Did you know that the average person gains 5-10 pounds over the course of the holidays? The biggest problem with this is that most of those who gain, won’t lose a pound per week once they have gained it. Most people will make a New Year’s resolution to hit the gym or to eat healthier once January 1st hits. It takes some of my clients six months to work off holiday pounds. That is because you can’t simply slash calories after the holidays once you have gained weight. Well you can, but you shouldn’t. If you go on a fad diet come January 1st, or drastically restrict your calories, you are actually hurting your metabolism even more. Have you ever went on a diet and lost a few pounds but couldn’t shake the last couple of pounds? That is what I am talking about! You are setting yourself up for disaster.
Most of the “how to stay fit over the holidays,” ( including a previous one written by myself- oopsie) will give you a laundry list of tips to have you staying fit while still enjoying the foods you love with family and friends. The truth of the matter is that none of that bs is going to work if you aren’t tracking the foods that you eat with some sort of calorie goal. Ultimately, the goal would be to track your macros (proteins, carbs, and fat) in order to manipulate your body composition for fat loss goals, maintenance, or muscle gain.
Here are two scenarios:
A) You have a set “diet” that you are following through the week. A holiday party comes up and you indulge. Screw it, it’s the holidays. I deserve to enjoy time with my family and friends and make memories. You have totally said that, right? Well, a few glasses of wine (at 120 calories a pop), some appetizers (who knows how many calories), some comfort food, and oh, don’t forget dessert because hello it’s the holidays! The next day you say screw it because you have already gone off of your “diet” and on top of the foods you add into the mix, you enjoy a venti white peppermint mocha at Starbucks (670 calories). Monday rolls back around, you feel guilty because the scale went up so you vow to get it right this week and you jump back on your “diet”… until the next weekend rolls around.
B) You have zero food restrictions and you use a little tool called My Macros or MyfitnessPal (MFP) in order to track your daily calories and macros. You eat whatever food combinations you want as long as they fit. You don’t yoyo on weekends because you are allowed to eat out with your friends or pick up Starbucks. (Side Note: If I find room for a holiday drink in my macros, I order a one pump grande holiday latte when order to save on calories but still allow a treat).
Which one sounds better?
I thought so. Flexible dieting is the easiest way to avoid holiday weight gain because you know your caloric intake. As long as you burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight. Take in the same calories as you burn and you maintain. Take in more than you burn and you will gain. Of course there is the issue of body composition but for the purposes of this post, I am just covering the basics for beginners.
Eating out at restaurants can be tricky because you never quite know how much oil, etc. they add in. When I eat out, I ask for no butter ( I have an allergy anyway), no oil (if possible). I order things that are steamed so I know how to put them into my app. I end up doing lots of steamed veggies, salads, and seafood because it allows me to enjoy meals out while tracking them. As a competitor, it is better to avoid eating out a lot since it is tricky but if you don’t compete, you can guestimate your portions and add a tablespoon of oil for good measure.
Sure you can drink a lot of water, eat a salad before you go to a holiday party, get up at 4am to do cardio on Christmas day so you burn the calories, but if you track your food, you are setting yourself up for success and an even better New Year because you won’t pack on holiday weight to burn off starting January 1st. If you track your food leading up to holidays, you won’t have to track on the actual holidays. Its a no brainer really! Download the Myfitnesspal app (it’s free) and start tracking your food. The only downside to MFP is that it only allows you to track macros to the nearest 5% on the free version. This has never been an issue for me. I just set it as close as possible and memorize my macros. If you are unsure how to start tracking your food, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive my quick macro guide. If you need help determining macros or want a more detailed macro guide, I offer macro based plans.