With Thanksgiving we start into that sugar saturated, fat gaining winter fiesta we call “the holidays.” Depending on who you listen to, this is the time of year when most Americans put on anywhere from 1-10 pounds of fat on average. Some of those statistics are a bit overblown, but the real problem is that most people never lose what they gain in the holiday season—it just keeps accumulating year after year. But none of us wants to be the killjoy of the family, asking for paleo pumpkin pie (though it is delicious) when everyone else is chowing down on gluten-filled dressing and fattening crescent rolls. So how do we navigate this month of parties and big meals that kicks off this Thursday?
Cheat: First, take a break. Don’t worry about sticking to some specific diet during Thanksgiving or Christmas day. Enjoy the great food, go all out, make yourself never want another ounce of sugar. The real problems don’t come in the one or two big feasts; the problem comes when those feasts turn into days and weeks of bad eating. So cheat, but plan your cheats for only a couple of meals during the season and don’t let one cheat day creep into another and another.
Eat What You Actually Like: This may seem to go without saying, but if you’re like me you will put a lot of stuff on your plate that isn’t really worth the cheat. Ever since going paleo I find that I mostly like eating that way and don’t miss a lot of foods from my former, fatter life. But there are a few foods that I really do miss and it’s those foods that I make sure I eat on a big cheat day like Thanksgiving. I don’t really like dressing for instance, so why do I eat it anyway? Better to just skip that and save room for more pecan pie.
Eat Small and Eat Slowly: This is a feast, so treat it like one. Savor every bite, enjoy the great food, don’t just shovel it in. Also, don’t over fill your plate. Just take it slow and steady. You won’t enjoy the meal any less and you might find that your stomach will thank you later.
Damage Control: Here we get into the sci-fi strategy—I can’t vouch for this from personal success, but theoretically this strategy could help you limit some of the damage of the Thanksgiving meal. The basic idea is to go into the meal with your digestive enzymes in the best state possible. This means that your hormones and enzymes will be primed to store your excess carbs as muscle glycogen rather than as fat. To do this you must first make sure that your muscle glycogen is depleted. You could do this by going on a hard, long run or you could save time and just do an intense bodyweight WOD within an hour of the big meal. Consider doing something like Tabata (8x (20 sec. work:10 sec rest)) squats, sit-ups, and pushups.
Don’t Worry About Throwing Away Food: Ideally, you won’t have any leftover pie hanging around, but since I know that I simply can’t resist it if is in my house, I throw it away. When cookies come in the door and it’s not a cheat day, I throw them away. When we get a tin of that awesome carmel popcorn, I throw it away. I know that if any of that stuff sits around the house I will eat it and it will start a whole cascade of feeling crappy that will set me back from my goals. Ideally you have some neighborhood teenage boy you can feed all this stuff to, and I have been known to push candy off on neighbors, but if there’s no easy place to give it to, don’t let your qualms about waste stop you from getting rid of the temptation.
The holidays are no time to worry too much about anything, but hopefully these strategies will help keep you on track and ready to push toward your goals without having to play catch up. Enjoy the season and get ready for an even better new year.