Forget tight pants, you’re lucky if you can still squeeze into your socks.
That’s the lament of many during the holiday season, where workouts and best intentions often give way to late night revelry of formal holiday parties and casual get-togethers, where alcohol and food are always in abundance.
But is it really that bad? On the heels of Thanksgiving, can active folks who lay off a bit really do that much damage in such a short amount of time? Will we all turn in to deconditioned weaklings if we miss our daily workout, or even a an entire week’s worth?
“Not really,” said Steven Bubel, a human performance specialist, and founder of Revolution Sports & Fitness. “Most fitness qualities, as long as they are well established, take several weeks to see significant decline,” he said. “And in hard-charging clients, a break from training usually has the opposite effect, so it’s not uncommon for folks to return after a week or two of reduced training and set PRs.”
That’s good to know on the performance end, but what about the opposite side of the equation; food intake. Did we all blow it a couple days ago by eating an outrageous amount of turkey, mashed potatoes and pie?
“Over one day? No. But over several weeks you can absolutely do some damage,” he said.
But there’s also this caveat:
“For someone who has been actively engaged in a training program, it’s rare for those people to let themselves go long enough to do any real damage,” Bubel said.
So if you’re active, stay that way, and that behavior may make you less likely to completely overindulge to the point of having to buy new pants.
Speaking of pants, as a coach and trainer, how does Bubel himself handle the holiday crush without outgrowing his?
“If I’m going to a party I’ll simply save my calories for later in the day,” he said. “As it is, I typically don’t have my first meal until about 2 p.m., so it’s easy for me to just wait until the evening.
A lot of our clients do the same, and during the holidays, intermittent fasting can work wonders as a stop gap.”
But that’s just one of the strategies you can implore to minimize holiday bloat.
“I make sure to plan my workouts in advance and make them a priority,” said registered dietician Amanda Avey. “With holiday travel, I may not be able to do all that I hope for, but having a plan makes it so much easier to stay on track if I miss a day.”
“On the nutrition side, for holiday parties and the like, I set my alcohol limit in advance and drink water throughout the evening while noshing on vegetables and protein rich foods,” Avey said, who also works as a personal trainer. “And if I find myself faced with dessert dilemma, I give myself permission to choose one and enjoy it.
“But above all, I take some time each day to be grateful, and remind myself of the abundance in my life. That often pushes away any temptation to overeat.”
Great advice for sure, but let’s say you’re not as introspective or prepared and find yourself at an overly festive shindig?
“The best advice I can offer is this: sample your favorites, but commit to not getting full,” said Suzanne Parker of Nutrition Matters, a dietary consulting firm. She also suggests avoiding leftovers or taking extras back home, and adds this interesting twist to our seasonal traditions.
“Commit to enjoying the holidays with at least one activity that does not include food, but fun and movement instead,” she said.
You know, like a snowball fight!
But since you may not have the chance to do that here anytime soon, perhaps your next best bet is to plan a holiday hike at one of our local parks, or take a road trip to west Texas and visit Guadalupe Peak, the tallest mountain in the state.
So there you have it. Your best bet for surviving the holidays while keeping your health and wellness goals on track, lies in staying active and simply planning ahead.
But what about that other element?
All that leftover turkey in your fridge? What do you do about that?
“My favorite thing to do with that is to make a turkey frittata, a dish that’s virtually fat free and loaded with protein and flavor,” Parker said. “Combine two cups of egg whites with one cup of shredded turkey, one cup of coarsely chopped kale, and one-third a cup of sautéed onions. Top it with salsa that’s been mixed in equal parts with nonfat Greek yogurt – it makes a delightful, spicy, creamy sauce, that gives the dish a real kick.”
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In light of holiday cookies and all the other treats pushed our way, that sounds like a recipe we can all follow for success.
Tom Trevino is a writer and wellness coach based out of San Antonio. His weekly column covers anything and everything related to health and wellness. He holds a B.A. from the University of Texas at San Antonio, with certification and training from the Cooper Institute. He has a fondness for dogs, NPR, the New York Times, and anything on two wheels. When he’s not writing, training, or cooking, you can find him wandering the aisles of Central Market.