Summary: On a high level, this period is no different from another week / month, so why would you change anything in your routines?
Yesterday evening I’ve eaten two pieces of Toffifee, two Lindors, probably around 6 other pralines (I actually feel embarrassed by admitting it out loud, interesting self-development point), two small chocolate bears with milky filling and topped this whole thing off with some tangerines. Yep, I’m definitely on holiday (hence also a day’s delay on this post). But I felt the need to write down my stream of consciousness in an auto-therapeutic way (just like I did here in the post about extroverts vs introverts) and thought that you guys might benefit from reading it. So here goes, my uncensored thoughts on a few points regarding how not to gain weight during the Christmas period (and feel fat / disgusting as a result of it – uncensored thoughts, I warned you):
Focus on the long-term goal
This point is mostly about instant vs delayed gratification. The former is represented by that tasty Toffifee pack laying in front of me and whispering mesmerisingly ‘eat me, come on, you know you want it’; whereas the latter is the image of myself created without junk food, with a lower body fat percentage and especially with the endurance of an IRONMAN (eventually). To paraphrase one of Steven Covey’s habits, ‘start with the end in mind’. How will those tempting Toffifee pieces get me to my ultimate goal?
The other point of switching the focus from instant gratification to a long-term perspective is what I wrote to my trainer recently when I was letting him know about my whereabouts during the Christmas period – Christmas is Christmas, but I won’t become an IRONMAN if I let go now. If you look at the Christmas period from a higher level, how is it different from any other week / month? Detach all of the build-up and voila, these are just another days that you have been given to pursue your goal, to get to your dreams. Just because there’s more chocolate laying around than usually doesn’t mean that your routines should change. And I haven’t changed any of my workouts, actually – I’ve been even going harder at it, as I have more time now and can nap during the day to aid the resting processes.
Boost your metabolism
Speaking of working out, I’ve recently read some tips & tricks on how IRONMAN contestants deal with the Christmas period and one of them was working out hard in the morning ahead of an evening full of eating, just to make sure that the metabolism peaks that day and those extra calories / nutrients have somewhere else to go than into your belly fat. So get up early, drink some cold water with lemon juice, get that run in , follow it up with some intervals and you should be set for the evening. Then my suggestion is trying to ‘reframe’ the evening and call it a ‘carb-loading’ session in your head – a session that will give you the energy to do another workout in the morning. I did this one today after my lemon water, without eating anything before it as I was full on sugar from the evening before:
And it was pretty sweet & energetic – almost made me feel less bad about the sugar fiesta.
Treat it as an exercise in self-control and celebrate successes
Actually, no – I didn’t really feel bad about it. I made a choice that I want to eat those pralines and enjoyed them. I wrote about this already – if you make a conscious choice about eating a crappy meal, with all its consequences, then just be happy about it, there’s no reason for you to beat yourself up about it. If you cannot stop judging yourself and feeling bad – then just don’t eat that unhealthy stuff and be happy that way.
The true victory for me was in the way I ate last night. If I recall last year’s Christmas, it was very much like the featured image of this post:
If you’d put a Toffifee pack in front of me, two pieces would not have been enough. I potentially might have stopped after 8 (I think), but only for that one sitting – I would be hovering around that pack and casually get some more throughout the day (this stuff is soooooooooo tasty and so unhealthy, what a perfect combination). So this year’s self-control is a huge development for me, as I was able to approach the subject in a ‘healthy’ way, meaning: ‘I haven’t eaten a piece for ages, I want some and I’ll be perfectly happy about it, during & after, two pieces are enough for the next period of most likely a year’. And that’s something to celebrate, as it shows to me that my perception of junk food has shifted to a more conscious ‘tasting’ rather than stuffing myself with it and then with some more of it.
I’d say: give it a go. Don’t take the Christmas joys away from yourself – at the same time if you’re not 100% sure that you’re going to be ok with what you’re about to eat, maybe it would make sense to look at it as an exercise in self-control, win against that fatso inside you and celebrate together with him / her that you’ve just made another step on your journey to your fitness goal.
One more point to this one would be applying the Pareto rule to your meals during the Christmas period. Self-constraint in line with the other points above would mean that most of your meals should just be your usual, healthy stuff. It’s always less damaging to eat 4 healthy meals and a crappy one as opposed to 6 crappy meals and some veg. Option 1 will still give you the energy / nutrients you need, option 2 will most likely make you despise yourself. And if you’ve got crap in front of you, maybe try the technique that I discovered in the first paragraph of this post – say out loud what you’re going to eat. If it makes you cringe / feel embarrassed / hate yourself already, then that’s the point when you can intervene and do something about it (reduce portions, not eat them altogether, reframe, make a conscious choice etc. – whatever’s needed).
… or maybe just do?
As in maybe just gain some weight? What’s the worst that can happen? If you’ve been practising clean eating for a significant time, would you really go back to eating crap? Stuffing your face with chocolate, crisps etc.? Maybe this Christmas period could be a way of letting go just a bit, to see what you mostly gave up on and reaffirm that this was the right call. Giving yourself a break psychologically could give you that mental rest you needed to boost your energy to keep at your healthy lifestyle. If you gain a few pounds in the process, you’ll burn them anyway in no time. Increasing the number of ‘cheat meals’ during Christmas and relaxing mentally should benefit you in the months to come.
Hope that you got anything useful out of this auto-therapeutic post. I know it helped me organise some of my thoughts!
See you on Sunday for a succinct Christmas post!
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Stay healthy and awesome!