The Nutrition Kitchen Holiday Survival Guide
Scared of Seasonal Weight Gain? You should be- the average person puts on about 1-2kg over the festive period, and spends the rest of the year struggling to get it off.
Put simply we don't respond well to sustained periods of massive overfeeding and reduced activity levels.
From Thanksgiving Lunch you're on the Festive Party Season Rollercoaster and there is no getting off until New Year's Day. Thanksgiving Turkey leads into the Office Christmas Party Season. Festive drinks and nibbles will carry you right up until the Family Christmas Lunch, the Cadbury's Roses and the Quality Street and the inevitable rounds of leftovers and then when you're on the brink of recovery New Year's Eve arrives.
It's no wonder that people put weight on over the Holiday season.
Office Parties. Family Dinners. Seasonal Excess.
There are plenty of excuses for letting the holiday season derail your health and fitness goals. Read on and discover how we coach our clients to stay on track over the holidays whilst having a great time and joining in the festivities.
Strategy 1: Keep Training
This one is obvious but people are quick to discard their workout regimes once the festive party season encroaches. In Hong Kong, we're fortunate to enjoy mild weather which makes exercising outdoors accessible year round. If you're returning to more robust weather conditions over Christmas don't let that dissuade you.
Something is always better than nothing.
30 minutes of intense activity daily will do you the world of good.
Try to Schedule in a couple of visits to the gym per week and train hard. Switch to Full Body Workouts at least 2x per week as this will ensure that you are able to train every body part with sufficient frequency and it won't matter if you miss a workout- you can simply pick up where you left off.
An Abbreviated workout week might look like this:
Monday: Full Body Work Out- Gym
A1. DB Lunges 3x10-12 each leg rest 60 seconds
A2. Lying Hamstring Curl 3x10-12 rest 60 seconds
B1. Incline DB Bench Press 3x10-12 rest 60 seconds
B2. Single Arm DB Row 3x10-12 rest 60 seconds
C1. DB Hammer Curl 2x12-15 rest 30 seconds
C2. DB Flyes 2x12-15 rest 30 seconds
C3. DB Triceps Extensions 2x12-15 rest 30 seconds
C4. DB Pullover 2x12-15 reps
D. Prowler Push/Deadmills 5x30 second work 60 seconds off
Tuesday: 30 minutes time trial- stationary bike
Go as far as you can in 30 minutes- steady pace but push it.
Wednesday: Bodyweight Circuit at Home
A1. Push Ups 3xAMRAP
A2. Single Leg Squat to Chair 3x10-12 each side
A3. Resistance Band Rows (Anchored on a Door Frame or Banister) 3x10-12 each arm
A4.Single Leg Glute Bridge 3x10-12
Rest 90 seconds between rounds
Thursday: Hill Interval Runs
10 x 30 seconds of work 8/10 intensity- walk down recovery
Friday: Full Body Work Out- Gym
A1. DB Shoulder Press 3x10-12 rest 60 seconds
A2. Lat Pulldown 3x10-12 rest 60 seconds
B1. BB Romanian Deadlift 3x10-12 rest 60 seconds
B2. DB Goblet Squats 1 1/4 reps (extra 1/4 at the bottom) 3x12 rest 60 seconds
C1. DB Lateral Raise 2x12-15 rest 30 seconds
C2. Push Ups (weighted if needed) 2x12-15 rest 30 seconds
C3. DB Rear Delt Flyes 2x12-15 rest 30 seconds
C4. Incline DB Curls 2x12-15 reps rest 30 seconds (All 4 exercises only require 1 bench)
D. Prowler Push/Deadmills 5x30 second work 60 seconds off
Saturday:Aerobic Intervals- Stationary Bike
5x120 seconds rest 120 seconds
Sunday: Long Walk (Hike)
A proper one, preferably in the countryside, if you can't then I suppose the high street will do.
Strategy 2: Crank up the NEAT
Walk everywhere. Wherever you are in the world, crank up your activity levels. This can be walking around the shops or it can be a frosty country walk. NEAT is a massive contributor to your daily calorie expenditure, and unlike more intense activity it doesn't need to be recovered from.
Strategy 3: Don't chase Perfection
Perfect is fragile. Perfect is pointless.
“Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.”
Vince Lombardi had it all wrong, but then he was talking about American Football, not Christmas with the in-laws
I doubt that excellence will be caught this holiday season if you head in with perfection in your sights. More likely the chase will be abandoned at a Burger King in a service station in a rented people carrier with the kids screaming in the back.
Accept that you won't be 100% with your diet. This is fine. The only people who remain 100% compliant are psychopaths and competitive bodybuilders. If you accept that you won't be perfect with your diet then you're resolve won't crumble with the first oven baked cookie that you eat.
Over the holiday season, you want a dietary strategy that is robust, not fragile.
Make the most of the meals that matter, stick to your dietary plan as much as possible and factor in days of non-compliance. No one gets fat over the course of a meal or a day.
Strategy 4: Plan Ahead
You'll know in advance which days are going to involve massive overconsumption of delicious food. What you'll observe if you plan ahead is that this shouldn't be 6 weeks of non-stop gluttony. Plan for business as usual for the majority of days and plan to redistribute your calories across days and weeks. Simply eating a combination of high protein, lower fat foods and vegetables is very satiating and will allow you to allocate more calories to Dinners, Drink and Discretionary Festive Treats.
Example outlined below for someone with a Calorie target of 2000:
Monday: Normal Day- drop calories down to 1500- bank 500 calories for later in the week
Tuesday: Drinks in the evening- Food remains at 1500- 500 spent on drinks- 4 glasses of Pinot Noir
Wednesday: Normal Day- drop calories down to 1800- bank 200 calories for later in the week
Thursday: Christmas Lunch- Allocate 1000 calories to the Lunch and ensure that you stay below 2000 for the day
Friday: Christmas Drinks- Allocate 1000 calories to the evening- 2500 spend for the day. 1500 on food.
Saturday: Normal Day- 1800- bank 200 calories
Sunday: Pub Lunch- Allocate 1400 calories to Lunch including Drinks- 1000 calories remaining for the other meals.
Strategy 5: Enjoy yourself
Embrace the holiday season with gusto. Take the opportunity to spend time with friends and family. Don't stress about the nutritional content of any one meal or any one day of eating. Health is as much about social connection as it is nutritional compliance, make sure that your eating behaviours contribute to your social wellbeing as well as providing you with nutrition.