Halloween is over and Fall is in the air leading us into the Holiday Season filled with Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas feasts and New Year’s parties. This is always a favorite time of year where we get to see family, friends and love ones. We celebrate our thanks for everything we have or to give special gifts and share a great deal of love all around.
It should be one of the happiest times of the year, but for some people, it’s actually dreaded and a great source of stress when it comes to eating. It doesn’t have to be this way, and in fact shouldn’t be at all.
In this blog, I will outline ways I have found as a diet coach to help you approach all the dinners, the parties, and the get-togethers and come out just as good as you went in.
Some folks reading this may be just finishing up a dieting phase and are trying very hard not to put weight on and go through that dreaded post-diet rebound that is so common after dieting. Others may be in the middle of a fat loss journey and working hard not to sabotage their efforts over the holidays. Both scenarios are definitely hard in this situation with family get-togethers and dinners planned. Most family members who don’t exercise or worry about dieting seem to go the extra mile to “just get you to eat some normal food” as the saying goes.
Here’s the thing I want everyone to understand- YOU CAN EAT AT THESE DINNERS WITHOUT GETTING FAT.
Yes, you can eat pumpkin pie, you can eat mashed potatoes and gravy. The key is you just don’t want to eat yourself sick when you do it. I tell my clients that they should follow a conservative approach and make the dinner about being with family, NOT about the food. Don’t obsess over food, it’s only going to taste good for 15 minutes anyway, then you will be miserable if you overdo it. It’s perfectly fine and acceptable to eat some turkey, some greens, and a nice slice of pie or some mashed potatoes and gravy. Hell, have BOTH! What? I said have both, just don’t eat platefuls.
Here is the thing, your body is used to a certain amount of calories that you take in daily, so just eat your normal meals and when you eat one of these dinners, just don’t eat 1-2 meals on your plan and sub this dinner in. If you eat a lot, sub it in for 3 of your normal meals. Is this an exact swap calorie for calorie? No, of course not, but if you are super worried about gaining weight, simply eat less of your normal meals that day and sub these in and enjoy time with your family.
Now, if you want to do yourself a favor, work out the day of the social event or Holiday. I always recommend that my clients exercise that day if possible and eating won’t impact fat storage as much. If you hit the gym, do a high rep workout, maybe even full body and the excess calories are more likely to store in the muscle cells vs. the fat cells.
Higher reps will deplete muscle glycogen priming the muscles to work to restore glycogen levels and use the food for muscle growth and recovery. Quality post-workout carbs can help restore glycogen. If you can not or do not want to hit the gym, I completely understand. Find a Thanksgiving day run, run on your own, or make up a bodyweight circuit to do at home. The most important thing is to move your body. Of course, if you eat WAY over you will still store some fat, but electing to hit the gym and hitting a depletion workout for an hour helps immensely. Remember the main key is to not stuff yourself sick and to leave room for the food to store in the muscle.
Another strategy is 2-3 days leading up to multiple holiday dinners is cut your daily carbs in HALF for those days, and go hit the gym and do high rep workouts the morning of Thanksgiving. This will deplete muscle glycogen stores and allow for more to be eaten with less to worry about due to the days of depletion and the high rep workout that morning. When people elect to go this route, I tell them to eat their holiday meals and enjoy. Don’t even worry about it just eat with family, that’s the most important thing.
Tupperware. This is more for bodybuilders and physique athletes than others, but it needs to be addressed. Most of us in the industry have seen the extreme dieter bring their food in Tupperware and refuse to eat food with everyone else. I personally don’t think that you need to be bringing your Tupperware to Thanksgiving. This is a time of year to spend with your family and definitely not a time to “show them how dedicated you are.” Life is about enjoying these times and making memories, not hitting your macros.
For one day, you will be fine I assure you that you will NOT harm yourself from eating a meal or two with your family on Thanksgiving. If you are doing one of the very few shows between now and March maybe this does not apply for you but for the majority who will not see a stage until March, I promise you will be just fine. Bodybuilders are weird to everyone else, we eat out of Tupperware, and we put oil and fake tan on ourselves and go flex in front of crowds on a stage. For crying out loud, sometimes it’s good to leave our weird ass lifestyle at home for one day when you are with family. The bodybuilding life is hard on family enough as it is.
I hope this helps each of you have a plan of action leading into the holiday season so you can stay on track with your nutrition and goals but also be flexible enough to realize this is a lifestyle. Have a great holiday season, train hard, hit the nutrition plan consistently, and enjoy some food with loved ones that support us in all we do!
– John Gorman, MA, CPT, is a well-respected contest prep coach/nutritionist and the owner of Team Gorman LLC. John is also a published author, public speaker, co-owner of The Physique Summit Conference, and a proud member of the 1st Phorm Phamily. His work centers on helping athletes achieve their maximum potential in various sports such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, crossfit, along with high school and college level athletics. You can follow him on Instagram @team_gorman , on Periscope @teamgorman , or facebook.com/teamgorman .
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