With the arrival of Thanksgiving, the holiday season is officially upon us. An exciting time, for sure, but it’s also a very challenging time for those of us who are working hard to lose our excess body fat and look our best.
According to the New York Times, the average adult packs on anywhere from 1 to 5 additional pounds of body fat during the holidays each year. Perhaps even worse, a report in The New England Journal of Medicine claims that most people never rid their body of the additional holiday fat they accumulate.
So, it should go without saying that as we enter the holiday season it would be wise to have a plan of attack that will allow us to continue progressing toward our fat loss goals without making us miss out on all the fun with family and friends.
Many times the best defense is a good offense, which is exactly what I’m going to give you today.
Here are 4 tips that will help you to continue to lose fat, while still getting to enjoy yourself this holiday season:
Tip #1: Eat a Lean Protein, Low-Carb Meal Before Parties
Even if you plan on partaking in all the “sinful” holiday foods at your disposal, having a meal consisting of lean protein before a planned indulgence will fill your belly with satiating, slow digesting substance, making you less likely to eat as much “junk” while socializing.
Feel free to throw as much green veggies as you want into the mix, as well.
You can load up on them to help you feel full without worry because their calorie content is negligible (I have yet to hear of someone getting fat from eating too much lettuce and broccoli).
Most holiday gatherings are a carb-fest; Full of pies, cakes, breads, potatoes, chips, soda and beer.
Because of the “carb-loading” you’ll be doing while partying, you’re better off avoiding them altogether beforehand. This is also true if your pre-party meal happens to be a post-workout meal.
You normally want carbs post-workout to replenish the glycogen (sugar stored in muscle and liver tissue) lost from your muscles while training and to quickly switch the body from a catabolic to anabolic state. However, when a night of cheating is on the horizon, a different plan of attack is in order.
Instead, you will skip the post workout carbs to keep your glycogen levels depleted up until party time.
This will help mitigate the fat-storing damage incurred from all the carbs you’re bound to take down by ensuring a decent percentage will be filtered to your liver and muscle cells through the glycogen replenishment process and not stored on your body in the form of fat.
Tip #2: Blast Your Muscles Before Party Time
In order for tip #1 to be maximally effective you’ll have to take every measure necessary to deplete your body’s glycogen reserves as much as possible before party time.
At some point earlier in the day before party time you’ll want to train your muscles – and train them hard.
None of this light weight, high rep stuff. You want to use resistances that lead to failure somewhere in the 5-7 rep range.
Research shows that glycogen depletion is greater with increasing training intensity as the body is forced to use glycogen to keep up with the body’s immediate energy needs.
You’ll also want to train your entire body to reap the maximum glycogen depletion benefit. To put it simply, the more muscles you can engage, exhaust, and deplete of glycogen, the better.
I already addressed this above, but it bears repeating here as well: Eat as few carbs as possible between the end of your workout and party time.
In fact, you would do well to eat little or no carbs from the time you wake until the day’s festivities.
Remember, you want keep your glycogen levels as low as possible going into your time of partying and laxed eating. Eating carbs before then will only make this strategy less effective.
Tip #3: Cheat Quick
It can be REALLY easy to use a bout of unhealthy eating as an excuse to eat poorly for the entire day. Sometimes this justification can even spill over into the next day and that’s when things really start to get dangerous.
Holiday gatherings needn’t be an all-day-cheat-eating occasion. If you’re serious about improving your body, and don’t want to critically compromise all of your efforts, be sure to keep the cheating to party time only.
Eat well leading up to any holiday gathering, enjoy yourself for a couple of hours, and then immediately get back on track the next day.
By the way, “cheat quick” is a strategy I use year round with fantastic results. You’re going to eat some fattening, calorie-packed foods on occasion. That’s just reality.
Nobody’s perfect 100% of the time (nobody I know, anyway).
As long as these cheat meal occasions are limited to 2-3 times per week, and you don’t use them as opportunities to completely gorge yourself, you can still expect consistent results.
On the other hand, even 2 consecutive days of ingesting hundreds or thousands of calories above a maintenance level of nutrition, with said calories predominantly consisting of carbohydrates, refined sugars, and processed foods containing high fructose corn syrup and other unhealthy and metabolically damaging ingredients, is a recipe for failure and certain disappointment.
So cheat quick and enjoy a brief time of dietary freedom, but make sure it stays brief and ends with the event.
Tip #4: Stick to Your Guns & Prepare for Negativity
The first 3 tips above are for those that know they’ll be partaking in the holiday food festivities and wish to mitigate the risk of compromising their fat loss results.
Depending on the number of parties you have to go to, and how dedicated you are to achieving your goals, you may not feel right about cheating and opt not to indulge yourself instead. It may seem backwards to think this way, but this option will oftentimes be the most enjoyable for you overall.
You’ll avoid the feelings of regret later on. Your results won’t be compromised in any way. And you’ll still get to spend good times with family and friends – just without all the eating.
Afterwards, you’ll feel empowered and content with your decision to stick to your dietary guns in the midst of such a tempting situation.
If you take this route, though, be prepared for a certain amount of negativity to be leveled in your direction. There are several reasons for this:
Others may be worried about your level of enjoyment. People equate food with enjoyment. So when they see you not eating, they may want to free you from your misery, and try to coerce you into abandoning your decision.
In addition, your decision may make others feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. They may be unhappy with how they look and feel and know they should be making similar decisions.
If everyone is overeating on account of the holidays – especially someone they know normally eats healthy – it will help put their mind at ease with their decision to give into their gluttonous desires.
Depending on the setting, it may be almost impossible for you to abstain from hearing things like:
“Why aren’t you eating?”
“One soda isn’t going to kill you.”
“Losing weight isn’t worth all that.”
“It’s the holidays for crying out loud!”
This shouldn’t perturb you, but knowing what’s coming will help you mentally prepare and be at the ready with how you plan to respond to the nay-sayers and those that don’t view their health with the same level of importance.
Tell them how much weight you’ve lost and how great you feel. Tell them you’re getting over an illness and don’t feel like eating at the moment. Tell them you had a big lunch. Or just shrug it off and quickly change the subject.
I wish I could tell you that everyone would be supportive. Unfortunately, my experience tells me you’re unlikely to be so lucky.
Be firm, but be respectful. 99 times out of 100 a quick explanation will be enough for them to change the subject.
And who knows? Maybe they’ll express an interest in making a similar change and you can use it as an opportunity to guide and motivate them to improve their health, as well.
Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail
The holidays needn’t be a time of relapse and going in the opposite direction of your goals.
So decide ahead of time that you’re going to take measures to minimize the damage or abstain from cheating on your diet altogether and put these tips into action.
With a little planning up front, you can continue to lose fat while still enjoying the holiday season and set yourself up to make 2014 your body’s best year yet!
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