At this time of year, most people have gone to a holiday gathering and found themselves with a belly stuffed with far more calories than they would normally ever eat. Some feel little shame for eating a cake or drinking half the bowl of punch, but others find themselves feeling guilty afterwards and can’t help but think, “oops, I shouldn’t have eaten that.” In the last couple of weeks, I’ve read numerous articlesabout about how to deal with this. One article was focused on “controlling damage” bymaking diet adjustments AFTER an over-sized meal. But is this approach a good idea?
QUESTION: Tom, I have a question which you might want to use inyour next Q and A column. I think this is especiallyapplicable during the Holiday season. My question is:If you accidentally pig out or over-indulge at a meal,(a Holiday party for example), are you better offskipping your next meal to keep your daily caloricintake on target, or should you just go ahead and eatyour next planned meal and not worry about being somewhat”over” your planned calories for the day?
ANSWER: Hi Michael. Thats a very good question, but I have to admit I did get a little chuckle out of the “accidental” part! Do you ever really “accidentally” eat anything? Maybe we eat “impulsively” at times, but I think we all need to take responsibility for everything we eat and how much we eat. With a little bit of meal planning, you can actually work holiday meals into your program without doing any damage at all – in fact, you should.
If you did overindulge, I usually wouldn’t recommend skipping your next meal to make up for it (Unless you were literally too full to eat again). I also wouldn’t recommend skipping meals or cutting back the next day, either.
Any time you fall off the wagon, I generally recommend returning immediately to your “regularly scheduledmeal programming,” because this continues to encourage the strengthening of positive habits such as eating the same foods at the same time on a consistent meal schedule every day.
Habits are everything. It’s not what you do once in a while that matters, it’s what you do every day that really counts.
Then, I recommend immediately looking ahead and making plans for how you are going to handle the situation in the future so it doesn’t happen again.
Holiday meals can very easily be worked into your regular nutrition plan. It’s almost always a better idea to allow yourself a couple of weekly “free meals” (aka “cheat meals”) all year round anyways. Why not just plan ahead to make each holiday gathering one of those meals and then enjoy them guilt-free?
If your goal is fat loss and you’ve been in a caloric deficit, sometimes it’s actually beneficial to eat more occasionally, rather than staying on a strict reduced-calorie diet 100% of the time. Your metabolism has a way of slowing down if you keep yourcalories too low for too long. With occasional (planned) higher calorie days, you’d be using the BURN THE FAT “zig-zag” or “carb cycling” principle, so eating more in this context can be actually a positive thing.
(Note: You can learn more about this technique in the Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle program).
Although I do recommend calorie levels based on daily (24 hr) needs, I believe it’s also helpful to also pay attention to 3 hour “windows” when you’re thinking aboutadjusting your caloric intake.
Calories and macronutrients (protein/aminos, carbs/sugarand fat) are partitioned into glycogen, muscle or fat tissue ormetabolized immediately depending very much on present moment energyand recovery needs and on what’s going to happen over the next3 hours or so as the food enters your system.
If you hit the gym and trained with a full head of steam before your “feast”, you probably have little to worry about. If you ate more AND plan to be plopping down on the couch to watch football games for the rest of the day and night after that big holiday meal, beware – you might just want to cut back on that next meal a little,especially starches and sugars.
I suppose that’s part of the problem. Some people stop working out over the holidays because they figure “What’s the use” and “I’ll start on January 1st.
But others turn up the intensity or volume of their training a bit. In fact, hundreds of people are doing just that right now as part of our Burn The Fat Holiday Fitness Challenge at the Burn The Fat Inner Circle.
Just a couple weeks into it, the majority of the challengers are already down at least several pounds and a percentage point of body fat – and that included over Thanksgiving!
Bottom line: It’s okay to eat small amounts of your favorite junkfoods once in a while as planned “free meals,” and it’s a good idea to strategically eat more from time to time to keep your metabolism humming along.
However, there’s a big difference between a planned “cheat meal” or a planned high carb, “re-feed” day and an unplanned binge on junk food. You best bet if you’re really serious about fat loss is to avoid huge meals completely.
Enjoy the holiday food – but in small amounts! ALWAYS practice portion control – even on holidays.
If you ever do slip, don’t beat yourself up, just get right back on the wagon with your next meal and remember, the past is behind you and today is a new day.
Train hard and expect success,
– Tom Venuto,
author of Burn The Fat, Feed the Muscle.
About Tom Venuto
Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural (steroid-free) bodybuilder, fitness writer and author of Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle: Fat Burning Secrets of Bodybuilders and Fitness Models and the national bestseller, The Body Fat Solution, which was an Oprah Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine pick. Tom has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Oprah Magazine, Muscle and Fitness Magazine, Ironman Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine, as well as on dozens of radio shows including Sirius Satellite Radio, ESPN-1250 and WCBS. Tom is also the founder and CEO of Burn The Fat Inner Circle – a fitness support community for inspiration and transformation
Hello Tom,This is Arindam from India, an active BFFM member. I just would like to add a small comment on the question put by Michael.I fully agree with you on not skipping any meal evan after having a large fat filled holiday meal. The far more better option is to increase your cardio vascular exercise like running or walking or swimming during holidays. In that way, the extra fat comes from holiday meal would be burnt more quickly without worrying too much about extra calorie.We need to remember the basic principle of weight management -” calorie burnt should be greater than calorie intake”. If we increaseintake, then we need to go for more calorie burnt i.e. increase activity level more during holidays.I hope my comment would be beneficial for all BFFM members.Thanks,Arindam
My own 2 cents would be to engage in a muscle building program during the holiday season.. If you exercise intensely and smartly you can add a few pounds of muscle and it is a lot better than adding even more fat. And when the holiday season is over concentrate more on long cardio to burn more calories and fat and get your basic conditioning base strong so you can concentrate more on getting muscle when summer approaches..I like this kind of periodisation because it gives me good overall plan and I don’t have to fret about the holiday eating so much..
I wouldn’t even care about one accident. It’s not like you get from 8% body fat to 25% just because you ate 500 cals more on one day. If it’s more than 500 cals, I’d schedule another run.
I tried this at Thanksgiving and it worked. I made a list beforehand of my favorite holiday foods that I knew were going to be there. (it helps when you know your party) It just helped remind me what it is I would really enjoy and helped me avoid “wasting” my cheat claories. I am doing it again for Christmas. just so when i am standing next to the chips and dip (i don’t really like chips and dip) I will be less likely to mindlessly put them in my mouth. There will be a trigger in my mind that says, “wait-don’t eat those when you really want your mom’s pierogies!” It might help keep you more focused and mindful of your eating.
I don’t feel good when I try to compensate the next day after a binge. That means i wouldnt feel go for TWO days! Yesterday I was at a party and I ate a big pizza of about 1000 calories. But I haven’t eaten pizza for a year. So today, I don’t care anymore. I like to considered it a one-day diet break and now I’m right back to it
Id never skip the next meal because I love food too darned much! LOL! The best thing to do is just PLAN for those treats and then no worries! ;)