Why Most People Are Wrong About Holiday Bingeing
Before we get into this week’s article and start tugging at the strings of controversy, I want to be clear about one thing: don’t take everything I say at face value. Read between the lines and fill in the blanks by referring to the context of the article. The last thing I need in my day is a flood of poorly written opprobriums that serve no purpose other than to rally the other internet shit-lords hiding in the shadows of the dark web… Context matters.
Now that we got that out of the way, let us go forth and dropkick some of the more trendy fitness notions in the face. Most people can’t handle flexible dieting. There, I said it. Come at me bros.
For most, the holidays are a time of stress and anxiety: with the fiscal year swiftly coming to its end, our busy meter gets cranked up to 12 as we struggle to meet the pesky December deadlines so that we can finally unplug and enjoy some well deserved time off with the family. And for those of us that have been killing it with the training and nutrition, the stress is further compounded by the fear of falling off the wagon.
This is why I tend to disagree with the current mainstream view of ‘enjoy the holidays and eat your favorite foods guilt free’. Flexible dieting works. Period. But if we were all able to eat our favorite calorie dense foods in quasi-moderation, we wouldn’t have an obesity crisis on our hands.
Now, if you’ve been working with a good coach to get a handle on your nutrition, have always been lean and active, and/or are not the type of person whose hunger is self perpetuating, have at it. Eat to your heart’s content. After all, holidays are meant to be enjoyed. But if you, like me, are an all or nothing kind of person, you might want to take some precautions to defuse at least some of the calorie bombs that you know are going to be dropped from October to January. Pretty much the whole of Q.4.
Let us illustrate with an example. Coach Daniele (yours truly) has a naturally large appetite, one that FAR exceeds his daily nutritional needs: things can (and often do) get out of hand fast when he decides to deviate from his carefully crafted plan because his maintenance calories do fuck all for his psychological satiety.
His gut says 4000 calories but his genetics say 2000, which explains why he’s such an asshole all of the goddam time – if he even thinks about hitting up his favorite buffet spot he’ll wake up looking like the love child of Action Bronson and Big Punisher. Or an olive skinned Winston Churchill… You get the picture. Not pretty.
On the flip side though, bulking has never been a problem: his body tends to hold onto to tissue (both fat and muscle), and even a moderate caloric surplus is enough for him to build strength and mass.
Coaches Dragan and Bojan on the other hand, live on the other side of the spectrum: they lean out relatively easily and struggle to build the ever elusive ‘slabs’ of muscle that Men’s Health and T-Nation are always going on about. Are they hard gainers? Do they have monstrous metabolisms? What the fuck is going on here?
The truth of the matter is simple: they have proportionately smaller appetites than their hangry colleague, and require less food/calories/volume to trigger their sense of satiation. Logic would dictate then that these two individuals, particularly if they have just finished a cutting cycle, and are carrying low levels of body fat, would do well to let loose at the holiday dinner table and enjoy some of the foods found on Santa’s naughty list.
Like I said, context matters.
The bad news is that there are a shit ton of people out there that don’t have any business grubbing like their life depended on it, especially since we’re not talking about isolated instances of caloric debauchery reserved for endurance athletes and genetic demi-gods; we’re talking about an entire season’s worth of temptations and dietary lechery that could set you back weeks or even months. Trust me, I’ve been there and it fucking sucks.
If this is you, fear not: unsexy as they may be, we have the solutions to your holiday blues. I personally stick to most of these rules most of the time because I’ve been doing it for ever and am a creature of habit: this shit just works for me. But feel free to do you: some of these suggestions may not work for you but that’s ok: try them out, keep the ones that are compatible with you and drop the other ones.
- Train like you were about to step into the octagon with Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone: for the non UFC/MMA fans out there, Cowboy is a fucking savage. He could literally tear you a new wind pipe if he so wished. Point here is that when the going gets tough, you’re going to have to suck it up and go all out at the gym, at least until the holidays are over. By upping the ante in your overall training volume, not only will you be burning through more calories that usual, but you will also build the momentum needed to make it to the new year without gaining any unnecessary fat.
- Fast intermittently: fasting works wonders for some and is a fantastic tool in your fat loss arsenal if you’re looking to avoid the dreaded holiday chub. If you’re the type of person that seldom gets hungry in the morning/afternoon, then take full advantage of this and save most of your calories for your big evening meal.
- Have a high volume snack before dinner: for those of you that don’t like to fast AND struggle to reel in your appetite once the flood gates of desire open, try loading up on highly satiating foods like lean meats, vegetables, Greek yoghurt, canned tuna and boiled eggs before you head to the next festive occasion as dictated by your holiday calendar. You will likely eat a whole lot less crap than you normally would, and you’ll have saved yourself the hell that is the morning after carb hangover.
- Load up on more lean(ish) protein and vegetables during dinner: if you harbor a dark obsession with all things sweet, this piece of advice is gold: steer clear of the dessert table until you are well on your way to being full.
- Keep tracking your weight and measurements: Keep in mind that your body weight (as opposed to your fat to body weight ratio) is very likely to fluctuate wildly, so take your scale readings with a massive grain of salt. By keeping track of your measurements however, you’ll have a better idea of how the holidays actually affect you: if you’re not seeing any substantial increase in your measurements then you’re probably A ok. If on the other your pants start to feel a smidge too tight, then it’s time to abort operation festive calories before you end up having to buy all your pants from the maternity store. Yea… Happened to me in the winter of 2014… Well, not the pregnant lady stretchy pants but you know, I put on a hefty 15 lbs. of pure, unadulterated fat in the span of one week.
- Consider a mini-cut before and/or after the holidays: mini cuts are fantastic tools to keep handy when you know that your routine is going to be compromised for extended periods. A mini cut is exactly what it sounds like: a short term (3-6 weeks) period of low caloric consumption aimed at offsetting the caloric surplus that you most likely encounter when family festivities collide with alcohol driven high octane calorie binges.
So there you have it. Give these strategies a try and hit us up with your thoughts, feelings and feedback.
About the author
Head Coach, Managing Director
Wordsmith. Lover of Medieval literature. Heavy metal guitarist. History nerd. Dan mainly works with general population clients and normal folks that want to achieve their personal version of the extraordinary. He enjoys learning about what makes people tick, and to that purpose has decided to pursue a PhD in Business, focusing his research on the psychological imperatives that drive customer behavior – Basically, whether you’re looking to lose a little holiday weight or up your nude game to 12/10, he’s got what it takes to lead to the Promised Land.