I know a lot of you are stressed about how to get through the Christmas without blowing all of the hard work you’ve put in over the last few months, but how can we avoid it?
Lets start with a few statistics… Did you know that some studies have found people gain 500% more weight per week during the holiday period, compared to the non holiday period? Which would be OK because you’ve got the rest of the year to lose it, but there are also plenty of studies that show weight gained during the holiday season isn’t lost in the months after.
I know you’re now saying; “..that’s fine and all, but how do I actually avoid gaining weight over Christmas?”
There’s a couple of things we can do here when it comes to planning. Now – we know fat loss is based on calorie balance and a calorie deficit, and we know there’s every chance you’ll splurge on Christmas Day. We can slightly increase our deficit over the next few days by reducing our fat intake. Even just 100 calories a day means an extra 600 by Christmas.
What else? Well, this can actually be a great time of year to do a maintenance week. You can give yourself a little more freedom with your eating, still enjoy the social events without the anxiety of trying to keep up with weight loss, remembering we are just wanting to maintain for a week or two. Of course, you’ll probably want to stay keto, but if not be prepared for some fluctuations as you’ll retain some extra water. Don’t panic, the water will go when you re-enter ketosis just like it did the first time.
It’s rare that I advocate intermittent fasting, but Christmas day is one of those rare times where I’ll skip breakfast to give myself a little more wiggle room. An alternate strategy would be to limit breakfast to a lean meat, like some chicken breast. This can also help avoid overeating later in the day. More on this below.
OK – I’m standing in front of a mountain of food, what the hell do I eat?
Short answer – protein.
Longer answer – Since it’s likely you aren’t going to track and even more likely that you’ll end up splurging, splurge on the food that is least likely to minimise fat gain. Not only is protein the least likely macro to cause fat gain when you overeat, but it’s satiating nature may help you avoid overeating in the first place! It’s also the most thermogenic macro, meaning your body is expending a lot of energy digesting it! Win-win! So if there’s turkey, go nuts. Chicken? Just take the whole plate (kidding, well kind of). Seafood, sure why not. You’re pretty safe with most meats, just be weary of any sauces and glazes. The earlier in the meal you eat your protein the better, as you’ll be less likely to overeat on other things afterwards. Protein is your best friend.
Another idea here is to take some of your own dishes to wherever you’re heading. Nobody every says no to guests bringing food, and this way you can have a serve knowing it’ll fit your goals.
This will no doubt happen to some if not most of us, friends and family that try to push food on us. It can be helpful to have a plan of attack here, and some responses to help stop those awkward social interactions. Thanks to Suz Ja for these suggestions.
“Oh come on, it won’t hurt to have a bite.”
Answer: “That’s true, but I can tell that is going to be so delicious I won’t be able to stop so it’s better if I don’t start.”
“You should enjoy yourself – don’t be so strict!”
Answer: I am enjoying myself. I’m so glad we are getting to spend time together. I really missed you. Tell me more about [something in their life]. Or if that doesn’t fit the situation try, “I need to be more conscious of what I eat right now but you should go ahead, it looks amazing.”
“We have too much food left — take more / take leftovers”
Answer: Thanks for the offer but I’ve already made all my meals for the week so it’ll go to waste, but now you won’t have to cook for a few days either.
“Live a little! It’s [insert holiday/special occasion] for crying out loud!”
Answer: “Trust me I have. I’ve already way overdone it this season and need to rein it back in”
Couple of points here. Most people on keto will find their tolerance to alcohol has far, far lower, so it’s important to keep this in mind. You’re also far more likely to overeat or make poor choices after a few too many cold ones. Alcohol has calories that can add up, and whilst you are drinking, your weight loss will slow down (as the body needs to process the alcohol first). I’m not saying don’t have a drink, but keep whatever your goals may be in mind.
Focus on your friends and family. Slow down your eating and spend time enjoying the company, not just devouring the food before it’s all gone. Think about what you want, and whether you really want it, or you just think you want it, don’t eat just for the sake of eating. Drink plenty of water before meals as they’ll help you feel fuller, and make sure you keep on top of your electrolytes. Most of all, don’t let one holiDAY turn into a holiMONTH – a blow out that takes you the next three months to recover from – it doesn’t need to be ‘ALL OR NOTHING‘.
Hope some of these tips help get you through the upcoming holidays. Stay safe, be merry, and keep kicking ass!