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10 Tips to Deal with Holiday Weight Gain

10 Tips to Deal with Holiday Weight Gain

For the body obsessed or even normal dieters, the holiday period from around October through to January can be a true minefield. Between the specific holidays of Halloween (mercifully passed), Thanksgiving and Christmas, along with endless goody baskets and parties, folks can run into problems maintaining the habits they strive to follow the rest of the year.

A lot of strategies exist to deal with this time, especially among the body obsessed, although Iíd consider few of them particularly healthy from a mental or psychological standpoint.

One is to become a social pariah. Canít control your food at parties? Simply skip all of them. While this might avoid food issues, itís also a way to make your friends and co-workers think youíre an anti-social asshole.

Another common one is to take the needed meal or food (e.g. turkey, broccoli, plain sweet potato) with you in a Tupperware bowl. Iíve heard of folks doing this at Thanksgiving dinner, usually so that they can sit and look down upon their family members with an air of superiority. ďOh, I canít believe youíd eat that, thatís why youíre fat.Ē Newsflash folks, not only are we talking about a borderline eating disorder at this point (see also: orthorexia), that kind of insanity just makes your family uncomfortable. So donít do it.

Of course, at the other extreme are the dis-inhibited eaters who just go completely crazy and eat everything in sight, gaining a considerable amount of weight and fat in the three months of holidays. It can happen and Iím not saying that it canít. Of course, if youíre a bodybuilder or powerlifter, you can just say ďIím bulkingĒ as you shovel down the third piece of cake but Iíll assume that you actually want to keep a lid on weight/fat gains during this time period.

As always, being a middle of the road kind of guy that I am, Iím going to suggest some strategies that, while not quite as disturbed as taking broccoli with you to Thanksgiving, also doesnít put you in the trap of gorging on fudge. In no real particular order of importance, here are 10 Tips to Deal with Holiday Weight Gain from getting out of hand over the holidays.

1. Make Better Bad Choices

I forget who I stole this idea from offhand but itís nothing new. The simple fact, and Iíll come back to this in point 10, is that many people fall into the trap of ďIf Iím going to eat junk, I might as well jam as much of the worst stuff I can down my food hole.Ē Thatís silly.

Instead, try to make better bad choices. Limit portions (you know that you donít really NEED three pieces of cake to be satisfied). Pick the lower calorie or lower fat/high-carb stuff at the dessert table. People training hard can handle an influx of carbs acutely better than fat so pick that stuff. Maybe have a little bit of two or three different desserts, just get a taste and move on. You get the idea.

2. Take a Lowered Fat/Calorie Dessert or Dish to the Party

Whether a work party or holiday dinner, itís not uncommon for people to bring their own thing to add to the food table. So make something that youíve de-fatted or lowered in calories, there are zillions of recipes out there. And, please, Iím not talking about black bean Ďcakeí that you think tastes like the real thing.

Find a happy medium between the high-sugar/high-fat stuff and clean eating. Most American desserts have about twice the sugar and butter that they usually need and, who knows, you might even convert someone into realizing that they can eat sweets without it having to be 1000 calories per piece.

3. Train with a Bit Higher Volume Prior to the Event

One of the best ways to increase the ísinkí for incoming calories is to deplete muscle glycogen. When you do that by using a higher volume (more sets, higher reps) of training, not only do you increase fat oxidation, you give incoming carbs somewhere to go for storage instead of being used for energy. You can simply bump up your volume a bit in the days before a specific event where you know there will be junk. Even a heavy training session on the day of the party can be beneficial here. And, bonus, youíll be pumped at the party.

Train in a nice hypertrophy zone (get about 40 reps per muscle group) and youíll increase protein synthesis so that incoming calories will support growth. Training also tends to acutely blunt hunger so if you train right before the party, youíll be less likely to overeat. Well, unless youíre a typically dis-inhibited eater who falls into the trap of ďI trained, I deserve 10 pieces of fudge.Ē

4. Start with Lots of Lean Protein and Vegetables Before Hitting the Dessert Table

This one is for the body obsessed and dieters alike. Lean protein has the highest short-term satiating power (this means it keeps you full) and the high-bulk of vegetables helps to fill your stomach which also sends a fullness signal. Iíve yet to be at a holiday party that didnít have a vegetable plate (limit the high-fat dip) or plate of cold cuts. Load up on that to get some fullness going before you hit the desserts.

5. Have a High-Protein Snack with some Vegetables or Fruit about 30′ Beforehand

If youíre in a situation where Number 4 wonít work, have a small snack before the party or dinner. Some lean protein, veggies and fruit about 30 minutes will give you a feeling of fullness and help to limit overconsumption of Ďjunkí at the party.

6. Consider Intermittent Fasting on the Day of the Event

Intermittent Fasting (IFíing) is a recent dietary approach that involves not eating for 14-18 hours per day and then either having an Ďeat periodí of roughly 4-6 hour or even a single meal. Thereís some interesting research on it and Iíll discuss it at a later date on the site. But itís one good way to deal with holiday parties. Know that youíve got a 7pm dinner party where there will be lots of yummy food? Try IFíing (or only have small meals of lean protein and veggies) most of the day. Unless you go completely berserk, youíll be unlikely to exceed your entirely daily caloric requirement in the one meal. If you can train beforehand, even better.

7. Consider a Short Mini-Diet in the Days Before the Event

Letís say you have an event or two coming up on the weekend and you know that there will be lots of food and you may have control issues. Well, consider doing a short, possibly hardcore diet in the days before. My Rapid Fat Loss Handbook would be perfect, 4 days of it can actually reduce body fat by 1-4 pounds (depending on your size) and you can schedule the free meal and/or refeed for your events. Call it pro-active damage control.

8. Ok, I Was Actually Kidding in the Introduction About the Tupperware

Letís face it, you know that nothing tastes as good as lean feels, you know how good discipline feels, you know that youíre better than all of those weak willed candy eaters. You know youíre better than them and 50 years from now when youíre old and decrepit, youíll know that it was worth it, sticking to your diet 365 days a year and never actually enjoying a moment of life.

So you go ahead and take your Tupperware with chicken breast, broccoli and sweet potato and eat it while everyone else around you actually gets some joy out of life and you feel miserable, alone, deprived and isolated.

No, really, Iím seriously kidding about this, donít do it.

9. Stay Off the Damn Scale

No matter what happens, folks often see the scale spike up after a big party; this is especially true after Thanksgiving. The typical carb-depleted trainee is especially prone to this; the high-carb intake of your typical holiday event along with extra sodium both can jack up scale weight a bit. But you know deep down itís not really fat. The simple fact is that, unless you go nuts, you canít eat enough in a single meal to put on appreciable fat. Itís only water and itíll come right back off in a few days.

But stay off the scale anyhow.

10. Donít Be Your Own Worst Enemy

This goes back to what I alluded to in point 1, a lot of people fall into a dreadful trap over the holidays, figuring that if theyíve eaten a little bit of junk food, clearly theyíve blown it and might as well retire to the corner with the entire tray of fudge and eat themselves sick.

Iím going to quote from the foreword of my own A Guide to Flexible Dieting here:

Then the problem hits. Maybe itís something small, a slight deviation or dalliance. Thereís a bag of cookies and you have one or youíre at the mini mart and just canít resist a little something thatís not on your diet. Or maybe itís something a little bit bigger, a party or special event comes up and you know you wonít be able to stick with your diet. Or, at the very extreme, maybe a vacation comes up, a few days out of town or even something longer, a week or two. What do you do?

Now, if youíre in the majority, hereís what happens: You eat the cookie and figure that youíve blown your diet and might as well eat the entire bag. Clearly you were weak willed and pathetic for having that cookie, the guilt sets in and you might as well just start eating and eating and eating.

Or since the special event is going to blow your diet, you might as well eat as much as you can and give up, right? The diet is obviously blown by that single event so might as well chuck it all in the garbage.
Sound familiar? Yeah I thought it might. The above is amazingly prevalent and exceedingly destructive. Extremely rigid dieters fall into a trap where they let events such as the holidays become a problem because of their own psychology. They figure that one piece of dessert has ruined all of their hard efforts so they might as well eat ALL the dessert. Which is, of course, nonsense. Say that piece of dessert has a few hundred calories, or say 500 calories. In the context of a weekly plan that is calorie controlled with training, thatís nothing.

Unless the person lets it become something. They figure 500 calories is the end of the world and eat an additional 5000 calories. Instead of just taking it in stride and realizing that itís not big deal, they make it a big deal with their own reaction.

Simply, donít do that. Realize that there is only so much damage you can do in the short-term. Apply the other strategies in this article and realize, at the end of the day, what you did for one meal that week simply doesnít matter if the rest of the week was fine. Not unless you make it.

And thatís that, 10 strategies I hope will help you to enjoy the holidays. Eat a piece of cake for me.
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