I want to talk a little bit about holidays and weight gain.
Despite what others are saying that the average holiday weight gain is from between 7 and 10 pounds, the more realistic numbers seem to be somewhere around 1 and 2 pounds (if you are a good case).
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I decided to write a no nonsense guide on how to deal with the holiday weight gain because I couldn’t really find a complete one anywhere around.
There are plenty of good guides around but not a complete one. This is the main reason I wrote this guide.
If you are anywhere close to being like me, holiday is a big problem when it comes to food choices. Let’s be truthful with ourselves: holiday is that awesome time of the year when we get to spend more time with our family, enjoy great moments, get presents (still a child). But holiday is probably the WORST time of the year when it comes to managing your weight.
All that abundance of food is calling you to gorge and feast. There’s nothing you can do to stop it.. or is there something?
The reality is that there are lots of strategies to help prevent holiday weight gain. I will list the ones I consider important when it comes from a physiological and mental standpoint.
These strategies will NOT transform you into a social freak (I mean who wants to be the person at which others are looking weird?).
Without making you feel more bad, I present you the ultimate guide on holiday weight gain: if you follow my suggestions, I promise you will minimize weigh gain during the holiday season.
1. Don’t Use The Scale
Trust me on this one: just don’t…
Speaking from a psychological standpoint, using the scale on a holiday is a complete fail. Why?
Let me put it simple: the typical food your family prepares, is usually full of sodium (everybody uses salt) and also rich in carbohydrates.
If you are the type of person that retains water with ease, your scale weight will go nuts almost daily.
Today you can have 80 kg. Tomorrow, after a good holiday meal, you can be around 83 kg’s easily.
This can make you feel bad for yourself and potentially make you do two things:
- Eat more – you feel guilty because you’ve already gained some weight. So you don’t care what you eat anymore. This kind of thinking is dangerous because you will most likely go uphill in weight pretty easy
- Ruin your holiday and make everyone look at you with a weird face because you are refusing any kind of food
Anyways, stay off scale. This is serious.
2. Don’t Stress Yourself Too Much
There are people out there trying to prepare for a potential weight gain by running themselves in the ground by doing excessive training and cardio.
They reduce caloric intake to low amounts and train hard. Or they start training harder and harder until over training kicks in.
In the end, you will be definitely eating more if you enter the holiday season with a mindset bound to “eating less and training more”.
Preparing for days or weeks before the holiday means you will be expecting to eat more. This will actually make you eat more. You won’t even realize this.
You don’t need to train yourself into the ground. Or do hours upon hours of cardio. Or deplete glycogen – you will just end up gorging on food and potentially accelerate weight gain. All of this because now, you have an excuse: “I trained my butt off, now it’s time to relax and I can eat whatever I want to – this is my bonus”.
Some people compensate for the fact that they did more work. They compensate with more food. Many times, that additional food intake is enough to offset any extra training you are doing.
Now, I don’t want to imply that I don’t train and try to control my food intake on holidays. The truth is that I actually train and try to control my diet. The difference lies in the way I do all of this.
I take a relaxed approach: I just train like I normally train with the exception of going only 2-3 times/week in a gym. I also try to control how much I eat (more on how to control your food intake, later in this article).
3. Get Your Training Volume Higher
I know that at the second point, I said you don’t really have to go crazy on training or cardio. It still applies and you’ll see why:
Getting your training volume higher, doesn’t mean you’ll get yourself into the ground. It means you will be bumping your volume up, for a few days before any major eating “event”.
You achieve two things by doing that:
1. You will be ready for the event because you will be creating a “sink” for potential incoming calories. When you train with higher volume (more repetitions and sets), you increase fat oxidation but also prioritize your muscles as a good storage “point” for additional calories.
If you do that, your body’s priority will be to get your muscle and liver glycogen back to normal levels. Any additional carbs you eat will be used for this. Just don’t suspect that you can actually go crazy on this and do a crazy amount of sets and reps just because Florin told you that your muscles will suck all the calories if you do that: NO!
Simply bump your volume a little bit some days before an event, by training in a hypertrophy zone (30-60 reps/muscle group).
You will also increase your potential hypertrophy because eating more food than normal, will support muscle growth.
2. Another nice bonus you will be getting by training with a little higher volume is that you will actually blunt your hunger which in turn will almost guarantee you will be eating less.
Unless you are that kind of person that thinks like this: “Bro, I just trained 3 hours yesterday and I’m so depleted. I can eat whatever I want and drink beer like a baws and not gain any weight” – this will most likely get you with some nice additional fat.
4. Bad Choice, Good Choice
This isn’t rocket science: this holiday season will try to meet your wildest dreams when it comes to food. This is why so many people are falling into the general trap: “Just a few days of food can’t do any harm. I mean everybody else is doing it. Why should I stay away from my favorite foods?”
Instead of thinking like this, you can actually make better food choices like:
- Chose lower calorie foods over huge calorie foods
- Limit your portion intake of those delicious looking cheesecakes
- Pick lower fat/carb foods
- Stay within an acceptable caloric intake or limit how much you could eat that day
- Taste foods, don’t overeat them
Most available research studies show that there’s an interesting change in your mind when you are presented with multiple food choices: You EAT MORE.
Going home on holidays and having access to all that good looking food, shows that you will try to eat until you feel satisfied and NOT even think about it. What is the end result of this mindset?
My recommendations to avoid this?
I would suggest you to try and taste a little bit from every thing you want. Keep the bigger portions set aside for lower calorie foods (veggies, lean meat and any low calorie foods).
5. Rush A Fast Caloric “Sink” A Few Days Before The Event
This one is a strategy I always use.
This next one is planning a caloric “sink” a few days before an event. This is truly a good strategy to prevent any potential weight gain. What do you mean by “creating a sink”?
Glad you asked:
Let’s assumet you know you’ll be having a family event 3 days from now and you will be presented with a huge pile of food choices.
What can you do to enjoy that event, and don’t look weird by refusing some tasty looking food?
The 5’s strategy goes like this: if you want to prepare for the event and enjoy it at its fullest, you will actually go on a short “hardcore” diet.
What I mean by this?
You will limit your caloric intake to half or even more of what you are currently eating. You will do this only 3 days before the event. This in turn will create a caloric “sink” for the event, making you less vulnerable to weight gain. Even if you eat more food than your normal days, it won’t get that easily stored.
Of course, there’s a downside when you think about it but if you read this, it means that you will be conscious enough NOT to get into what I will describe right away:
Most people’s mind is actually pretty weird when it comes to these things and this is why I decided to get it more detailed:
Don’t think that if you are creating a “sink”, you’ve just made yourself a favor and you are now allowed to eat everything in sight and not gaining any weight. I am not responsible for what you’ll experience if you think like this.
Explaining further, the reality is that by cutting your daily caloric intake a few days before the event, you will create “the sink”. The sink is limited so don’t try to overeat too much and outrun it.
If I need 3000 calories daily just to maintain my weight, eating 1500 calories for 3 days before the “grand event”, will create a sink that has a 4500 caloric value (1500 calories x 3 days).
This is how much I am actually allowed or better said, safe to eat in the upcoming event. At the end of the event, I will be around the same weight as I was 3 days ago.
See where it goes?
6. Prioritize Protein, Prevent Holiday Weight Gain
If you want to get the most out of the Christmas holiday, I strongly suggest you to really consider this point and here’s why:
It is demonstrated that eating protein will make your hunger set away the fastest. You know what this means: eating protein first will invariably get your hunger to the ground and you won’t be able to eat as much food as you would normally do.
7. Eat Lots Of Veggies
I never saw a Christmas party without veggies. I mean everyone offers plates of veggies around the usual food choices: meat, deserts, sweets, etc.
A good strategy before hitting the “real food” buffet is to go with veggies first. Veggies can’t be bad no matter how you take them.
8. Sequence Your Food Intake
You might have heard about food combining. You may have heard about good combinations are bad ones.
This is nonsense because it was demonstrated by real world experience, results and research studies that food combinations don’t matter when it comes to health or body composition. Please don’t think about combining fish with yogurt or crazy choices like this.
A good strategy to make you less hungry all the time is to start by eating lean protein and veggies first before any other food choice. How will this limit my holiday weight gain?
It’s easy: you will be less able to eat other foods because protein blunts hunger the fastest, and adding veggies on top will keep you fuller for a long time.
9. Limit Liquid Calories
I call them liquid calories: any food that is liquid and has some caloric content like: full fat milk, sodas, alcohol, certain dressings, etc.
These food choices have the lowest satiety factor when it comes to keeping you satiated. You can pretty much gorge on them easily which in turn will sabotage your efforts to limit weight gain.
10. Prepare A Low Calorie/Fat Dessert For A Potential Party
Any time you are invited to a Christmas party or even a usual party, you can take one step ahead of everyone by preparing yourself a low calorie/fat dessert that you’ll be taking there.
There are plenty of recipes on the internet so you can easily create your low calorie cake on which you can gorge like no other – believe me, I did this last Christmas and people were looking at me with crazy eyes: “how is Florin eating this and still keep a six pack even now?”.
You can create some crazy buzz around with this strategy.
11. Intermittent Fasting?
I wrote an extensive chapter on intermittent fasting and believe me, it doesn’t do jack when it comes to body composition if caloric intake is not controlled – despite of what other “guru’s” are telling you.
Everybody’s trying to make intermittent fasting as the next best thing but in reality, its just another eating strategy and nothing more. Alright.. alright..
Intermittent fasting is a good strategy that you can use, to deal with the potential holiday weight gain because you can limit your food intake for a specific event in a certain window or eating. What?
Intermittent fasting means that you will fast (will not eat anything) for a certain amount of hours (most popular fasting protocols involve a 14-24 hours fast) after which you will break the fast with a big meal.
So here’s how we will use intermittent fasting to prevent holiday weight gain:
We will actually eat something through the day. What?
Try to eat low calorie veggies with lean protein but keep the big meal prepared for the event.
What this accomplishes is that we will try to blunt our hunger and get us full with a low overall caloric intake before the event so when we will get to the “holy grail” food buffet, we will be unable to overeat on delicious looking food.
If you also train that day, it is even better!
12. Discipline Or Overdoing Clean Eating?
I talked about clean eating and the fact that there’s no such thing as good foods versus bad foods when it comes to body composition.
I wanted to point out that you really have a choice when it comes to staying on the right track when speaking of holidays. YOU HAVE A CHOICE!
The choice I am talking about is that everybody can have the discipline to avoid feasting on this time of the year. But how?
You can be like the rest of the people and eat anything in sight without feeling guilty. But, if you will apply some of the strategies I listed here, any potential weight gain you might have, will usually be minimal.
There’s another scenario: the one in which you will eat just like you eat when you diet
If you don’t mind sticking to the way you eat that allows you to lose fat or maintain a nice and lean physique, you can pretty much go to events with your bag of tupperware, full with rice and chicken breast. You will get over the holiday season with A+.
You just failed…
You probably expected me to actually recommend this or you were actually stunned that I actually recommended this.
If you were stunned and thought I was crazy, well, you acted right: I was actually joking.
I wanted to take a note on this “strategy” because there are “fat loss gurus” out there that actually recommend this kind of approach for holidays or events.
If you’ve already read my book, you should’ve known by now that this was a joke. I will also state it here for those who did not read it.
Employing strategies like bringing tupperware food with you everywhere you go, will make you feel downcast. People will look weird at you and you’ll probably NOT enjoy this wonderful time of the year.
The holiday season doesn’t last much and you have all the time in your hand to get back on track and be disciplined.
Even more, you will probably NOT gain any weight if you follow these strategies and keep consistency. I know I even lost fat last year when I employed them.
13. Don’t Treat Holidays As A Problem
Ending my article with the 13’s recommendation, I wanted to help you get into the right mindset before you start applying all of the techniques I listed.
Yes, I know about the superstition that 13 is a considered a “bad luck” number but this time, its an exception: these 13 rules will provide you with everything you need to do so you can avoid any kind of holiday weight gain.
I know they work because I’ve been using them for years and I am able to maintain my 8 pack (yes, not 6 but 8 – mother nature was good to me ^^) with no worries any time of the year.
Most people treat the holiday season as a problem when it comes to their weight because they actually correlate holiday with weight gain.
There’a a saying: “You can’t run from what you think about”. I will help you create another mindset when it comes to holidays because this will be the most important step.
Yes, this last step is actually the first step you’ll need to apply to be able to successfully get over this season.
You probably think that I will just try to teach you rocket science stuff written in many pages and preach you some nonsense motivational stuff.
Really? Not even close. What then?
Just enjoy time with your family. You will actually feel better if you do this. Why?
Because acting in the present moment is the best thing you can do and the only thing you should do to make sure you form beautiful moments with your family and friends, without having your mind floating in past or future.
What I mean with this?
If you were fatter in the past, and now you are actually leaner, you might have the tendency to remember your past experience and feel fear of eating. Let yourself flexible with the way you eat. Don’t think about food and feel guilty afterwards.
See where it goes?
Just do it like me: apply these 13 principles and you should not experience any holiday weight gain or even lose some fat if you stay consistent.
Just try to dissipate any worry you might have by using these principles. Maintain a flexible mindset when it comes to eating.
Just have fun!
If you have any worries regarding eating and holidays, just spill them out here and I will try to help you!
Also, If you think that this article can help your friends and family, I would be grateful if you will share it.