So the holidays are upon us, Thanksgiving binging has been had and Christmas binging approaches. As we indulge and eat our hearts out with family and friends, the pang of guilt can’t be fully ignored, and the thought lingers in our minds: “How much damage am I doing right now?”, “What will I have to do to balance this out afterward?”, or, more realistically, “Can I even make up for this?”.
Well, in my opinion, that’s no way to be spending the holidays. During a time that’s supposed to be focused on joy and celebration, the last thing you need plaguing you is a persistent lingering worry that said enjoyment is just going to equate to more work after the fact; I’m here to tell you that not only can you make up for it, but you can also enjoy yourself in such a way that requires no compensating for in the first place.
So what’s the “secret”? How can I enjoy my holidays to their fullest, and know assuredly that I’ll be able to bounce right back, or not even have to in the first place?
Well, sadly, the secret to making up for the holiday binge is in fact no secret at all, but rather the same core truth you’ve most likely heard parroted before: consistency, precision, and discipline. Now, this isn’t “How to avoid binging on the holidays”, this is “What can I do to make up for holiday binging?”. We’re here to tell you how you can still very much partake in the festivities, and through these principles, enjoy the best of both rather than believing that one can only exist without the other.
Assessing the Damage
First and foremost, we need to understand what it is we’re tackling here. You’ve got to take a moment and truly, honestly (a key factor most delude themselves into overlooking) assess just how far off the deep end you went. Always best to overestimate than to leave yourself falling short.
So, let’s take a moment to think back and talley up the most important factors in order to paint as accurate a picture as possible:
- How many days were we “off-plan”? Both training and food wise respectively
- How heavy was the binge?
- Was there drinking involved? And if so, how much?
All questions that’ll give us an idea of how to tackle things moving forward.
Let’s say, for example, that we’re reflecting on a particularly rough Christmas. Drinks were had, sweets were savored, and by the end of the holidays, the turkey had nothing on how stuffed you were. By answering the questions above, we’re left with the following answers:
- The night of the 24th to the night of the 31st, making a total of 7 ½ days; we’ll round up to 8.
- Not particularly abusive, just indulging in holiday treats here and there, and an “eyeballed” approach rather than strict portion control throughout.
- Heavy drinking on the main days (⅜), with only the odd glass here and there on those in-between.
Now, with this, we have the directions with which to draw up the roadmap that’ll help you get back on track, averaging out the damage done with recovery efforts made, so that your goals are no farther than they have to be.
Formulating a “Holiday Binge” Recovery Plan
We’ve got our guidelines, we know what needs compensating for, and in this next step, we’ll lay out just how to do it.
Now, for the first factor, it’ll be pretty straightforward in the sense that we’ll want to dedicate a somewhat proportionate amount of time cleaning up as we did messing up, so in this case, given the week of complacency towards our overall regime, we’ll take a starting point of a week, before our next point, which will be evaluating the intensity of the off-days themselves.
By gauging to what degree we over or under-ate, whether we at least trained those days or not, and how much it tallies up to in the end, we’ll be able to refine our plan further still. As an example, let’s say we didn’t train, and also completely disregarded our diet during this week, i.e. worst-case scenario (assuming weight loss was our goal).
For this scenario, we’ll want to overcompensate diet-wise, knocking off perhaps 20-30% of our calories, particularly from fat and carbohydrates, in that order of priority (not ever dipping below 1g/kg of bodyweight regarding dietary fats); Training-wise, we’ll want to toss in a supplemental dose of cardio, just for about the same time as was missed, although this can easily be something like a 1h walk rather than something as daunting as the Stairmaster, the treadmill, or the likes; just upping your daily energy expenditure that little bit more.
And finally, regarding alcohol intake, there are two ways in which it’ll influence the plan: directly proportional to how much was actually drunk, you’ll want to bump up the supplemental cardio (within reason), and more importantly, significantly increase water intake, should things have been particularly wild. The chronic dehydration effects of alcohol are no joke, and I’m willing to go out on a limb and assume that you didn’t make sure to have a glass of water between each drink, so I’m also going to have to insist that you get to chugging, because your body could definitely use it.
Being Prepared For Setbacks
The holidays aren’t the only time you’re going to find yourself straying from the routine, having slip-ups here and there; margin of error is a part of quite literally every endeavor we embark on, from a year-long business projection to cooking dinner for yourself each night. Maybe a partner doesn’t follow through and you fail to meet financial quarter expectations, or maybe you forget to bring down the heat on the rice and end up burning it, everything can and will get messed up every once and a while. It’s how you handle this reality that will set you apart.
Your fitness regime is just that, a regime: a system, a planned way of doing things. Within that system, you’ve got to have contingencies. Give yourself some breathing room when it comes to training, to your daily calorie count, to your weekly sessions, not so that you can fail daily without consequence, but to avoid “failing” entirely by having said mistakes factored into the plan, and adjusting accordingly.
Here’s a table with some example scenarios and respective actions that can be taken.
|Used way too much oil when cooking, and am now 200kcal over “budget”
|Run a couple of miles, or substitute rice for potatoes that evening, cutting calories in half
|Missed a Monday session, throwing off the whole week
|Restructure the week, incorporating the days into each other to compress the routine down, or train on a weekend day (exciting, I know)
|Hurt my arm, can’t train upper body this week
|Consider a deload week or alternate training such as cycling or a mobility-focused routine
|Accidentally hit the wrong weight, and am now in too deep to backtrack
|Adjust in terms of volume, or rest time, making sure to still induce some form of progressive overload
Making mistakes is ok, giving up because of them is not. Give yourself contingencies, and watch yourself grow into the consistent, fine-tuned athlete your work will drive you to be.
Truly Sticking to the Plan
As trivial as this next point may seem it’s actually crucial.
Whatever contingencies you do set up for yourself, you have to follow them. If you or your coach have decided that missing a single session a week is fine, then that’s ok, but if you haven’t, then you can’t bargain with yourself as to why it should still be ok. Establishing rules, and mustering the discipline to follow them is all we have. It is the only way you’re going to become what you can be and stop being what you were.
It can often seem like an unrealistic goal, seemingly too far off or unachievable, not yours to attain, and while that’s not true, the reason it seems that way is because for many, it might as well be, for the simple fact that it is not easy. If you want to look like someone that does difficult things, you’re going to have to play the part in order to look it. There’s a quote I’m reminded of when discussing matters like these:
“Without commitment, you’ll never start, but without consistency, you’ll never finish.” -Denzel Washington
Now, you’ve committed, you’ve taken the first big step and gotten the ball rolling, but it’s not the most difficult one. You’ve gotta keep that ball rolling if you want it to get where it needs to go, and sometimes, most times, that can be difficult, especially alone. But you don’t have to do it alone.
What to Do When It All Seems Like Too Much
Changing your physique is no easy feat in and of itself, and even less so when you’re faced with scenarios like these. The hurdles, the roadblocks, the twists and turns, they’re all obstacles that will be faced at some point or another throughout your journey, and continuously at that. There’s a reason less than 2% of the world’s population is in what’s considered “athletic shape”, meaning they both look the part and perform accordingly. And that reason is that it’s not something most people can put together alone in this day and age. But like I said, there’s no reason you have to do it alone
If you come under my coaching, you’ll take the first step toward your physical goals, with the help of someone harboring decades of experience under their belt to guide you along the way, and make sure that these obstacles you’ll face are blown past with ease. Click here, and begin a new chapter, one that’ll end with you exactly where you want to be.