This may be a little late, but keep it in mind for next year!
Ever wonder how it's possible for so many Americans to put on a fast ten pounds during the course of the holiday season? We all see it happen to ourselves or others we know year after year, and it culminates in the same results: people are left dumbfounded wondering how they did this much damage in such record time. First, let's define the term "holiday season." For most of us, the holiday season is the 6-week period starting with Thanksgiving and ending on January 2nd. That's when we all go back to work and tell all our friends that the crash diet starts now. One of the questions I've recieved countless times from clients is "How did this happen?" Let's take a few minutes to discuss the hows and whys in hopes of preventing the Holiday 10 from happening to you. The 4-Day Rule
After reviewing hundreds of client's food journals, the results are overwhelming: every day of this 6-week period is being mistaken for the actual holiday. The hard and fast rule I live by for this time period is that, in theory, there are really only four days in which you should indulge in holiday goodies. These are Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve. I choose these days specifically because they will most likely be the days you either host or attend parties. What most Americans (and most of my clients) do, whether it's subconsciously or consciously, is treat every single day of this 6-week period as one gigantic binge session where no food is off limits. Even worse, the idea of portion control has been thrown out the window. This catastrophic chain of events causes additional fat to pile on faster than Victoria Beckham's last dose of lip collagen. And this is certainly easy to do if you don't pay attention.
Timeline of Deterioration
In order to see all the potential mistakes waiting to happen, let's break down the entire snowball of destruction, layer by layer. It's the only way to see how easily you can pack on ten pounds of pure, artery clogging fat in warp speed. The timeline is as follows:
- A few days before Thanksgiving, your coworkers invite you to a "Thanksgiving lunch" to celebrate the upcoming 4-day break. Hey, it's "the holidays" - why order a salad at a time like this? It's cold outside and it's time for some comfort food. Never mind that you're going to have this type of food in 3 more days - the time is now!
- The next day is the departmental company pot luck. It's so rare that the company ever offers any free time like this, and you'd love to try out all the delicious homemade Thanksgiving treats that people have made.
- The next night, your good friends want to meet for a quasi-Thanksgiving dinner out somewhere for another celebration. You're not going to see them on Thanksgiving Day, so wouldn't it be nice to have the same kind of goodies out somewhere with them as well?
- Preparing Thanksgiving dinner: you have to try everything, don't you? I mean, how else will you know if it's worthy of being served to guests? The dog would eat a dirty shoe if you let him, so he's not exactly the most reliable taste tester. A spoonful here, a spoonful there, again, again, and again. And what about the pie filling and the homemade cookies? You've already limited the kids junk food intake since dinner is coming (hint: major foreshadowing alert on your own limitations) so it's up to you to see if anything's missing before deeming this batch acceptable or not. Before you know it, you've eaten an entire meal just sampling your own cooking. And let's face it, dinner will still not be served for hours, so you're going to also hit all the snacks beforehand. What are the chances that a veggie tray and fat free dip are part of this lineup?. Thanksgiving Dinner: This is where all couth and dignity gets lost. It's chow time. Nothing is off limits because that "once a year" mentality takes over yet again. You've already forgotten about the co-worker lunch, the pot luck, the dinner with friends, the taste testing, and the mindless noshing here and there. They didn't count anyway - none of those events were the real holiday!
- The next few days post-Thanksgiving: You cooked for an army and have a boatload of leftovers. You weren't raised to waste food - it's just wrong. And there's not really enough room in the freezer to freeze all this stuff. And you're tired. Why cook when all that food is already sitting right there waiting to be reheated in 2 minutes or less? That pie sure was good too.
What's one more piece at this point? You'll get your act together as soon as all these leftovers are gone. And there's still a whole month before Christmas.
-The whole month before Christmas: Sandy in Accounting keeps coming to your desk daily with chocolates and other homemade items like fudge and cookies.You don't want to be rude, so one of each (per day) is the best route to
- The Christmas luncheon is already here? Wow, time sure does fly. Free lunch, two hours to kill on company time.you're going to eat whatever you want, dammit! And dear God, you didn't know it was going to be a buffet until you got there. As Joey Tribbiani once said on Friends regarding a buffet: "Here's where I get all my money back."
- Your spouse invites you to his/her office party being held someplace fancy. Look at all those pastries! And the booze is flowing faster than those glaciers melting due to the hole in the ozone layer. You're tipsy, warm and fuzzy, and don't remember eating that second piece of cheesecake. or going back for the custard, for that matter.
- You, in turn, take your spouse to your office party being held someplace fancy. Same scenario unfolds again.
- Your coworkers want to do a quiet "friends only" Christmas present exchange. You schedule a lunch outside the office to keep the jealousy and negative vibes out. In the process, you've eaten another fat-laden lunch plus half your gift - a bag of homemade treats you just received from Sarah in Marketing.
-It's Bob's birthday at work - you forgot that it falls around Christmas time. It's always someone's birthday, isn't it? You can't forget about Bob, especially at this time of year. Time to coordinate another extended office lunch.
-That month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is officially over - it's now Christmas Eve. Tonight is not the time for depriving yourself of holiday traditions. Pass the full fat eggnog and the brandy and let's get going!
-Enter Christmas Day: Refer to bullet point entitled "Thanksgiving Dinner."
-The several days post-Christmas: Refer to bullet point entitled "The next few days post-Thanksgiving." Besides, once the New Year hits, you've told yourself that's the end. Time to take control again, and that's only a few
days away. What difference does it make at this point?
-New Year's Eve: another party, more full-fat food, more sugar, more liquor
-How many days in a row have you skipped exercise now? Ah, what does it matter? January 2nd is the day your life will drastically change, right?
The Finished Product: You Are What You Eat
The magical day has arrived. January 2nd is here, and you're ready to take on the world, recharge your batteries, and get fit again. You start by stepping on the scale. Happy New Year to you - you've just gained 10 pounds since mid-November! Some of you may have even gained 15. You're astonished. You couldn't have possibly been that out of control, could you? And although you weren't consistent about exercise, you didn't stray for that long.or did you? I base the following reasons for weight gain during this time on many clients that I've trained in the past. See if you fall into one or more of these categories:
-You honestly, sincerely don't remember all the special meals and all the extra allowances you gave yourself. You didn't keep track because you were busy.
-You were aware of what you were doing, but in no way believed your behavior could cause this much damage in such a short period of time.
-You maintained a consistent level of exercise but still gained weight.
-You stopped exercising during this time due to all the additional demands placed on you like Xmas shopping, party planning, and attending parties.
-You treated the six weeks as one gigantic holiday with a promise to yourself that you'll get yourself under control on January 2nd.
Realistic Rules to Prevent the Holiday 10
There are a few key ways to prevent this scenario from happening to you. I've asked my clients to perform a few of these tasks and they've told me that it helped them quite a bit. In order to leave the jelly belly for Santa and keep yourself trim, give the following tasks a try.
-Keep a food journal. In the words of Santa, this is by far the easiest way to see if you've been naughty or nice. So many people simply forget what they've eaten because they engage in a lot of mindless, autopilot eating. Take a day or two and list off every single item of food consumed. You might be enlightened (and horrified) by what you see staring back at you. This is most effective during the holiday season. For example, you're at the company pot luck but you can't remember what you had earlier in the week. You pull your little notepad out to see that you've already had pie on Monday and mashed potatoes on Wednesday. The choice is still yours; however, seeing it on paper is sometimes all it takes to muster up the willpower to say, "Not today." Without that information, would you have even given it a second thought? Doubtful.
-Weigh yourself daily. Avoidance isn't going to make the problem go away. You know you've been overindulging and you don't want to see the writing on the wall. But it's imperative that you deal with it sooner rather than later. What better way of keeping your weight in check than checking it at the same time each day?
- Don't stop exercising, no matter what. This is crucial. There is strong evidence to support that consistent exercise beats out cutting calories as the best form of maintaining weight. Obviously, the ideal is to cut calories and exercise consistently in order to effectively lose weight. But if you know you simply cannot resist all the holiday foods coming down the pike and you have to slide on one thing, then by all means, eat the garbage but continue exercising! Although this might not entirely prevent you from gaining a few holiday pounds, it will definitely prevent you from gaining 10 or more.
-Don't be afraid to turn down food! Make your new motto be, "There's more where that came from." You don't need to eat those delectable goodies today. They'll be waiting for you on the real day. With the overabundance of food in this nation available to all of us, you know this is a true statement. You're not missing out on anything by saying no right now.
-Don't insult; just don't consume! If a friend, neighbor, or coworker continues to offer you homemade treats during the holiday season, take one if you think their feelings will be hurt. But stop right there. Wrap it up, give it to someone else, or better yet, throw it out for the birds. Yes, you heard me. It's one thing to waste nutrient dense foods that actually aid in your body's repair and functioning. It's another to waste food that is really nothing more than swill packaged in colorful frosting. These fat bombs do nothing but clog your arteries and set you up for a world of diseases later on in life. Trust me, you're doing nothing wrong by chucking it. Do NOT feel guilty. If you love yourself enough, you'll understand my point.
-When dining out, order smart! If you have to ask yourself whether or not you should order the salad or the holiday comfort food, then you have your answer: get the salad. Your conscience is trying like hell to tell you something. Do yourself justice and listen to it.
-Moderation: We all already know this, but a reminder never hurts. Of course holiday parties are a great way of trying out rich foods. But one serving of everything is more than enough.. Save the holidays for the holidays! Daily indulgence is overweight
America's problem in the first place. Not only is it totally unnecessary, but it's hard to truly appreciate the holidays when you treat every day as such.
Why January 2nd Means Nothing
After being a trainer for 5 years and a religious exerciser for over 15 years, I've watched the gym flood with new arrivals every New Year. The whole month of January is very annoying. You suddenly find yourself waiting in line for weights, machines, treadmills - all because millions of people suddenly had an epiphany that it was time to get in shape. While their intentions are noble, you watch 50% of them clear out by February. By March, the headcount is roughly back to normal. This epidemic is by far a lot worse than the 6 weeks of holiday binging. The undertone that's really being implied here is that a date on the calendar means more than the present. Think about that for a moment. A calendar day - not desire, not fear of declining health, not weight gain - a DATE - is what's driving the majority of these people to make a change. What is it about the first of the year that makes people believe that everything will suddenly get better? I don't have the answer, but I'll bet I could earn a Nobel Prize if I did. The truth of the matter is that January 2nd doesn't solve all your problems. And it doesn't magically instill ambition and desire into a person. I once had a potential client who didn't sign up because we didn't have an electronic body fat tester. At the time, the gym was brand new and we had just opened for business. There were many items we were still waiting on. Because of my certification, I was able to do a skin fold body fat test with calipers. This was a lot more effective in measuring body fat than the electronic counterpart, though it wasn't as convenient. This service was offered to her, but she declined. It HAD to be the electronic one or she couldn't join. Her reason: because how would she know her starting point versus her progress if she didn't have this measure? This woman was very obese and her medical evaluation was rife with health issues. While I agreed 100% that she needed to know her starting point, it was certainly not a valid reason for abandoning the idea altogether. At her level of risk, I wanted to sneer, "Your body fat is so ridiculously high that not measuring it won't make a bit of difference. Get moving now or continue to suffer the consequences." Never mind that she was offered (even by a female trainer) to receive an accurate skin fold test! There is a point to my digression. Like the holiday overindulging and dates on the calendar, this woman was using the smallest of roadblocks to make changes in the present. Putting all your eggs in one basket and having an "all or nothing" approach to exercise is always going to yield the same results. What happens when you perform the same tasks over and over again? You get the same results. Do nothing, get nothing. Do something, get something. Do a lot, get a lot. Believing you will get different results from these behaviors, however, is fruitless. This is why the same people put on 10 pounds each holiday season and continually wonder each year how it happened. Same behavior, same result.
Now is the time to change behaviors, not rely on calendar days and holidays to dictate them. If your health and vitality mean enough to you, these issues will no longer serve as roadblocks to your well-being. Rather, they will be side notes to a much bigger picture: a lean body, strong muscles and a sense of satisfaction. After all, holidays come and go. Your body is yours
night and day for a lifetime. Treat it right and you will be among the small group of people who has nothing to complain or feel depressed about when the New Year hits. How many people do you know can say that?
This Article was written by Mike. Mike is an occasional contributer to myfatspouse.org and the discussion forum.