By popular demand, here it is—how to start surviving through a holiday meal extravaganza without blowing up the scale! Of course, the good news is that this applies to pretty much any kind of “forced” cheat day. When you’re faced with the impossible situation of needing to be social, you are also trying to do as little damage as possible to your weight loss plan.
Before we get started, let’s agree that the goal of the day is to ENJOY whatever the celebration is (Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthday dinner, whatever) and not drive ourselves crazy with counting our macros or calories. Remember, we’re NOT ON A DIET, we have changed the way we eat, and the last time I checked, even fit/healthy people celebrate with food on special occasions. So, enjoy a little while you are surviving the feast.
1) Eating at maintenance, or even over is perfectly okay!
This is where the simple math formula comes into play. Let’s say my maintenance number is 2,000 calories a day, so I normally eat 1,500 calories a day in order to drop weight. On a special occasion, there’s NOTHING WRONG with eating 2,500 or even 3,500 calories. In this case, at 2,000 calories, you’ll gain nothing, and at 3,500 calories, you will barely gain half a pound. Note that eating 3,500 calories is a full-on pig-out.
Or better yet, don’t count the calories at all and just enjoy the day. Give yourself PERMISSION to be a human and celebrate a special day with food, like everyone else.
2) Don’t stuff yourself until you feel gross.
This one should be obvious, but sometimes I think we look at a food celebration as an excuse to literally make ourselves miserable. Eat a little of everything. Don’t go back for seconds. When you start to feel full, stop eating. It’s hard at the time, but your body will thank you later.
Also, if you do this, and you can avoid that stuffed/gross feeling, it’s very hard to gain weight because you’ll find that you really didn’t consume that many calories and your metabolism will easily handle the spike in food you gave it.
3) Okay … if you INSIST on eating healthy … watch the carbs.
If #1 and #2 just aren’t good enough and you really want to be careful, stick to a very small amount of anything with heavy carbs in it. One bite of potatoes, one bite of stuffing, and a single piece of pie, for example. The carbs will cause you to gain water weight (making it look like you gained a ton of weight when you probably didn’t). They will also cause you to go into fat-storing mode.
If you keep the carbs to a minimum and focus more on the proteins and the fats, you’ll be shocked at how little penalty (if any) the scale shows.
4) Give yourself a good, solid workout the night before, or the day of.
Nothing makes me feel more “okay” with a little bit of a cheat meal than knowing I worked my butt off during a workout to earn it. You’ll also find that you avoid that nasty after-meal gross feeling and, in general, you’re going to feel more energetic throughout the day.
5) Seriously, it’s okay to eat.
Sometimes we forget that a big part of being human is a need to celebrate with friends and family. You can’t and shouldn’t have to give that up just because you now have a fit and healthy lifestyle. Eat, within reason. Have dessert, within reason. All things in moderation, and you’re going to feel like a champion when the day is over.
6) Don’t weigh-in the day after surviving the feast
Unless you completely stuffed yourself silly, any penalty that shows up on the scale is probably mostly water-weight from extra carbs or still undigested food.
My suggestion: don’t weigh yourself for 48 hours. Give your body time to push the food through and dump the extra water weight. A perfect day of eating and workouts the next day, and THEN weigh yourself. You’ll find the damage is minimal to nearly none at all.
But seriously, again, give yourself permission to ENJOY THE MEAL. Surviving a feast doesn’t have to be torturous. It’s part of your plan, it’s part of your journey, and eating yummy food every now and then is part of a healthy and fit lifestyle—YOUR new lifestyle!