During one wellness presentation, I asked a group of people what they thought was the average amount of weight gained during the holiday season every year in the U.S.
Some people on the far end guessed an average of 10-15 pounds. Others had a little more conservative guess of about 5-7. The answer is closer to about one pound.
With growing concerns about obesity and efforts to promote good health and positive eating behaviors also comes with its fair share of annual dread and stress over the holidays that is often celebrated with meats cooked with the skin on, gravies, casseroles, and sources of fat-laden sweets (pie anyone?), cookies, and the occasional or maybe not-so-occasional spiked eggnogs and ciders. Such horrifying thoughts, I know.
And I hear it every year, family and non-family alike. The majority of it passed off in the form of humor, jokes that include patting oneself on the gut and about not being on a diet. I’m not a stick in the mud, but I also know the distorted relationship with food that causes stress over eating is a real phenomenon as well.
I don’t believe it has to be this way, and in fact, shouldn’t be at all. The holiday season is supposed to be the happiest time of the year, to enjoy time with family, give thanks, give and receive gifts, celebrate important events around our beliefs, and in general do a great deal of sharing a whole lotta love all around.
Some folks reading this may be finishing up a fat loss phase and afraid of rebounding this weight back. Some are starting a new season in their life of adopting behaviors and may feel that this is bad timing. Many of you myself included have heard remarks from family who don’t exercise or have the same magnitude of experience in nutrition seem to want to go the extra mile to “just get you to eat some normal food.”
I know it. I’ve been there. I’ve heard it all, too. My advise in all this? Take a deep breath, and relax.
No, this isn’t going to that article that many hash out about doing high rep depletion workouts, or fasting the morning before the dinner or the day after, signing up to as many Turkey Trot 5ks as you can find to burn it all off, etc. etc.
No, this isn’t going to be that article that tells you to pick low carb choices or low fat choices or only eat the meat and veggies at the dinner or some other inane piece of “advice” that while given in good intention isn’t, in my personal opinion, all that helpful.
You can eat the damn mashed potatoes with gravy and turkey and greens and a nice slice of pie with it, ok? You now have my permission. Not to binge, not to eat like a pig, or two go back for 3rd’s and 4th’s, but to enjoy yourself.
We in fitness are all weird to everyone else anyway; we flex in underwear on stage, lift, push, and drag heavy things for no productive societal reason, run long distances without being chased by anything, or weirdest of all, do CrossFit. We can all stand well to take a day off from our weird ass lifestyle anyway and enjoy family for a day or two, I assure you, you will be fine. It’s often taking enough time from our family as it is. You can get back to your macros tomorrow, make memories that matter today.
Your body is the same body that has been there all year long you’ve been training hard in and will be there the 15-20 minutes after the meal. Your body is used to a certain amount of calories that you take in daily, which means you have all sorts of physiological systems that keep your hunger and fullness mechanisms still in place. Do what normally makes sense in the same skin you’ll be in year-round anyway; be mindful of your internal cues to hunger, don’t obsess over food. The truth is if you’re stuffing yourself sick during the holidays, the problem isn’t the holiday food. It may be how you eat normally. And we’re here to help you there too.
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