My Strategy For "Surviving" The Holidays
By Charles Staley, B.Sc, MSS
Director, Staley Training Systems
Getting through the winter holiday season without gaining 10-15 pounds never seemed like much of an issue to me personally, but based on all the questions I've been fielding about it lately, I thought I'd share my own thoughts on effectively handling the period of time stretching roughly from December 24th to January 1st.
First, Keep Things In Perspective
We're only talking about 9 days here, max. So even thought I hate doing thermodynamic "worst case" hypotheticals, remember that if you ate 3500 calories in excess of your metabolic requirements each of those 9 days, you'd only gain 9 pounds.
Now, I gotcha- no one wants to gain 9 pounds over the holidays, but look how much work it'd take to do that: if your daily caloric requirement is 2500 calories, you'd have to eat 6000 calories a day, every day for the entire 9 days to gain 9 pounds of fat! Using a less extreme and slightly more likely scenario, gaining 5 pounds over the holidays would require eating about 4500 calories a day for 9 days. That's a lot, don't you agree?
Having Your Cake And Eating It Too
Most people have time off from work over the holidays, which theoretically should open up some time and energy to get in some extra-productive training- that's for starters. Yeah, you'll have family in town, you'll have parties to attend, but the point remains. So there shouldn't really be any reason to become totally sedentary for 9 days.
Given that, why not plan a handful of strategic eating opportunities, enjoy the experience, and leave the guilt-trip for your in-laws? For example, why not completely gorge yourself on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, and likewise on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day? That's 4 days total.
If you ate an additional 3500 calories on each of those 4 days, you might potentially gain 4 pounds. But- and this is a significant point- that's a lot of extra eating. Even if you ate yourself silly on those 4 days, you're unlikely to reach the 14,000-calorie surplus necessary to gain 4 pounds.
Draw A Line In The Sand- Somewhere.
Now in case you're thinking I live in a cave somewhere and don't really understand that the average American starts the "holidays" a few days before Thanksgiving and ends them in mid-January, believe me, I get it. So if you're one of those people, let me suggest a neat little self-help tactic that I really like. It's called "setting boundaries." When it comes to your food, training, and general lifestyle habits, you should have a certain line you won't cross. Ever.
The list can be as big or as small as you need to suit your own needs, but thing of these boundaries as the cornerstones of your personal philosophy of living. Make these boundaries personal- they don't have to make sense to anyone else but you.
For example, one of the "lines I won't cross" is eating in bed. It's just something I don't do. Eating and sleeping are separate activities in my mind, and I just personally find it slovenly to eat in bed. Now that might not have any meaning for you, so come up with your own boundaries- basically, your own personal "rules" of behavior.
Then, Have Fun!
One nice aspect of having your boundaries is that you know when you're inside of them, and also when you're outside of them. For me, I eat whatever I want on Christmas day and also on New Year's day. On those 2 days, I can totally enjoy myself food-wise because on all the other days, I followed the rules. If you don't have this type of structure, you're always living in a guilt-laden "no man's land."
Letting loose is just as important as discipline by the way- without one side of the coin, you can't have the other. Having a day where you eat whatever you want helps you to relax and recharge. So go eat a doughnut- right now. I'll take it as a sign that you understood the message I'm trying to get across in this article.