This is the time of the year where people start to freak out. There’s the fitness fanatics that start to sweat with anxiety about the parties they have to go to, and there are yo-yo dieters who throw their hands up into the air and yell ‘screw it’ as they face plant into cake and momentarily blackout. It can be a stressful time for those concerned about their physiques, but it really doesn’t have to be. There are many tricks to help stay on track and prevent doing serious damage, or having to avoid social occasions for the fear of indulging. Here are 5 simple tips and tricks.
1. Prepare your meals
You have something called willpower; it’s what stops you from making stupid decisions, like face-planting into cake. Unfortunately, it’s not very good at stopping you from making too many stupid decisions as it’s required in all decision making, such as what to eat for lunch, what to wear for the day, whether you'll go to the gym or not, any important business/work decisions etc. Willpower is limited and is like a battery that is recharged daily. If you spend too much energy on too many decisions in the day, your willpower will deteriorate real quick and your face may be in that cake before you even realise it. Therefore, the goal is to conserve your willpower as much as possible by eliminating as many decisions as possible. Having your meals pre-planned helps to conserve your willpower and help minimise the risk of you falling off track – there’s no decision about what you’re going to eat; it’s already prepared and ready to go - you have no choice.
Fat gain/loss doesn’t just depend on what you’ve eaten today - it depends on what you’ve eaten over a course of multiple days, weeks, months, and years.
2. Balance high-calorie days with low-calorie days
Let's be real here; I don't care how disciplined and committed you are, there's going to be some days where you slip on your diet - it's pretty much inevitable at this time of the year. The good news is, it's not the end of the world. Fat gain/loss doesn’t just depend on what you’ve eaten today - it depends on what you’ve eaten over a course of multiple days, weeks, months, and years. The trick is to learn to balance out your energy intake. If you overeat one day, you can eat less the following day, or in the days leading up to a day, you know you will overeat a bit. This doesn’t mean you have to starve yourself - nor do we recommend it either - it just means eating a few hundred calories less per day. That may be just as simple as replacing your starchy vegetables (e.g. potato) with more non-starchy vegetables (e.g. greens) during the day, replacing fattier meats (e.g. beef) with leaner meats (e.g. chicken breast), and/or cutting out some calorie-dense foods such as butter, mayonnaise, oils etc.
3. Try not to miss a workout
Fairly obvious - exercise burns energy and can help maintain/lose body fat, but what you may not realise is its psychological impact on helping you to stay on track with your nutrition and goals. Training requires discipline and focus. By getting to the gym or hitting the road for a run, you’re subconsciously reinforcing your focus on your goals; getting fit, in shape, and healthy. Performing a strenuous workout also releases many 'feel good' hormones and chemicals, which can help to make you feel better about yourself and will help encourage you to keep up your fitness regime and healthy, balanced eating.
It’s incredibly easy to consume a whole day's worth of calories in just one meal with dessert and alcohol.
4. Reserve your calories and limit alcohol
For the average adult, who works a sedentary job, does very little daily activity, and only gets 60 minutes of exercise (if that) per day, it’s very easy to consume more energy from food than you will burn in a day, even with 'healthy' eating. Unfortunately, all the tasty food and alcohol at this time of year is absolutely crammed with calories, particularly from carbohydrates and fats. It’s incredibly easy to consume a normal whole day's worth of calories in just one meal with dessert and alcohol. Just like balancing high-calorie days with low-calorie days, you can also balance your eating on a smaller time-scale during the day. If you know you’re going to splurge and enjoy yourself in the evening at a work party or dinner, focus on limiting your food choices to good quality protein sources such as poultry, fish, low-fat meat etc., and load up on non-starchy vegetables during the day. Doing so will help limit the number of calories you consume, which will then allow you more room to consume more later in the day. This will help prevent you from consuming excess energy from food for the entire day.
Take small progress as a win and consider maintaining body fat levels as a great achievement in itself.
5. Be easy on yourself
The weeks leading up to Christmas and New Years is not the best time to be expecting massive progress in fat loss - especially if you’re quite social. Many people find themselves having an 'all or nothing' attitude - they're either 100% on track or 100% off track. Do yourself a favour and don’t be too hard on yourself. If you haven’t seen many of your family and friends for a long time, take advantage of the situation and shift your focus on spending quality time with loved ones, as opposed to excessively worrying about your physique. If it means you have one or two bad days, it's not the end of the world! The other five to six days of being on track will still prove to be extremely productive to your goals - don't throw in the towel for the entire week just because you had a bad day. Take small progress as a win and consider maintaining body fat levels as a great achievement in itself - just don’t let the festive season be an excuse to let go of yourself and store body fat unnecessarily.
As always, moderation and balance is key to building a fit, strong and healthy body and maintaining it. Just like one good meal won't suddenly make you fit, healthy and lean - one bad meal will not make you unfit, fat and unhealthy. It's important to learn how to manage your energy intake from food so that you can remain social and enjoy life. Being fit and healthy should complement your lifestyle, not take over it.
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the team at Recalibrated Bodies!