The Christmas diet conundrum
Christmas is typically a festival of feasting………at least to the average man/woman.
But if you’re now under the spell of the “health and fitness bug” – in other words: you’ve changed yourself physically and mentally for the better and you’re now on a one-way street, there’s no going back, habits are formed, discipline is prominent and you are improved. Then this festive time of year can be a little tricky, how do you negotiate these festive traditions and ensure they don’t interfere with your goals?
Many of you, like myself, have current physical targets and ambitions. Be it what you will. These ambitions aren’t flaky enough to just “put on the back burner”. These goals are set and much work has been input already. Now we all know diet is the kingpin in the ceremony of results. You can’t out train a crappy diet, but you can to an extent change your body without training just by nutritional control.
For the sake of clarification – this isn’t going to be a post which tells you to do X or Y. I’m just going to talk about a few approaches I know work and even an approach to Christmas eating that I’ll take.
These approaches won’t be extreme. They’ll be implementable, realistic and practical.
Besides, who wants to feel deprived at Christmas? Especially if those around you are taking the meaning of ‘indulgence’ to a whole new level!
I’m very much a habitual clean eater. I very rarely have ‘cheat meals‘ and if I do, they’ll generally still be ‘clean’ foods. Pretty much higher carb as opposed to cheat meal. It has been well over 2 years since I’ve had a takeaway. No typo there, well over 2 years! None of this is to brag, more to stress the importance of habit and the wonderful ability our bodies have at adapting to virtually everything.
Do something enough or long enough – it becomes natural.
Consistent clean eating such as this has kept me comfortably in the 10-12% body fat range for more than a year now (whilst in a caloric surplus). I’m in a weight gaining phase at present. Slow and steady wins the race and there’s no need to force things with dirty food when things are constantly moving in the right direction without the need to up the ante.
So, my approach…………
I will be making a bit of an exception when Christmas arrives. Even now I’ve mentally told myself that Christmas day and boxing day will be “carefree days”……………and I’m OK with that. That’s the catch. So I’ll eat as much as I like and considering I have a monstrous appetite, it’s bound to be a lot! Obviously I’m still going to be in control of what I eat, so I won’t be ingesting foods laden with trans fats, high fructose corn syrup and whatever else resides in processed foods.
As a matter of fact, I will be using a recipe I posted on this site a few months back. My paleo friendly and delicious tasting Pecan cake recipe! Check it out here: Gluten free Pecan cake
This approach may not work so well if you’re not as disciplined, or have a tough time re-setting after a period of ‘freedom’. I know as soon as boxing day is over, I’ll be ready to transition straight back to my LIFESTYLE of eating clean. I don’t wish to sound like a broken record but, it really is a game of HABITS.
If you haven’t enforced these habits thus far or feel you would find it challenging to pick yourself up from a Christmas binge, then I would modify my approach…………
If you don’t fit the criteria of the above scenarios, an approach I would offer or suggest would be, to be a little more mindful of your portion sizes. If you try to go all out and declare yourself “out” from consuming any ‘treat’ food, given the circumstances and more so the company you’re in……..you’re going to find yourself feeling severely deprived (trust me!). This is even truer for those who haven’t nailed down consistent eating patterns.
Do you really think grandma is going to listen when you plead with her not to buy you chocolate this year?!
We all know grandma. She’ll be getting the chocolate no matter what! Because her intentions are good and kind.
Heck, my grandma gets me chocolates practically every year! And I don’t eat them – unless I’m feeling extra frivolous! (Had to include that otherwise you’ll brand me a robot :))
Just in case you wondered, she doesn’t know (fingers crossed she doesn’t read this!)
So, how do we control portion sizes as simply as possible?
It all starts with how you begin your meal. We know that protein is very thermogenic, we also know that it’s very filling. Fiber is very satiating. Fiber slows gastric emptying too (makes you feel fuller for longer) – and above all – it’s an essential part of our diets (along with protein and fat).
Don’t go ditching dessert just yet!
During every meal around the festive period, simply ensure you eat all protein and fiber BEFORE you eat the carbs, sugars etc. in your meal(s). The magic behind this is you’re setting yourself up on the right foundation. When you start eating sugar, a cascade usually follows: you crave more sugar.
This means when you tuck into your Christmas dinner, eat your turkey/meat of choice and vegetables first! (YES, YOU MUST HAVE SOME VEGETABLES!) – then move onto the potatoes, Yorkshire puddings and whatever scrumptious desserts are on the agenda. This is a pathetically simple trick that works. No random chocolate between meals. You can have the chocolate, you just need to make sure you get the good stuff in you first! (Protein and fiber).
Give this a try, you will find even though you may crave the treats and cheats, and they’re NOT off-limits, just have them after the quality nutrients. Do summon up enough discipline to implement this trick and you’ll have less over-eating potential as you’ll be fuller before dessert.
Best of both worlds – no feeling deprived + no excess and out of control eating!
I wouldn’t wholeheartedly endorse trying to seize a “squeaky clean” approach to eating. I’m pretty confident that even those who are in prep for any contest, photoshoot or meet of any kind will be anticipating some ‘cheating’ of their diet. It’s a once per year event, an event that is intended for celebration. And above all, enjoyment. That’s not to say I’d advocate associating food with fun, ultimately food is fuel; something that very often gets lost in translation. But a session of indulgence can often reset the mind and reinforce the desires to rejoin the clean eating train.
The trick to it all is having the habit cemented in stone. Those who have these habits truly locked down crave clean eating after a brief period of slackening their boundaries.
If you haven’t been eating strict for a solid period (few months minimum) – I’d advise you test drive my macronutrient order approach above.
Those who are habitual clean eaters should determine your own individual approach. Be it a full on breaking of the rules or perhaps a slight employment of restriction. Maybe you’re in a fat loss phase and aren’t sure how to ‘stay on track’ for the festivities and are worried that if you fall off the wagon, you’ll not be able to get your seat back………..
Don’t sweat it, the influx of extra calories has great leptin boosting benefits and properties (fat burning hormone). It may even up-regulate your thyroid and allow or initiate FURTHER FAT LOSS.
Above all, don’t sacrifice state of mind for the rigidity of your ‘diet’.
Enjoy, just plan accordingly and accept the reality. I say this because a lot of very strict eaters have a real hard time getting over “blowing” their diet. They get wrapped up in guilt and think one bad meal will kill them!
The law of repeated efforts: One bad meal will never undo 25 previous GOOD meals.
JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All
The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.
I am aiming to keep up my clean eating over Christmas. After all, I don’t feel deprived when I eat clean since I believe I’m eating better than them. So, who is winning? Dirty food isn’t a treat!
Very interesting perspective indeed. How long have you been clean eating consistently for? I totally agree with you, when I say I’m going to “let loose”, I mean I’m going to increase calories as opposed to replacing clean calories with garbage. To put it simpler: Nothing I eat over the festive period will come from a package or contain more than a few ingredients. If everyone did that year round, they would look and feel better! Good for you for taking a strict approach, hopefully you’ll be surrounded by those who respect your decisions and don’t mindlessly tempt you (I’ve been there!)
Oh and happy Christmas to you! Thanks for getting in touch again 🙂 .