Eating Strategies. This holiday maintain, don’t gain

Posted on December 1, 2011. Filed under: Exercise, Nutrition | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Guess what I ate over Thanksgiving?

Turkey, stuffing, Mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin pie, and apple pie.

I’m thinking this honesty may surprise a few of you, but really think about it.  One day of reckless eating is not what makes Americans fatter every Holiday Season.

The real problem, in my humble opinion, lies in the fact that Thanksgiving.  Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwannza, Winter Solstice, New Year’s Eve, what ever it is you celebrate.  Folks just don’t treat them as  singular, isolated event.  They turn them into some bizarre Kobayashi-style, eight week, sport eating “season” in which our usual routines go right out the window.

It starts with Halloween.  Candy is every where.  even if you don’t have kids their are still parties with candy-flavored alcohol.  And if you avoid that guess what?  Those who couldn’t will try to dump off the candy and sweets on you.

This would be considered the pre-season.  Kick off would be Thanksgiving, with the subsequent leftovers.

Time off from work, inconsistent exercise routines, shopping, leftovers from office and family parties — these things run non-stop. It’s like a six to eight week, dietary assault pushing us towards a fluffier status. A status which is celebrated this time of year.  Remember “tis the season to be jolly.”  well according to old beliefs, all big people are jolly.

I’m not joking.  When you hear people call themselves an endomorph, or ectomorph, these frame works do not have roots in physiology.  at least not originally.  They originated from psychology.  And endomorphs, those of the rounder body type, would be classified psychologically as being a people who were, well, jolly.  Like say good old Saint Nick  😉

All that aside, feeling restricted when you are supposed to be focusing on enjoying good food and good company, doesn’t make you feel very jolly.  So let’s take a look at some quick ways to dodge the need for strict dieting this December while minimizing the physique-damaging effects of the Holiday Season.  Staying reasonably lean is a good idea but there’s no need to become a food nahtzee either…

Holiday Maintain, don’t gain tips:

1.  Stock your house or apartment shelves and cupboards with high fiber, or high protein lean snacks like Trader Joe’s Beef Jerky, or better still, plain mixed nuts.  Maybe some plain popcorn, no butter with some olive oil and seasoning.  I recommend African Smoke at TJ’s. The real test takes place at the grocer BEFORE you bring the stuff home. Keeping potato chips and candies out of the house is like a preemptive strike if you plan to ditch work and relax. Then if you want to munch away as you watch old Christmas videos, you’ve got good choices within reach; eat up!  Apples are great to.

2.  Regarding inconsistent gym hours do to social/work events, either A.) Schedule around it with extra days in-a-row prior to the holiday shut-down or B.) Go outside that day (or three): skiing, sled riding, hiking, cycling, and even taking brisk morning walks after a hot cup of green tea(or three) or C.)  Go the non-efficeint path for more calorie burn.  Take the far parking spot and walk, use the stairs not the escalator or elevator at the mall.  Volunteer to help move objects out of people’s way, set the table, clear the table, JUST MOVE!  All reduce the need for excessive dietary restriction from an energy balance point of view.  Did you know that the body tends to oxidize (“burn”) more fat in cool/ cold temperatures?  

3.  Keep a bag of satiating, low glycemic index snacks in the car and consume some as you run around shopping.   Again this could be items like apples, low-fat high-fiber crackers, a protein drink.   The “car” part is critical. The fast food purveyors have already started heavily pushing coupons whenever possible.  I just got sent a Living Social deal from McDonalds. 😛

They know that you’ll be hurried, away from a kitchen and therefore weak while out shopping — so snack on choices YOU make, not them. It’s not their holiday, so tell them to go Mc Stuff it where the golden arches can’t shine!

4.  Eat one of those apples 30-60 minutes before going to a huge party that isn’t on a specific holiday (say, one of the “big three”) and has a menu beyond your control. There is cool research, that the effect of an apple’s fructose on one’s liver beneficially affects the metabolism of a subsequent starchy meal.(1) Why not enter the party in a physiological and psychological state that can help you deal with the inevitable massive spread of junk foods? That simple apple or other small snack may help you feel more full and thus resist over-indulgence.

5.  As far as party leftovers, smile and accept them if you must, then go home and ditch them! You heard right. Are they really worth keeping around before or after the holiday? Would you eat this type of stuff during other times of the year?  Then why keep it around now.  If you really feel bad about it see what you can compost.  At least that way you can give back to the environment.

6.  Drink water.  I can’t believe how often this gets overlooked.  And then again.  I can totally believe it, because it happens all the time.  Staying properl y hydrated not only preserves muscle, and improves your body to burn fat (2,3, 4).  Feelings of dehydration can also mimic hunger pangs.

Being dehydrated can also affect energy levels.  Think of it this way.  You’ve had a long day and your dehydrated, per the defined symptoms you feel sluggish(5).  do most people reach for water? Nope it’s either sugar or caffeine, or a combination of the two.  Simple tip drink a 1/2 liter of water first thing in the morning before you eat anything.  Then stay on top of your intake as time goes on.  The difference may surprise you.

See? Not so hard. No official dieting or restrictive portions are required. Find ways to work smart — not just hard.  Some forethought can really help eliminate the need for paranoid self-deprivation or the resulting guilt of perceived “failure” when you do indulge.

Wacky schedules, shopping frenzies, and a cornucopia of sugary, greasy delights don’t have to ruin you.  Nor do you have to fear them and start acting like a portion-controlling, guilt freak. You can stay in control during the “other 24 days of Christmas” with a little prior planning. And remember, it’s these non-holiday periods that really do the cumulative physique damage — not the big day itself.

Personally, I plan to fully enjoy my fried chicken and sweet potato pie when the big day arrives (did I mention my family is Southern), but ONLY on the big day.  Goodies containing lard, sugar and butter aren’t evil per se, and I say God bless them, every one — at least on those few days of the year I actually consume them.

Keep Fitness Groovy,

Coach W


1. Heacock P., Hertzler S., and Wolf B. Fructose prefeeding reduces the glycemic response to a high-glycemic index, starchy food in humans. J Nutr. 2002 Sep;132(9):2601-4.

 2.  Effects of changes in hydration on protein, glucose and lipid metabolism in man: impact on health. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003 Dec;57 Suppl 2:S69-74.

3.   Effects of hypoosmolality on whole-body lipolysis in man. Metabolism. 1999 Apr;48(4):472-6.

4.  Effects of hyper- and hypoosmolality on whole body protein and glucose kinetics in humans. Am J Physiol. 1999 Jan;276(1 Pt 1):E188-95.

5.  Dehydration, defined by MAYO Clinic


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