It’s not what you do during the holidays that matters, it’s what you do after that does. Now, I’m not going to tell you to completely stop training and turn into a sloth, of course.
I mean, you can if you want but it’s probably better to continue being active in some capacity (walking and quick circuit workouts for the win) because, you know, health and all that.
I’m not going to tell you to go crazy with your food intake just because it’s the holidays, either, but again, you can if you want and it’ll just be a blip in the big picture, but learning how to enjoy food and drink sensibly is a good skill to cultivate during times like this.
But let’s face it, falling off the wagon happens to all of us this time of year. I’m going to come clean with you. One of those mixed bags of popcorn (caramel and cheddar in one!) snuck into the house and I devoured probably 800 calories worth the other night. Carb coma followed. I was a writeoff by 9 p.m., planted in the couch.
I woke up like I was hungover, struggling to get my energy where it should be. That’s all the reminder I needed to keep things in check a bit and enjoy the sweets in moderation.
So what should you do the next day to recover quickly from an entanglement with carbs? First, forgive yourself. You’ve done nothing wrong. You’re human.
Second, the secret is getting back on track as quickly as possible and doing relatively well on the non-‘holiday’ days in between.
When you wake up the morning after over-indulging…
• Chug water to hydrate
• Consider a strong coffee to give you a boost
• Do some breathing exercises if you’re anxiety-ridden (drinking and rough sleep do that to me)
• Get in sunshine ASAP… a 10-minute quick walk does the job as early morning sun exposure is tied to healthy circadian rhythms (bundle up these days!)
• Eat a low-inflammatory breakfast (the opposite of the typical North American breakfast — light shake or egg omelette with greens)
• Workout (you could do it before breakfast — something simple to reset your mindset and sweat it out a little)
You can’t gain pounds of fat overnight
Good news if you overdid it. Even if the scale says you’re up a few pounds, it’s very unlikely any of that is body fat.
There are about 3,500 calories in one pound of fat. So, theoretically, to gain a pound of fat in a week, you’d need to eat an additional 3,500 calories per week more than you need to maintain your weight (500 calories more per day than your maintenance intake).
I say ‘theoretically’ because it seems this number is much higher during periods of brief overeating. A recent systematic review notes body fat increases are generally not seen until after a week of chronic overfeeding with a daily caloric excess of about 1,000.
Another study by Hiroyuki Sagayama et al. investigated the changes in body composition after three days of overfeeding participants by 1,500 calories.
Meaning, the participants were in a surplus of 4,500 calories –– more than enough to gain a pound of fat on paper.
The participants did gain weight after three days of overfeeding, but the increase in body weight was entirely from an increase in total body water, not body fat.
And considering the Calorie Control Council has found the average holiday meal contains roughly 3,000 calories, you’ll be fine smashing a big meal, guilt-free.
But why do you weigh more after a high-calorie day?
People mistake weight gain on the scale for fat gain. But the jump on the scale you see after a day of overeating is due to a combination of increases in glycogen (stored carbs in muscle and liver), water, salt and carrying more food in your stomach.
The study by Sagayama I referenced above found the increased body weight returned to baseline within about five days of participants returning to their usual intake (though there were individual differences ranging between zero and 14 days).
As you can see, it’s very hard –– if not impossible –– to gain fat from a day of overeating.
So indulge a little and then get back on track the next day with the steps recommended above.
Holiday digital detox challenge
Imagine this. You turn off your phone and put it in another room, not to be touched again for 48 hours. How does that make you feel? Terrified? Delighted? Inspired? Relieved? I’m inviting you to join me on this challenge.
It will help you identify the stranglehold your phone has on your life; develop coping strategies for dealing with the withdrawal; and give you ideas to reduce daily screen time in 2021.
Here’s how to proceed: Pull out the calendar and pick two days where you go all in on this. Then commit to a full blackout — no phone, period (if you’ve got one of those locking cookie jars, that’s ideal — set it for 48 hours with your phone inside!)
You can do it. It will be worth it. But don’t just say you’re going to try not to look at it as much, because there’s still wiggle room in the declaration and you’ll fail.
When you commit to something, you are more likely to see it through. I’ll be joining you too.
Now, I firmly believe the smartphone is the best invention since sliced bread. It’s how I get my message out to the world and everything we need is at our fingertips. But it’s also where really smart people have designed apps to keep us coming back every time a notification buzzes.
So, give it a little break. I promise you’ll do more thinking in its absence, and thinking is actually more effective than ‘hustling’ all the time with no clarity.
This is the perfect time to think about what brings you happiness and figuring out how to do more of that in 2021.
Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fitness coach for men and women like his former self. Heavyset in his 20s, he lost 60 pounds and now helps clients find their spark and lose the weight for life. Visit mitchcalvert.com to grab yourself a free diet cheat sheet or inquire about his new year’s virtual coaching challenge to help busy parents drop two pant sizes.
Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fitness coach for men and women like his former self. Obese in his 20s, he lost 60 pounds himself and now helps clients find their spark and lose the weight for life.