One of the trickiest things about the holidays is the feeling of the end of a cycle. So we overeat; we indulge ourselves with sweets and desserts because we feel like we have a chance to start all over again and leave the past behind.
We eat and drink as if there were no tomorrow, but there is. In fact, most of the extra weight we gain during the holidays will stick with us throughout the year, and it’ll get harder and harder to lose.
It is also an emotional time of the year; family drama, breaking your routine, or the pressure of creating a perfect experience for your family can lead you directly to stress eating, eating your feelings, or medicating yourself with food.
So, is there a way to survive the holidays without gaining a lot of extra weight?
In this episode, Ted shares five clever ways to avoid gaining weight during the holidays, five actionable items you can start doing today, and not necessarily after getting fatter. He also cracks the code of why we overeat during the holidays and what we can do to avoid them and have more control over our holiday eating habits.
Plus, he explains why you don’t want to become “the resolutioner,” the importance of creating a plan, where most people fail when they make a plan, and much more.
- Why do we add more weight during the holidays than at any other time of the year?
- How family drama affects your eating habits
- Is fit shaming a thing? Why social pressure makes you eat more
- What is “a resolutioner,” and how to avoid becoming one
- Perfection is the enemy; create an actionable plan
- When is the perfect time to start losing fat?
- How to choose your meals wisely (so you can indulge a bit)
- And much more…
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Podcast Transcription: Survive The Holidays Without Gaining Weight: 5 Smart Ways To Stay Fit And Healthy While Fully Enjoying The Holidays
Ted Ryce: Let me ask you: Are you tired of gaining weight year after year? Then this is the right episode for you. You're going to learn about how the holiday weight gain effect is real and 5 smart strategies to deal with it. These are things that I actually do personally, and things that I actually coach my clients on. So this isn't some fluff, and I want you to take this seriously.
So it's that time of year again—the holidays. And I’ve got to tell you, the holidays are my favorite time of year. It always reminds me of the best times of my childhood. Doesn't it remind you of that as well? For me, it reminds me of playing hardcore hide and go seek with my cousins where we dress up like ninjas and hide in the several acres of land around the house that I grew up in and we just had an amazing time.
Also, I would hear stories from my uncles, and unwrapping presence. And my dad made the most amazing pecan cornbread stuffing that—it was better than the turkey. I mean, turkey I okay, right/ But that pecan cornbread stuffing with fresh herbs was just amazing. And it's not just important for me, it's an important time of year for most people, especially in the US, where in Europe, you get a lot of time off—I know we have a lot of European listeners—you get a lot more time off.
But in the US, where we don't get a lot of time off for the holidays, the end of year festivities is the time we used to spend some quality time with our families. The problem is, most of us gain weight during the holidays, and we feel like we can't get it off. Does that sound familiar? It's a common complaint that I hear from my clients and something that I've struggled with personally as well.
And I want to ask you: have you ever wonder why it's such a phenomenon and whether the holiday weight gain effect is even real? What I want to tell you is that a 2016 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine set out to answer that exact question; they looked into how someone's body weight changes over a year.
And to discover the answer, scientists recruited nearly 3000 volunteers, not just from the United States, but also Germany and Japan, and they used wireless scales to connect daily data about the participants body weight. After the scientists were done crunching the numbers, an eye-catching pattern emerged. No matter where you live in the world or what you celebrate, the holidays are when you're most likely to gain the majority of weight.
And after New Year's happens, at least for us in the Western world, many of us dawn our workout clothes and Nike shoes, or if you're like me, you've got minimalist training shoes, and you hit the gym in an effort to burn off the extra flab. Does that sound familiar, New Year's resolutions? Here's the problem though: many of us only lose half or less of the weight we gained during the holidays.
The ugly truth is that for most of us, every holiday season leads to permanent increases in our weight. That means after several years of holidays, we find ourselves overweight or obese as her health starts to decline and conditions like high blood pressure, or diabetes start to emerge. Although it's nice to have science confirming the holidays and how they make us fat.
It's been a well-known phenomenon for years. That's why we're bombarded with tips to avoid holiday weight gain from magazines and fitness gurus every single year: “Avoid desserts, control your portions, take the skin off your turkey, don't indulge.”
Although that advice is correct, meaning if you implement it, it will work, it's hard to do, especially when you're spending time with your family and emotions are running high. Either the emotions are happening because you’ve got some drama going on, right? You're like, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to eat something. Aunt Betsy is going crazy again.” Or “I’ve got to hit the eggnog because Uncle Benny is just acting a fool,” right?
And besides the emotions, avoiding desserts doesn't really sound like any fun at all, does it? Do you really want to tell grandma that you can't have any of her homemade pumpkin pie? I don't think so.
And if you're a regular listener to Legendary Life, you already know the reason why you gain weight over the holidays.
Spoiler alert! Because you over eat. But the real question is not why, right? We know the mechanisms - too many calories equal too much fat. But why do we over eat? Why during the holidays that happened so much more significantly? Because when we answer those questions, we can come up with a plan. So, here's my take on it.
Number one is family drama. When your family is together, it's only a matter of time before some drama happens, right? At least that's how it was growing up in my house. And don't you hate it, how you can be a mature, responsible individual, but just by spending an hour with your family, it makes you feel like you're 13 again. It sucks.
Especially I remember, my stepmom was the person who caused the most drama with her drinking and antics in my house, and just dealing with her, again, when I was in my 20s when I was an established personal trainer and doing well, I would just kind of lose it, just because it brought me back to growing up with her, ugh.
So, anyway, it does suck. And then that jug of rum-spiked eggnog looks especially appealing, or those special winter brew beers. And once your defenses are weakened by alcohol, the emotional eating ensues.
Another factor is social pressure. Maybe your family wasn't or isn't as dysfunctional as mine. Not likel,y but a possibility. Maybe they're cool for the most part, but they don't get why you're not eating like everyone else. Maybe they'll question your decision to eat an ancestral diet or eating superfood salads or drinking your kale shake.
They may say what you're doing isn't even normal, or it's not healthy, and you should relax and live a little, “What's wrong with you, eating all these vegetables? Why don't you have some sweet potato pie with marshmallows and brown sugar melted all over it.” I've heard this from so many clients that I've lost count over the years.
And what I want to tell you is don't let yourself get bullied, but don't get too stressed out over it either, just know that it will probably happen when you do something different. That's against the grain... I mean, we've heard so much about fat shaming in our society, at least here in the US.
But we never hear about fit shaming, where people are busting your balls because you're trying to eat better than them, you're trying to pay attention to what you eat. You're trying to make an effort. And it happens all the time. It happens way more than fat shaming does. Let me tell you that.
Another factor is stress. Sometimes it's not the family drama or social pressure that causes us to overeat. It's the stress. Maybe you're trying to do too much to create that perfect holiday experience for your family. That's a noble thing to try to do. You want everything to go smoothly and everyone to enjoy themselves with no issues, so you sacrifice a little bit of your sanity and a lot of your sleep to make sure everything goes well. And it does for everyone but you, and you end up skipping meals and skimping on sleep to make everything happen.
Then you find your yourself snacking on the gingerbread cookies and other sugary treats because you're sleep deprived and your stress hormones are through the roof. Another factor is broken routines. We all know that the majority of the people who listen to this podcast, you're all exercising, you're all making efforts. So you're doing way better than the people who don't exercise at all and don't focus on eating more nutritious food.
The thing is, the holidays come around, and all of a sudden, that perfect routine goes out the window, and you find yourself succumbing to the basic traps that everyone else seems to get caught in. Because if we can't go to the gym for an hour, then why go at all, right? And how much does it really help to do a 5-to-10-minute workout at home. So you skip your workouts and just kind of let things go, thinking you'll resume after New Year's Eve with the rest of the resolutioners and #newyearnewme, right?
And in case you're wondering, a resolutioner, according to the Urban Dictionary is a real word. It's a proper noun. And the resolutioner is viewed as somewhat of a nuisance by regular gym patrons because their commitment to fitness is only temporary, usually fading within two to eight weeks of initial signing.
In the meantime, the resolutioner succeeds only in crowding up the gym’s limited floor space, sweating up the machines, and generally interfering with the workouts of more hardcore gym members. You don't want to be one of those people, especially because two to eight weeks of exercise just doesn't really help that much. It's better than nothing, but it's not consistent. So it almost isn't better than nothing because those gains you get in those two to eight weeks, ain't going to last you until the next resolution.
The last one that I want to mention is not having a plan. In fact, the biggest issue I see with people during the holidays is that they're in a reactive mode instead of proactive mode. They get so caught up in everything that they don't think about, “Oh, what do I need to do to stay on track during the holidays?” So, what happens, they're constantly reacting, constantly doing damage control.
And the thing is, failing to plan is planning to fail, as Benjamin Franklin was credited with saying, and I couldn't agree more. With that in mind, let's get to some tips to help you avoid being a statistic for this holiday season. I want you to enjoy the holidays without getting that Santa-sized belly. So, number one is create a plan. I'll give you my top suggestions for warding off weight gain during the holidays. But you have to figure out what you'll actually do and put it into a plan.
So listen to what I'm about to tell you, take what I suggest and come up with a plan of action for yourself and make sure you can follow it. And how do you know? Very simple test that I use with all my clients, I say, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to follow this plan during the holidays?” If you answer anything less than a 9 or a 10, you need to rework your plan.
Because that perfect: “Oh, well, I'm going to work out every day, and I'm going to do cardio twice a day, and I'm not going to eat dessert, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas,” and it's not going to work, you’ve got to make something that you can actually do and really get this… Perfection is the enemy, okay, perfection is the enemy, you've got to do something that is actionable.
So keep that in mind and write your plan down and then ask yourself after you've written it, how likely am I to follow this on a scale of 1 to 10? And like I mentioned, if you get 9 or 10, you're good, but anything less, you need to rework it.
Number two, the biggest problem is that most people who listen to this episode won't do anything different after listening. It's the biggest problem behind why people are overweight, in debt, in relationships they don't like or in a place in their life that they don't like, it’s because they won't take the most important step, which is, taking action.
Knowledge isn't enough. Knowledge is not power. It's just some fun, interesting trivia in your head that you can share at cocktail parties, which then all the people who hear it will then forget it afterwards as well and nobody takes any action. And I don't want to come down too hard on you, but I want you to challenge yourself, and I'm challenging you right now to be different than the other people who think they actually need to read more than do something.
So, after creating your plan, act on it immediately. So, if you have a plan to start eating better, start eating better now. We're going to get to that in a little bit. If you have a plan to start exercising more, start exercising more now, get into the habit now, take action now.
And the third thing that I want to tell you is start losing fat right now. So many people plan to lose fat when the holidays are over and the damage has already been done. That is a huge mistake. When you're overweight, it's already harder to lose fat and build muscle. And when you get fatter, you're adding an additional obstacle that you'll have to hurdle to make progress.
And the more fat you will have to lose, the longer the time it will take you to get it off and the harder it will be. Do not make the mistake of waiting until the time is right. Or waiting until, ‘You, I’ll wait until New Years,” and be one of those resolutioners for the first two to eight weeks. Start now, that's the point. And by starting now, you'll get a jumpstart on the holidays, so it'll be easier to maintain your workouts and better eating habits when the pressure is on.
And when you go off on Thanksgiving Day with the big meal, okay, you'll be in a much better place, or when Christmas comes around, you'll be in a much better place. But if you wait where you're already fatter, it’s going to make it so much more difficult for you. You've got to break the cycle, break it now.
Tip number four, lift weights to build muscle. And you don't have to actually lift weights like dumbbells or barbells, you can use your body weight as resistance, too. The point is start doing strenuous strength training exercises that start putting those calories that you're eating into building muscle instead of filling out your waistline.
I've talked about this recently, in how I stopped thinking of exercise as a way to burn calories, and I have everyone focusing on building muscle. What happens is miraculous—okay, it's not really miraculous, all right? But for people, it's like, “Oh my god, I can't believe what's happening,” their body starts to change because they're taking that protein and those carbohydrates and they're starting to build muscle with them instead of just getting fat and just kind of trying to burn some calories in the gym.
And I've been able to transform my physique just in the past couple months using these strategies instead of what I was doing before. Because I like to lift heavy weights. The thing is, heavy weights, you’ve got to rest two or three minutes in between sets. And you get stronger fast with heavy weights, but it's not good to change your body because the volume is low, you're not doing that many exercises or sets and reps because you'd be in the gym for two hours if you did that. So I've changed my routine to something that is more focused on building muscle. So that is what you've got to do. If you want to change your body.
Now I'm sharing what's optimal. And if you want a well-done program, you know where to get it, legendarylifepodcast.com.
The point is, be committed to getting some exercise in. Number five, eat smart holiday meals. Now, you don't have to forego all the holiday goodies. And I can tell you, I'm not going to do that, but you have to be smart about the decisions you make for your meals. Now I'm going to give you some tips to follow to dial in your nutrition to avoid weight gain while still allowing yourself to indulge a little bit.
The first tip is to focus on satiety. One of the biggest issues that people have is that they get really hungry because they start eating things that trigger more craving. So instead of doing that and instead of counting calories, you're tracking your macros—of course, this is only goes for the people who are not on our program—relax a little and focus on eating foods that will fill you up.
Protein has a well-known satiating effect, so make sure you eat plenty of protein. Also, fiber from vegetables has a satiating effect—protein and vegetables, very powerful combination. And if you fill your plate with 80 to 90% of lean protein and veggies, you'll eat fewer calories without even trying. So fill up in this order. First, fibrous, colorful vegetables, okay? Go for the collard greens or whatever other vegetables you have available.
Fibrous vegetables, though, so we're not talking about sweet potato pie, all right, we're talking about fibrous vegetables, green beans, collard greens, those types of things. Basically, your greens and any type of salad, stuff like that. The next thing you want to do is palm sized portions of protein. Make sure you're eating portions about the size of your palm, if you're a guy, have two palm-sized portions of protein.
If you're a woman, maybe eat one palm sized portion of protein, and whose palm should you use to measure? Should it be aunt Becky’s? No, your palm. Look at your palm, have two palm-sized portions of protein if you're a guy. If you're a woman, look at your palm and have one palm-sized portion of protein, then everything else.
And again, if you want to have some sweet potato or even some of that sweet potato pie that people make, which is totally disgusting with the marshmallow and the brown sugar. I mean, I love a treat as much as anybody but yuk, that stuff is nasty. I'd rather have the real deal and eat a cookie or slice of pie than that.
So anyway, have everything else after. Fill up your plate with vegetables and protein first, and then scoot some smaller portions of everything else on there. Next thing is to indulge but avoid stuffing yourself. So plan to eat your favorite foods and everything else that I just mentioned, but don't eat until you're about to burst.
Sorry, but stuffing is for turkeys, not people. And plan to eat those couple cookies or slices of pie or whatever it is that you like, ice cream, after you eat your protein and veggies, and then move on. And another tip I want to give you right now that’s just coming to me right now is if you are going to eat like a carb-heavy or sugary dessert, don't eat any of the other carbohydrates, don't have this stuffing.
There's not a lot of difference between the stuffing and the ice cream, okay? So, choose your indulgence wisely. And don't say, “Well, since stuffing isn't an ice cream or a cookie, I'm just going to eat a lot of that because it's like a food, then now I'm going to have my treat.” Don't do that. Protein and veggies, if you want stuffing, eat the stuffing. If you want the treats, eat the treats, don't have big portions of both. And if you want both, have both, but have smaller portions and put them all on that plate, all right?
And last thing I want to tell you is when you plan to indulge a little bit, when you say, “Hey, I'm going to have some cookies,” I'm not going to say, no, I'm not going to have any cookies or whatever else I want. Say, ‘Hey, I'm going to have some but I'm going to do it in a controlled way.’ That puts you in proactive mode and puts you in charge, it will also reduce your anxiety and guilt while still allowing you to eat some junky holiday goodness.
The last thing I want to tell you is avoid trigger foods. For some of us, we can't eat certain foods without triggering a binge eating episode. Does that sound familiar? Well, if that's your case, then avoid the foods that cause that behavior to happen. Have a white line that you just will not cross with foods that you feel addicted to and make sure you eat the good stuff first, so it will be less likely to trigger those cravings in the subsequent binge eating behavior.
So I hope after listening to all these smart strategies to avoid holiday weight gain, you can apply a few of them in the coming weeks to stay fit because it's possible. I know avoiding holiday weight gain sounds as likely as Santa's going down billions of chimneys all over the world in just one night, but it is possible if you do the right things. And if you're thinking, ‘Oh, no, Ted did not let me off that easy.” Trust me, you'll be thanking me for it in the new year, I promise.
So that's our episode for today.
I hope you're going to take this seriously and not be one of those statistics. I hope that you actually take this and use it and be committed to yourself into your health to avoid what so many people go through, which is gaining weight year after year and getting fatter year after year. And most importantly, more unhealthy year after year. You can do it; I believe in you. And that's all I've got for this week.
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