Every single article I have seen about celebrating the holidays usually has an addendum at the end about how to essentially ‘rubberband’ your food. You know what I mean…how to trick your body so that it thinks it’s more full than it is, so you don’t eat as much and don’t gain weight and don’t allow your life to spin out of control and don’t die alone and never have sex again and cause your life to lose all amount of meaning. Or, you know, don’t gain the holiday poundage. Whichever scenario works for you.
Two years ago, I was so terrified of gaining weight on Christmas that I starved myself on Christmas Eve, then ate myself into a stupor on Christmas Day, then did it again the next day. Then I attempted to exercise it all off, and ended up feeling absolutely awful. Last year, I did NOT do that, but I still spent most of the afternoon worried about getting enough food in me, and just felt tense all day.
This year, I ate myself silly on Christmas Eve, and then on Christmas Day, I celebrated opening presents with my family, then went to a dinner party and ate myself silly again. I know. Crazy, right? I’m going against everything I learned in Cosmo.
My whole theory is, if you work out and stay healthy for 98 percent of the year, you deserve to go all out during the holidays. It only comes around once a year. Just do yourself a solid and chill out about it. It’s not worth freaking out over.
That being said, I would be lying if I said I didn’t take preemptive measures to make sure I could eat my cake but also fit into my pants, not just because I like to be healthy but also because buying pants in bigger sizes just because of the holidays is kind of odd.
My secret for maintaining weight during the Christmas and Thanksgiving seasons while not driving myself nuts with these pseudo tips? It’s quite simple, really.
1. Get in a workout. Anything. Don’t overdo it. I am not one of those people who can just laze around for a few days without moving. Call me Type A if you want, but I need to work out to maintain my sanity and energy levels. Plus, if you know you are going to eat like a heathen, it’s always better for me to move in a healthy way before said food carnage. On Christmas Eve I did a 25 minute elliptical interval workout, followed up by an hour of Baptiste yoga in order to get myself in a loving, peaceful mood. Not a ‘hard’ workout by any means at all, and a far cry from the 75 minute punishing elliptical workout I used to do before a day I was to be eating more than normal (of course, I would follow up that elliptical workout with about 3 bites of food and call it a night because I was so exhausted). But I was sweaty and satisfied and centered, and ready to dive into some home cooked food. And I did. With abundance. Then on Christmas Day, I had some time to kill before our dinner party so I did a 50 minute elliptical workout that was fairly easy, and then I stuffed my face at the dinner. As the Baby Jesus would want. Plus, yoga inspires you to make good decisions, and it was clearly a good decision to put chocolate fudge sauce on top of my Nonna’s tiramisu cake, as well as some cool whip and crushed gingersnaps. Duh.
2. Eat clean for most of the day. I am also not one of those people who can have cookies for breakfast. I need a stable breakfast and a healthy lunch if I know my dinner is going to consist mostly of meat and frosting. This week I made sure to eat a ton of vegetables and clean foods. For Christmas Eve I had eggs and kale with sriracha for breakfast (seriously one of my favorite breakfasts right now, I just had it again today!), then I had turkey with flatbread and hummus along with an apple and a few roasted chestnuts. The protein in both meals kept me full until dinner, and I felt healthy and energized rather than stuffed and gross. Also, keep in mind that I have had Christmas cookies or chocolate every single day this week, I just know how to compartmentalize. As a former binge eater, I do have to think about these things, but as a former anorexic, I also need to recognize the importance of celebrating with food.
3. Eat your face off, but be prepared for damage control. I ate a LOT this weekend. So much dessert, I think pecan pie was coming out of my pores. Yesterday, post-massacre, I woke up, had a great breakfast, hung out, and managed to get in a kickboxing workout. It was EXCRUCIATING for the first 20 minutes, but after that the sweat started going and I felt so much better for having moved. I still wasn’t too hungry afterwards but I really knew I should eat something, so I had a protein bar before I met up with some friends to hang out. Then, for dinner, I had a big bowl of soup, followed up by some hot chocolate.
The summary of these parts is, I eat very well for 99 percent of the year. I don’t see any problems with stuffing myself silly on the holidays, because they are special occasions. I don’t normally drink, so I save all of my calories for food (because let’s face it…that is the fun of the holiday!). For those two days, I go bonkers, and then after that I go right back to what I was doing beforehand: eating healthfully, working out, and the like.
Do not starve yourself post-holiday. I am dead serious about this. If you want to work out and feel healthy, you’ve got to eat. The choices you make in the week after Christmas are crucial, but if you think restricting yourself is the way to go you are setting yourself up for another, larger binge. That being said, you don’t want to be that asshole who has a bite of something and then says “Oh, I don’t want to gain weight during the holidays.” Being with family and eating a lot and drinking is a holiday tradition. I don’t think I could survive the holidays without some of my Nonna’s tiramisu cake, or some of my parent’s friend’s crabcakes, or some holiday mineste soup, or anything like that. You just have to be smart about it. Eat clean and light with an emphasis on lean proteins (carbs just make you hungrier, but definitely still eat them because you want energy!) and drink a lot of water, and you’ll be fine. Don’t worry too much about it.
It’s kind of funny that the only workouts I’ve done this past week are around 30 minutes of easy cardio and power yoga a day, with one 60 minute elliptical workout on Friday, and I am thinner now than I was when I was training for my half-marathon, and also thinner than when I was overexercising two years ago. I don’t like the constant ‘urge’ you get when you’re heavily training to eat all of the time. It doesn’t create peaceful feelings with food, and as someone who has had a torturous relationship with food, it made things all the more disordered. Three square meals and a snack are good for me when I’m doing these sorts of workouts. I don’t get too hungry and I don’t get too full. Except for this weekend. Holy crap.
Enjoy your family and friends. You’ve got all the time in the world to say no to pecan pie. But just give yourself a BREAK, for once. Just enjoy it. If you’re eating and moving mindfully throughout the year, go ahead and have some pecan pie. Will it hurt tomorrow morning? Maybe. Will you regret it? God, I hope not.