Two(ish) Tips To Overcome The Anxiety of Holiday Weight Gain

Thanksgiving is just a day away. For many, this officially marks the beginning of the holiday season—family gatherings, holiday parties, and the enjoyment of our favorite holiday treats.

It’s a magical time of year, but for some it can also be marked by increased anxiety surrounding food. For those who are currently trying to lose weight, the holiday marks a time of year where temptations are at an all-time high. These family gatherings and social events are seen as an additional obstacle to their fitness goals. These individuals often struggle with the balance of holiday enjoyment and feeling defeated by their inability to “stay on track.”

It can be hard to commit yourself to the gym and your normal eating routine when there are now so many alternatives choices. It can often feel like we’ve lost no matter the choice we make. This article is going to help you develop some strategies for creating this balance and, ultimately, allow you to enjoy your holiday anxiety and guilt-free.

Lifestyle-mode vs Diet-mode

Diet-mode is the period of time when you are making very specific changes to your diet to achieve some short-term goal. Losing twenty pounds, for example, is a short term goal. It requires you to restrict your calories, make better food choices, and exercise more than you normally might. Ultimately, though, you won’t be maintaining this rigid structure permanently. (At least we hope not.) Diet-mode is the short term “push” to reach a desired outcome that’s different from your everyday life.

Lifestyle-mode, on the other hand, is your normal eating and exercise routine. Consider this your “maintain” plan. Sure, ideally you want to be making healthy food choices and exercising regularly, but in lifestyle mode you do these things in the absence of a specific goal (except for the goal of maintenance). This means you are afforded more leniency in your decisions. Wake up feeling a bit more sluggish than usual? Then skip your workout that day—no problem. Hop back on the wagon the next day.

Lifestyle-mode is more about feeling good and maintaining your current fitness level, while diet-mode is about making targeted sacrifices to achieve a desired outcome.

Your Holiday Game Plan
1) Switch To Lifestyle-Mode For The Day

Even while in diet-mode, it’s perfectly OK to step away from that plan for a single day to enjoy the holiday time with your friends and family. Enjoy your big Thanksgiving meal without feeling the need to log or track everything, eating until you are satisfied (but not stuffed or sick). Simply wake up the next morning and step right back into your diet-mode plan.

The calorie deficit you create from your weight loss diet won’t be completely unhinged from one meal (or even one day’s) worth of a few hundred extra calories. Over the course of weeks, this deficit will work itself out and you will see that you are still making progress toward your goal.

The main point is this: it’s completely acceptable and OK to step away from your diet for a day. 

The challenge with stepping away from diet-mode for a day is the risk of initiating a downward spiral of out-of-control eating. For some, this tendency is marked by feelings of depravity and “wrongness.” We’re doing something we aren’t supposed to be doing, and shouldn’t do again, so let’s force ourselves to enjoy as much as we can while it lasts. This mindset will not only cause you to eat until you’re physically ill, but will also be the main reason you never step back into diet-mode. (Or even remain in any sort of healthy lifestyle-mode.)

A better description for this particular off-plan “mode” is something resembling the Wild West—anything goes. For individuals at risk for this type of mentality we’ll turn to other strategies that can be used to help keep you on track.

2a) Calorie-Banking

Calorie-banking is the strategy of saving a larger chunk of your day’s calorie allotment to be used on one, larger meal. It’s essentially a period of fasting either before or after the big meal in order to save those calories for the good stuff.

In the case of Thanksgiving, this strategy would look like eating a very light breakfast (or no breakfast at all), and refraining from eating the rest of the day until it’s time for the big meal. This allows you to “bank” a larger number of calories that can be spent on these special holiday foods.

Another alternative, utilized by bodybuilding competitor and coach Yousif Abdulrazaq, is to enjoy the Thanksgiving meal free from restriction (within limitations) and fast the majority of the following day. Opting to drastically reduce consumption the following day ensures the total calories (split between the two days) keeps you in a caloric deficit—helping you stay on track come Saturday morning.

The strategic use of fasting and calorie-banking can spare you hundreds of calories, and even prevent you from consuming calories beyond your goals.

2b) Be Picky About Your Food Choices

Fill up on only the “heck yes” foods—the foods you’ve been looking forward to all year. Don’t choose foods just because they’re there. If you aren’t a huge fan of mashed potatoes, then don’t eat mashed potatoes! Opt instead to eat only those foods that have you yelling “heck yes” when you see them.

Occupational therapist and fitness enthusiast, Melissa Labadie, utilizes this strategy to enjoy her Thanksgiving dessert. Labadie will fill up on vegetables at the beginning of her Thanksgiving meal to help control her consumption of the main course dishes. However, she is always sure to save room for dessert and enjoys her favorites, guilt-free. Filling up on low-calorie vegetables helps her avoid other high-calorie options at dinner, which helps her save calories to be spent on what matters most—those delicious sweets at the end.

You can practice any of these strategies, or even combine them, for better management of those extra holiday calories. If you pay attention and do some planning there’s no reason to feel the anxiety or pressure of your fitness plan crumbling. Whether you spend a day in lifestyle mode or manage your caloric spending, I see no reason to avoid pie. (Mmmm, pie.)

A-Team Fitness wishes you and your family a joyous, wonderful Thanksgiving!

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