The holidays creep up to you, don’t they? The gigantic turkeys. The buttery stuffings. The apple pies. I kid you not.
I managed to lose 3% body fat over last fall and kept it off over the holidays. Thanksgiving and six major parties in December didn’t ruin my hard-earned work. Here are 10 things I discovered that helped me keep it off.
1) Control your insulin
I lost the weight with a low glycemic impact program, and it naturally stuck with me.
Here’s the catch: low glycemic impact diet is the least hormone-wrecking diet you can follow. If you have issues with insulin (an obvious sign is that you tend to accumulate fat around your tummy), it is wise to follow eat low glycemic impact to get your insulin in check.
It is more forgiving to have that gobble of fat when your insulin isn’t spiking, like when you just have that glass of coke.
One amusing aspect of low glycemic is that the actual glycemic impact of what you are eating depends on the content of your stomach. So, if you wind up eating a high glycemic impact item (e.g. cakes, rice, very ripe fruits, ice cream), it is wise to cut down the impact with some protein, fat and fiber. Never eat desserts or drink anything with sugar (juice included, even 100%) on empty stomach.
Oh, and remember one fact, dairy may spike your insulin at whatever state it is.
2) Resistance training and high intensity interval training (HIIT)
When you pump iron, a few things happen in your body that use energy in a not-so-obvious ways. That’s especially the case if you are a beginner.
Firstly, your nervous, structural and respiratory systems have to adapt. For example, you build more neuronal connections with your muscles. Secondly, you create energy deficit from destroying your muscles during your training sessions. Those processes are more energetically costly than those numbers you see on the elliptical machines. Last but not least, when you follow a well-planned, well-periodized program (and that doesn’t mean complicated) with proper recovery, you build and retain muscle mass.
Muscle burns more calories and they make you look smaller at the same weight. You will also be stronger and feel like a superhero.
Muscle makes more room for glycogen, reducing your odds of storing excess energy as fat. The 2 fold effects is that 1) when you eat a lot of food (especially carbs) after your workouts, your muscles look more full as opposed to your belly, or tummy, or thighs.
There are many breeds of resistant training, as I just learned. The best ones for this purpose is perhaps the high volume bodybuilding style training, density training and lactic acid training.
I would define HIIT as cardio intervals so hard that you feel like your lungs would explode at the end of each interval. Repeat 10 times. Well, that’s how I do it. But I would warn you that you should not be working out that hard if you have never done it, are de-conditioned or have lots of risk factors for heard diseases.
The thing with HIIT is similar to weight lifting. You burn more calories by 1) creating energy debt by using anaerobic respiration during your exercise and 2) forcing your body to adapt to the torture, so you feel less like a torture next time you do the same thing.
Remember, adaptation takes calories.
And you don’t need lots of time, either. I was a cardio queen with extraordinary endurance. I swam 60 laps in the pool with no rest and biked 70 km/day. But boy, just one Tabata workout that took 4 min made my lungs feel like they would explode by the end of the 2nd minute.
3) You may want to eat what you don’t normally eat, but don’t eat to the point of discomfort.
Your body has a natural barometer for measuring how much you should be eating. Try not to override it.
We evolved to eat natural, unprocessed foods from the wild, not chocolate cakes, stuffing and sausages.
So, it’s best to focus on the least processed foods or what you can recognize in its natural state. The rest of it, eat it only when it’s really worthwhile, make it a real treat.
And don’t eat to the point that makes you suffer. Who likes food coma, anyway?
4) Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is the practice of stopping eating for a period of time, and then eating again. More and more fitness figures are practicing this.
It might sound kinda crazy, like, “whoa, aren’t you gonna lose your muscles?”
I have seen too many bodybuilders do this to worry about that. For a reference, check this out for reference.
A simple rationale is that, the morning after the party, I would usually not feel like any food if I had my good share of party foods. It feels gross. And the last thing I would feel like doing is to eat.
So when that happens, it’s the body telling you that it has enough foods in the system to last for a while, that you don’t need to eat right then. You may be tired because your body still takes energy to digest the food, deal with new food allergens in the body, or clear out the alcohol. It’s telling you that it has enough work to do with foods.
So what I do is, I skip a day of foods and maybe even workout before I eat again. I make sure the first meal after the fast is full of protein and veggies, some good fats with very little carbohydrates. That’s my typical breakfast, anyway. It breaks the fast. NOT breakfast cereals.
I take my CORE supplement before carb-heavy or beer-heavy parties. It’s my security blanket with no side effects. It has the natural carbohydrate absorption inhibitor from white kidney bean, chromium that helps with insulin sensitivity, and leptin support herbs that reduce my appetite. This combination helps blunt the blow and reduce the odds of an endomorphic gal like me storing things as fat.
And if you happen to be eating lots of potatoes, breads and sweets, definitely supplement with chromium, Omega-3 and vitamin B complex. They help with metabolism of carbohydrates and insulin sensitivity.
There are also things like fat blocker (ever heard of Alli?), which I have tried myself. The problem with these is that they make you run to the bathroom with no mercy, and caused bad abdominal cramps. I’m not into this enough to recommend it, but it may be worth it if you are considering inhaling a whole wheel of double cream brie or boatloads of fried foods. While I’m a big fan of good fats, we all know that eating such amount of fats is a recipe to feeling like crap. So you decide.
6) Find the basis behind your cravings
Cravings often have biological basis. It’s your body telling you something. Either you have a hormonal imbalance or a real dietary deficiency.
Believe it or not? You are often craving what you are allergic too. When you get hurt, your body secretes endorphins to reduce the pain. When you hurt yourself by eating things you are allergic to, you may become addicted to that endorphins. I know, I know. I crave chocolate, too and I am allergic to it. L Do you know anyone who won’t part ways with breads, and pasta or dairy?
A chocolate craving is often a sign of mineral deficiency.
A salt craving is a sign of stress or corticosteroid imbalances.
Carb cravings usually means that your body doesn’t handle carbs very well, and that you tend to store them as fat. It also means that you tend to get your blood sugar in extreme swings.
7) Eat clean for the rest of the time
If you know you are going to party hard that day, it is wise to not show up ravenous or pre-stuffed with junk.
Make sure you eat lots of vegetables and lean protein sources consistently for the day, or better yet, for the week.
8) Find out what your food sensitivities/allergies are and avoid them like plaque
It takes a bit of time, real patience and will power to go on a hypoallergenic diet before experiment with potential food allergens. You can do a lab test for food allergies, if you would like.
If you notice some symptoms such as rash, major changes in energy level, mucus, etc, associated with certain foods, it is a good idea to avoid that item.
Overloading your digestive system with what your body doesn’t like may sensitize your body to become more allergic to other things. It can also compromises the functions of your digestive system in the long run.
9) Know a few favorite recipes of a side, a salad and a dessert that are “safe” for you nutrition-wise and food-sensitivity wise
If you really like some items and would rather have them in your life, it may be possible to invent a healthy version of it. I invented healthy chocolate cakes, mousse pies and cheesecakes that I have no shame in sharing with people or eating the whole thing by myself. Bring that to parties, impress people, and enjoy it! Check out my foods sections for a few ideas or feel free to ask for a recipe makeover.
On the other end of the spectrum, it’s also a good idea to bring a salad or a healthy dish with lots of veggies over so you can ensure that there is something that is consistent with your goals at the party.
10) Don’t get yourself into OCD mode.
Nobody is perfect, really.
Attempting to count foods or calories, or beating yourself up for eating party foods will drive you nuts. Stress hormones doesn’t make for good health or body composition.
You want to enjoy life. Keep it simple.
Go right back to eating clean and exercising, even if there’s still 1 or 3 next parties. Even if it’s not next year yet.
Move. As much as possible. It doesn’t have to be in the gym. It could be a few sets of air squats in your living room.
Lastly, don’t be that annoying person that’s always not easygoing and complaining how fat you get. You are responsible for what you put in your body. Just you. Take it.