I contemplated writing about the typical “it’s the holidays, let’s focus on not putting on the pounds”. I don’t think there is much I could say that would be news to everyone. Things like, “make sure you are getting in your workout on the big day”, or “keep portion sizes small”. Yada yada yada.
Instead of focusing on specific strategies, let’s address a few concepts to help you conquer the eating, I mean, holiday season.
1) Willpower – it’s finite. Meaning you will run out. Using it alone will not hold you through the day. If you wake up, spend the first 10 minutes of the day contemplating if you should get up and go to workout or sleep a little longer – you are using up one of your decisions. If you are debating what to eat for breakfast, whether or not you should have that cookie, if you need an extra serving, or if you should just skip a meal to punish yourself for your last bad decision – you are using up your quota! By the end of the day, you are toast.
Self-control is the ability to regulate our impulses and desires. Willpower gets stronger with practice. It gets easier and easier when you repeat good decisions. Repeat decisions require less energy over time. Why? They become habit, and our brains become conditioned to adopt these habits naturally.
2) A cheat day has a much bigger physiological impact than you may think. The amount you eat & what you eat will influence your blood sugar & the subsequent insulin response. The more the insulin reaction, the longer period of time you will remain in fat storage. So the idea of a blank slate the next day is not real. Psychologically, you may mentally reset, but you do not have a metabolic reset simply because the sun comes up!
Your body’s ability to burn fat is impaired for days. Your body has to do something with the food you ate. Chances are, you are lounging out, doing something inactive while your body is storing everything. During the next workout, you’re very unlikely to be burning fat, but rather burning sugar.
Don’t panic. This is key. You don’t need stress to set in at this point. Cortisol will elevate the problem, continuing to invite fat storage.
3) Focus on ONE thing this month. For example, enhancing your sleep. Make a concerted effort to get an extra hour of sleep. Shut down your electronics an hour before bed. Turn your AC down an extra degree. Get black out shades for your bedroom. Create a ritual before bed. Take an Epsom salt bath, read a book, journal, etc.
Log what you are eating for two weeks and then identify ONE area to work on. Are you eating huge dinners, but skipping lunch? Are you a grazer that doesn’t realize how things add up?
Try to look at the upcoming season as an opportunity to practice self-control, a time to express gratitude, and a time to be with your family, instead of letting it drain your energy. You could even try making a healthy recipe to add to the holiday tradition!
“If you conquer yourself, you can conquer the world” ~ Paulo Coelho.