I would bet that during the days after Thanksgiving, Google sees a sharp increase in searches for weight loss tips and tricks. Most of us have been there: maybe went a little too hard on the sweet potato casserole and pie, feeling a little bit bigger than we’d like after, and hyperaware of the 5 holiday parties we have just around the corner. It can be tempting to let those negative voices push us towards some quick fix juice cleanse we found on Pinterest in a desperate effort to shed the 5 pounds we supposedly gained since Thursday. I’m here to gently push you in the opposite direction. We’re here for lifestyle change, and a normal healthy lifestyle necessarily includes (over)indulgence sometimes.
Our main goal here at Union Fitness is to encourage all of our members to adopt healthy, maintainable habits for the rest of their life. That means that sometimes we’re going to have days where we eat whatever we want (and a lot of those days come during the months of November and December). There is no shame in that, and it’s truly not something to worry about. The key is getting right back to your normal routine, avoiding those quick fixes you’re seeing in your Facebook ads. Here are a few “dos and don’ts” to keep in mind this holiday season:
DO: go right back to your everyday diet.
The holiday came and went, and it’s time to get back to your normally scheduled routine. Sometimes one day of total indulgence leads to a weekend, a whole week, or even a whole month of full-on binge eating, especially if you’re prone to black-and-white thinking patterns. If you find that you can either stick with your diet and training routine 100% or not at all, this is probably you. Remember that just like eating one salad won’t magically make you healthy, overeating one day won’t magically make you unhealthy either. Our health is determined by what we do regularly, and hopefully for you that means a diet with lots of whole foods!
DO: be realistic about weight gain.
Yes, I’m sure we’ve all put on a few pounds since Thanksgiving. Most of that weight is likely due to increased water retention and bloat (that’ll happen when you load up on carbs and sodium, like most of our favorite Thanksgiving foods). By getting back to your normal routine, you’ll see that weight drop back down to normal ranges very quickly.
DON’T: ever use a Pinterest cleanse or detox.
Just don’t. They’re all terrible. Your liver is really, really good at removing toxins from your body. A magical drink is not going to fix anything, and in reality will just make you more predisposed to binge when you’re “allowed” to eat again. Think long term.
DON’T: let the holiday season be an excuse to binge eat.
Humans are really great at rationalizing. “Well our work holiday party is next week, then my family holiday party is the following weekend. May as well just live it up for the next month and get back to it for the New Year.” While this line of thinking is tempting to our baser instincts, it will absolutely set you back in your performance and aesthetic goals. In addition, the habit of binge eating is incredibly difficult to break: eating lots of food does make us feel good in the short term, but makes us sick in the long term. Humans are also really bad at long term thinking, so do yourself a favor and nip this one in the bud now. Every meal is an opportunity to feed yourself well and progress towards the health and fitness you want. Don’t let one or two meals stand in the way of that.
DON’T: turn to overexercising or fasting to negate your holiday eating.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you may feel the urge to fast or exercise a lot longer/harder than usual following a big meal. While these methods may feel logical in the moment (especially for black-and-white thinkers), they fall under the category of purging behavior. Despite what some chart equating a piece of pie with the exercise that will burn it off suggests, you don’t need to punish yourself for being indulgent over the holidays. It’s ok to enjoy your meal a little more than usual sometimes. Like getting in the binge habit, breaking the purge habit is similarly difficult, and can lead right back to binge eating. These are opportunities to practice some self-compassion.
Finally, DO: thoroughly enjoy the holiday season!
Food is far from the most important part of this season. We get to spend quality time with friends and family, give (and receive) gifts to those we love, enjoy the earliest and prettiest parts of winter, and take some time to relax. Every day is a gift. Enjoy it. Enjoy every part of it, right down to your mom’s Christmas cookies and the champagne toast on New Year’s Eve. We only get so many.