because it’s the holidays.
The first thing I make sure to tell my clients is that on the holidays, I don’t want you to specifically count macros. But be smart. Emphasize protein. Be mindful of your carbs. Have some dessert. Don’t go crazy. Make some room for the food with a fast in the morning, assuming you want to eat a larger meal for dinner. But the biggest caveat: Eat until you are full, satisfied, and happy. And then stop.
Never, ever, ever eat until you are stuffed and nauseous.
Eating disorders occur when food is consumed in a disordered fashion. It’s right there in the name. This can mean a few different things. It can be the person who feels true anxiety because they end up at a dinner which has different macros than they had planned for. It can mean the person who purposefully fasts for 40 hours – just so they can consume 10,000 calories of ice cream. Or it can simply mean the person who stuffs him/herself beyond the point of fullness multiple times per day.
Unfortunately, for many in this world, the last scenario is clearly the most abundant one.
Being healthy, lean, fit, and strong takes some nutritional fortitude. Should it be flexible? Of course. Do we need to be overly obsessive? Absolutely not. But should we always have a plan in place? Yes, we should.
It’s not having a plan which has most of us wishing we looked and felt like someone else.