You’d be amazed at the amount of otherwise disciplined, well-intentioned clients I have that completely lose it around this time of year.
I don’t know if it’s the change of weather (probably not, since I live in a place with zero seasons), the festive decorations hung all over town, or the general increase in parties and celebratory events, but somehow everyone feels like the holiday season is a free pass to skip workouts, eat until you’re pleasantly plump, and drink to unreasonable excess.
I’m not trying to sound like a Scrooge here – quite the opposite, actually, in that I am writing this entry to the tune of Christmas carols and with a Christmas tree within sight – but let it be said:
Christmas is one day. Thanksgiving is one day. There are literally thirty other days in between that don’t warrant a complete and utter farewell to fitness.
The folks at Precision Nutrition hit the nail on the head by calling these days “eat what you want (EWYW) days.” I’ve never like the term “cheat days” (sure, you can love your food, but jeez, you’re not married to it – you can have an order of fries and still be a good “partner” to your diet), and nor do they. The EWYW days simply mean that you don’t have to meal prep, count a calorie, log a gram of protein, or stress over a sip or two.
You just eat like a normal human being, then go on living.
With my clients, I offer up three no-guilt EWYW days, and they are as follows: Christmas (or your other major annual cultural holiday, such as Chinese New Year or Rosh Hashanah or Deepavali, depending), Thanksgiving (again, should you be American or Canadian), and your own birthday. Boom. Three. Enjoy yourself.
The point here is, any EWYW day is one day. For some of us, it could even just be one meal (like the very ample Thanksgiving dinner I am looking forward to tonight). It’s not an entire weekend, it’s not a whole season, and God forbid it turns into a year or two (no one needs to wake up in 2019 with an extra 10 pounds around the middle….but trust me, I’ve seen it happen).
Here are some easy dos and donts for your EWYW day:
- DO enjoy an adequate serving (or two!) of the foods you truly enjoy
- DON’T load up on crappy, low-quality foods that will only make you feel overstuffed (do you really love those marshmallow-topped yams and canned cranberry sauce, or are they just traditional filler on the plate?)
- DO eat slowly – the food will still be there, so take a few breaths between forkfuls to actually savour the EWYW foods you love so much
- DON’T count, log, track, or otherwise think about your food as any more than it is – a delicious way to celebrate with family, fill your tummy, and make you happy
- DO have a tipple if you choose to celebrate with alcohol, but DON’T swallow a bunch of booze on top of a bunch of food unless you’re really looking for a double-whammy hangover-and-food-coma the next day
- DON’T leave any room for guilt – on a true EWYW day, it’s a non-issue!
- DO make time for exercise on EWYW day (Turkey Trot, anyone?) or the day after to do a bit of damage control and help the extra food pass on through
Again, guys – the holidays are indeed a time for lots of celebration and togetherness – but it doesn’t have to be only about coming together over food. Get out for a holiday charity run, volunteer your time at a place or for a cause that needs extra help this time of year, or spend time writing cards or letters to friends and family far away.
That kind of holiday cheer is always served up low-carb and with extra helpings. 😉