Will Holiday Food Gobble Your Gains?
From the moment the clock struck midnight on Halloween, the holiday season was upon us. As we put away spooky decorations, retailers were decking the CVS with bounds of holly. That night the commercials interrupting our favorite shows were of happy couples waking on Christmas morning to behold their brand-new car under a big red bow. No matter if we’re still wearing tank tops to CrossFit on November 2nd – the holiday season is here.
The arrival of the holiday’s brings with it all the tastiest and most tantalizing goodies…
Whether your poison is savory or sweet, the season’s menu can provide the perfect treat. The Thanksgiving table is garnished with gravy and mashed potatoes and turkey for the comfort foodies. Then the desserts – apple pie, cherry pie, and especially pumpkin pie – for those with the sweet tooth carry on until Christmas. The cherry on top (ba-dum) of these mouth-watering delights is the tradition of over-eating them.
But what does the occasional over-indulgence do to our fitness? This study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Americans on average gain 1.3 pounds following Christmas, and gained 0.2% within their test group after Thanksgiving. If we added 1.3 pounds to the barbell before a lift we might not even notice.
We recently addressed Atomic Habits author James Clear’s philosophy on goals and habits. He prioritizes systems over big goals – favoring the daily process over grandiose targets of achievement. Claiming that you will lose or gain ten pounds is not as powerful as setting in motion the habits and actions to become the kind of person that will achieve those goals. The kind of person who is fit and healthy is mostly making choices in support of that identity. It takes more than a few over-indulgences to negate that pattern.
Everyone over-indulges from time to time. However, it’s a trap to magnify the not-so-good habits and completely diminish the work we put in most of the time. There are sure to be times when we over-indulge, and that will be the exception not the rule. The problem lies when we focus on one or two giant meals and let that dictate our mood and actions rather than the consistent work we put in year round.
There are sure to be times when we over-indulge, and that will be the exception not the rule.
There are sure to be times when we over-indulge, and that will be the exception not the rule. The problem lies when we focus on one or two giant meals and let that dictate our mood and actions rather than the consistent work we put in year round.
I make the case that a Christmas cookie, or a whole plate of Christmas cookies, doesn’t have the same impact on the body as months of being generally consistent with our gym plan and diet (if that’s what we’re focusing on). If you’ve made into the gym 3 times a week all year, that’s 156 workouts you have in your system, and that doesn’t dissappear after a few holiday parties. This is not a green light to go nuts without end, but certainly to take away the anxiety of “losing our progress”.
Feeling a little fluffy after seasonal indulgences is temporary. The foundation that you’ve built and continue to build will be what endures. In the long run, holiday food will not gobble up your gains, so let’s raise our eggnogs and cheers to fully enjoying the holidays without guilt!
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