Ahhh, the Holidays. There’s no better time for being with family, giving and receiving presents, and of course, EATING. If you’re like me, this is the time of year when no one in your family seems to care that you want to eat healthy. And honestly, this is the time of year when I can’t really blame them. Christmas (or insert holiday of choice) is less about the food itself and more about the memories that come with the food. And unless you have a serious reaction to gluten or lactose (or some other toxin), I see no reason why you can’t indulge for one or two days.
The decision to indulge doesn’t have to be a mindless one though. We can still use a little common sense about what foods are worth it and which ones aren’t. After all, we don’t want to fill up on crappy candy and store-bought bread, and not have room for grandma’s homemade apple pie and ice cream. So even though the goal may not be to eat better over the holidays, there are certainly ways to cheat better! (and subsequently limit the damage.)
Here’s how I plan to maximize my holiday experience while simultaneously limiting the damage on my health and body:
1) Commit to a Morning Fast
Im an expert at ruining Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner by filling up on candy, bread, and boring appetizers before the real food even hits the table. There’s nothing more disappointing than seeing a bunch of great desserts come out and being so full that you can’t even take another bite (although that never stopped me from eating them). My solution to this: don’t take a bite of food until dinner. All those amazing dishes are going to taste extra special if you’re actually hungry when you eat them. And the decision to not eat is far easier than the decision to eat just a little. Plan to skip all food the morning of your big holiday feast, and you will not only limit the damage of an all-day binge, but you will enjoy the big dinner that much more.
2) Get in a Brief Workout
Take a lesson from Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Body and upcoming book The 4-Hour Chef, on how to limit the damage of cheat days. One of Tim’s most notable cheat day endeavors involved him eating 7000 calories in one day and then measuring a lower body fat percentage 48 hours later. One of his secrets is to use a brief workout to improve his insulin sensitivity before he stuffs his face. As Tim has proven, it doesn’t have to be anything extreme. His friends have caught him doing air squats in the bathroom stall of a restaurant just to achieve the result he’s looking for. You can do the same in your bedroom or living room. Plan to get a brief 5-10 minute workout of push ups, sit ups, and air squats before you hit the food, and your body will thank you later.
3) Only Eat the Foods you REALLY Want
Despite the idea that we are “letting ourselves go” for a few days, doesn’t change the fact that most foods are just not worth cheating for. You know which ones I’m talking about. The ones that you eat just because they’re there and they fill you up and prevent you from fully enjoying the foods you REALLY want. These foods will vary from person to person but a little thought should make the decision fairly easy for you. Personally, I could care less about bread, stuffing, or lasagna. They just don’t excite me very much and they fill me up quickly. But you can be damn sure that I’m going to grab some of my Mom’s cornbread pudding, an extra helping of her cheesy pineapple and Ritz cracker casserole, and a slice of ALL of my favorite pies. Those are the foods that I truly love and the ones that remind me most of our great family memories together. Plan to take an extra minute to survey the buffet line before mindlessly throwing things on your plate and you will eat more of the stuff you love, and less of the stuff you don’t care for.
But most of all, don’t worry about the food! Just enjoy the time spent with family and friends. Be thankful for everything you have in your life, and look forward to making more, great holiday memories together.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!