The December-January holiday season is looming large. For many, it is a time to celebrate and relax with friends and family enjoying the festive drinks and foods on cold winter evenings.
For others, it is a time for potential worry and angst.
Many people have been working incredibly hard on their fat loss journey over the course of the year and these festive occasions that other people see as relaxing and enjoyable, our physique-conscious troopers can see as a period of potential pitfalls for their goals. Festive social gatherings become a regular occurrence at the end of a working day and, whilst no-one forces you to shove mince pies, canapés and half a bottle of champagne down your gullet, the social pressures and the frequency of the meetups mean there are more opportunities to undo all your hard work.
COPING WITH HOLIDAY SEASON INDULGENCE
The first thing we must be clear about is that you should not hold yourself back from going to social occasions because you are on a certain nutrition plan. You can go to these events and eat and drink whatever you want, whether that is to abstain from treats or to devour them – it’s your choice. And as you can see from this last point, I would also recommend that you should not always abstain from enjoying treat foods. It is just how and when to do it that is key to maintaining your goals.
1. SCHEDULE A PLATEAU
If we are honest, it is hard to make progress with your body fat loss at this time of year if you are looking to give yourself some moments of relaxation and indulgence with friends and family. Whilst I am always health conscious and always encourage progression, I am also a realist and we all need to take a brief respite from complete restriction at some point.
Thus, an advisable approach is to allow yourself the 4 weeks of December to maintain your current weight and physique by continually looking to offset your indulgences rather than to always create a deficit as you have done for your current level of weight loss up until now. Don’t be disappointed by this, or disappointed by a lack of progression – be realistic and at the end of December celebrate the fact that you have been sociable without going backwards. January will then come as the kickstart to the next stage of your weight loss rather than a month of looking to undo your month of relentless fork-to-mouth action.
2. CARDIO IS YOUR FRIEND – KNOW YOUR CALORIE EXPENDITURE
Whatever you do at this time of year, don’t stop your workout routine. This is your greatest weapon to counteract times of overindulgence. Of course, calories are not equal – 200 calories of white meat will do a lot more for your body than 200 calories of bread sauce – but for these 4 weeks, a simple mental approach to take on board is seeking to burn off excess calories from treat occasions through working out and offsetting your next meal. So whilst it is important to know the excess calories that are going into your body at this time of year, it is also important to know the level of calorie expenditure for your workout:
30 minute run – 350 calories
45 minute run – 500 calories
60 minute run – 700 calories
25 minutes interval training – 400 calories
60 minute power walk – 350 calories
60 minute weights workout – 350 calories
45 minutes indoor cycle – 400 calories
60 minutes yoga – 170 calories
3. KNOW YOUR CHRISTMAS CALORIES
Now, here are the deliciously edible realisations. Once you have decided which social gathering is going to be a treat, be aware of the excess calories you are consuming. Take a general approach to calorie counting by rounding the calories up to the nearest 100 so you don’t have to worry about counting 73 + 287 + 34 + 13 in your head whilst you zone in and out of your boss’s conversation about inflation rates.
CALORIES IN CHRISTMAS FOOD
Supermarket mince pie – 230 calories
Flute of Prosecco (125ml – 11%) – 100 calories
Glass of large mulled wine (250ml – 14%) – 250 calories
5 x Quality Street sweets – 250 calories
Pint of Lager – 230 calories
1/4 of a Christmas pudding – 350 calories
Large slice of Christmas cake (100g) – 370 calories
5 x assorted canapés – 200 calories
Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced Latté (grande with whole milk and whipped cream) – 420 calories
Glass of Baileys – 150 calories
Brandy butter tablespoon – 200 calories
3 scoops of vanilla ice cream – 400 calories
Fruit salad with single cream – 200 calories
5 x cheese and crackers – 780 calories
CALORIES IN CHRISTMAS DINNER
Meat portion (brown + white meat, turkey/ham/goose) – 250 calories
Gravy portion (with cooking oils) – 150 calories
5 x Goose fat roast potatoes – 300 calories
Assorted boiled veg portion – 120 calories
Honey glazed roast parsnips portion – 250 calories
Stuffing portion – 50 calories
3 x Small Pigs in Blankets – 200 calories
Cranberry Sauce tablespoon– 50 calories
Bread Sauce (2 tablespoons) – 70 calories
DINNER TOTAL – 1,430 CALORIES
4. TREATS VS FREQUENCY OF SOCIAL GATHERINGS
1 X SOCIAL GATHERING PER WEEK
You can call this your treat occasion and indulge yourself in the foods and drinks that are restricted at other times in the week. Even if you consume 700 calories over your normal daily allowance, with a 45 minute run that day and by offsetting your next meal with 200 fewer calories (through fats or carbohydrates) than you would normally do, you will have wiped your face (and those chocolatey lips) clean and achieved a plateau.
2 X SOCIAL GATHERINGS PER WEEK
You can class these as two treat occasions, but workout hard on those days and don’t go overboard with the quantity of your indulgences on each evening. A mince pie and mulled wine one night and some canapés and champagne the other can take your calorie expenditure up to 1000 calories extra over the two days. Offset it again with your meals either side and the workouts that day too.
3 X SOCIAL GATHERINGS PER WEEK
Simple. One day you will have to abstain from indulgences, the other two occasions you can do as the above suggests. Or, two occasions of abstinence and one which can be a full treat. This is where you can’t always have your cake and eat it. It is at this stage where if you ate treats on all three occasions, no matter how hard you workout on those days, the non-progressive calorie type that you are consuming as a treat would start to have an affect on your physique.
4 X SOCIAL GATHERINGS PER WEEK
Glasses of wine on three out of four occasions, but no treat foods. Or two smaller treat days, and two abstinences.
2 X SOCIAL GATHERINGS PER DAY
Know your excesses, and be wary if you have another one or two gatherings over the next few days. In general, keep it controlled at one and be freer at the other – again with working out intensity kept high. If you have another gathering the next day, choose the one occasion out of the three to have your treat – decide this based on the one that would have your favourite treat, the best company or the greatest social pressures.
SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR CHRISTMAS INDULGENCE – 7 BASICS
The main rule of thumb at this time of year is to have ‘everything in moderation’. But if you find it hard to do this at points your basic survival guide should involve:
- Over each week, trying to be only 0-500 calories over your normal calorie expenditure. If you do this for 4 weeks, you will be at most 2,000 calories in surplus – it takes 3,500 calories to put on 1lb of body fat.
- Writing down in your diary which gatherings are going to be your treat occasions
- Having at least one day in between social gatherings that you class as a treat. If you have two days of gatherings next to each other, only one be classed as a treat.
- Working out hard around these treats occasions
- Not forgetting that alcohol calories can easily mount up and that alcohol calories cannot be burned off until they are stored as body fat (unlike sugars which can be used straight away as they hit your bloodstream)
- Offsetting your indulgences over the next meal
- Looking to end December in the same shape you started it.
If you need to read up further on how to undo overindulgence, read my previous article here. Otherwise, good luck. I’m here for any help and advice if and when you need it.
Chris James MA O.A. Dip
Director – Head of Fitness and Nutrition
Fitness Body Pro