The holidays are gone, but maybe the weight isn’t… But that’s no reason to panic. We’re discussing post-holiday damage control, and what you can do after a season of indulging.
I cited research in our last article that holiday weight gain, along with other adverse health effects (like increased blood pressure), is common and that most people gain at least a few pounds during the holiday season.1-4
Of course, all of you reading are super cool and smart, and so you followed our damage control advice and didn’t gain a single pound, right?
Well, even if you did, there are some equally simple ways to shift into a new year, and a new you, to lose the body fat that you'd like to lose and stay on track.
I was talking about this with Nuzest USA CEO Jonathan Edwards. He typically gets great results by tracking his calories and using a very simply If it fits your macros (IIFYM) type plan. That is that he eats, within reason, what he likes, so long as he is a) under his daily calorie allotment, and b) gets approximately the right amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates for his goals.
The strategy does work incredibly well… BUT it can also be limiting. Sometimes when people focus on the macros, they forget about their micros! Many of us lack at least one or more of the essential vitamins and minerals from diet alone, and so if we only focus on the “big guys” of nutrition, some of the little guys may get missed. I call this “starving on a full stomach.”
The other problem is one of satiety and metabolic appropriateness. While calories in vs. calories out is still the biggest factor for fat loss and maintaining a healthy body weight, we all respond slightly differently to the macronutrients depending on our activity levels, metabolic state (i.e. are we already overweight and/or metabolically disordered) and our ethnogenetic basis. If we are genetically not programmed to be very carb tolerant, an IIFYM approach that isn’t lower carb will not work very well.
Many people also feel fuller for longer when they eat a lower carb, higher protein or higher fat diet. This satiety (feeling of fullness and satisfaction) is important for staying on track, because quite simply if you’re not hungry, you are less likely to overeat!
Another thing that helps reduce your calories, without you having to restrict, is to reduce your feeding windows. While the research is mixed on, for example, carb-backloading, it can still be a more effective strategy for some people than many meals and snacks, especially those that are resistant to fat loss. More importantly, it can help people to achieve their goals by reducing the time available to overeat. Put it this way, if you have only a very short time to eat during the day, you have less potential to overeat, especially when you must prioritize healthy proteins, fats, and vegetables.
Jonathan found that by switching to a reduced feeding window, and by focusing on lower carb foods during the day, he could much more easily stay on track, without feeling as if he was being overly restrictive.
Here are 5 Easy Guideline for Post-Holiday Damage Control and Staying on Track:
1. Don’t snack. Eat fewer, balanced meals.
Snacking sucks! Too many snacks end up being poor quality. They are an excuse for poor prep and eating on-the-run, which is not conducive to optimized digestion. The human body is well adapted to rest and digest when at rest, and to be in flight or fight mode. During our stress-response (sympathetic nervous system dominant) fight or flight phase, our digestion can be inhibited by poor gut motility and reductions in hydrochloric acid and gastric enzymes that break down food. A common result of this is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
2. Don’t eat in the morning until you’re hungry
There is no good, physical reason to eat first thing in the morning if you’re not hungry. Many people benefit from modified forms of fasting, and extending the nighttime fasting period can really help you to keep burning fat at an accelerated rate. If you don’t feel hungry until lunch (or even later!), so be it…
3. Have a nutrient dense smoothie for your first meal.
Protein helps to provide additional satiety (the feeling of satisfaction and reduction in hunger from food) that is longer-lasting than the typical high-carb breakfast. Add some good, healthy fats to this smoothie, along with berries and vegetables (like spinach or kale) to further increase satiety and to aid blood sugar regulation and provide additional vitamins, minerals, and secondary nutrients. This will keep you going during the day and help to stop daytime snacking on treats!
4. Prioritize protein, healthy fats and vegetables at dinner.
When it comes to the evening meal, protect yourself from overeating later by really loading up on vegetables, with at least 4 fist-sized servings prioritized. The add 1-2 (or more!) palm sized portions of protein (such as meat, fish, chicken or turkey) and about a thumb sized portion of good fats (butter, ghee, olive oil, coconut oil etc.) If you’re still hungry, eat more of the same, at the same sitting.
5. If you want/need a treat, have it after dinner.
Later, at least 30 minutes after you have finished dinner, feel free to have a treat. This could be dark chocolate, low-grain granola, full-fat yogurt with berries (if you’re being careful), or anything that you really want/feel like eating. You’ll get the hang of just how much you can and should eat for your goals with just a little trial and error.
Here’s how your daily meal planning could look:
- Meal 1: Smoothie with 3 scoops of Clean Lean Protein, ½ cup of berries, 1 Tbsp. Peanut butter, 1 Tbsp. MCT oil, and 1 cup of green leafy vegetable (like kale or spinach)
- Meal 2: Optional (use the same as dinner if having a daytime meal)
- Meal 3: 4 fist sized servings of vegetables (minimum) with 1-2 palm sized portions of meat, fish or poultry (more if still hungry), and healthy fats like hempseed, flaxseed, olive oil as dressings. Cook with butter, ghee, extra virgin olive oil, or coconut oil.
The biggest factor for achieving and maintaining results is whether you can make your nutrition strategy simple enough to allow you to eat the right amount, without feeling as if you are restricting too much, and without having to exercise massive amounts of willpower (which is always ultimately limited). Try reducing your feeding window and focusing on quality protein, veggies and healthy fats before carbs, and see the results for yourself! Click HERE read the first article in this series and learn more about post-holiday damage control.
Boutelle KN, Kirschenbaum DS, Baker RC, Mitchell ME. How can obese weight controllers minimize weight gain during the high-risk holiday season? By self-monitoring very consistently. Health psychology: official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association. 1999;18(4):364-8.
Yanovski JA, Yanovski SZ, Sovik KN, Nguyen TT, O'Neil PM, Sebring NG. A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain. New England Journal of Medicine. 2000;342(12):861-7.
Hull HR, Radley D, Dinger MK, Fields DA. The effect of the Thanksgiving Holiday on weight gain. Nutrition Journal. 2006;5(1):29.
Reid R, Hackett AF. Changes in nutritional status in adults over Christmas 1998. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 1999;12(6):513-6.