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Manage The Festive Season: Fitter not Fatter

8/26 15:53:12

     I have been thinking about Christmas a lot recently, and the effect it has on people. So many people have kind of given up on their nutrition and training, misguidedly assuming that all the parties and special celebratory meals will mean we are bound to gain body fat between now and New Year, and thus have decided to forget about it till the New Year...  

But that is crazy!  ANY fat loss programme should have space for the odd splurge, and this time of year need not derail you completely, if at all!  

The important thing is to make sure that you are especially good at the times when you can be, and save the splurges for the parties and events.  And also, when you are there, make sure you don't just eat everything in sight, but truly enjoy the things you really love!  Savour them, and don't bother with the things that you can have any day of the year.    

You can visit the blog below to get your copy of the grid, or just make your own, a column per day and row per meal. Then just fill it in throughout the week!  

I have a couple of clients at either end of the spectrum of compliance for which this chart has been super useful.    

One has changed loads about her nutrition and is doing really well, but the odd treats are still sneaking in.  This means she isn't losing as quickly as she would like, and she is getting frustrated.   

When you use the grid, you tick or cross each meal depending on whether it was compliant to your particular nutrition plan for that meal.  If you have a dessert you shouldn't have had after a healthy meal, that is a cross.  If you eat double your calories, that would also be a cross.  I personally 'double cross' on a Friday and Saturday at the moment, as I have some wine with my meal both days, and also have a (usually healthy but sometimes naughty!) dessert.     

Looking at the grid put this into perspective: the client above was hitting 60-70%.  Fine for maintenance, but not for fat loss!  For that you need to be hitting 90% ideally.  If you eat 4-5 times per day then you have 3-4 meals / snacks you can not be 'compliant' to your plan, and still be at 90%!  So you should (so long as you don't count a huge meal out as one 'cross' on the grid and do that 4 times a week!) lose body fat and be well on track, without having to be 'perfect'.

On the other hand, I had a client who lost 7lb pure fat in 3 weeks but was totally gutted as she had 'totally blown' her diet over the weekend.  When I probed, it turned out she'd not had a huge binge at all, but just one meal (I'd actually count it as a snack, and no-where near a binge!) on the Saturday that was not on her plan.  The guilt she felt led to her having a similar meal twice on Sunday, so by the time I saw her she was feeling terrible!

But if she had just put a cross on her grid on the Saturday, seen she had been perfect the entire week, she would have realised she was well on track!  And probably would have not had the repeat experience the next day! And in fact, she still hit 90% as those were the only 3 meals / snacks off plan the whole week.

What this chart does is help you get a bit of perspective on things.  An 'all or nothing' mentality is one of the most destructive when it comes to nutrition and training.  It gets us quick, short term results, but then the 'nothing' part hits on the training side and the 'all' hits the nutrition and things take a nose dive!  But equally, you can't just ignore the little treats that can all so easily sneak in each day, around an otherwise healthy diet.

Over Christmas, you might decide maintenance is your plan.  In that case you can allow yourself a bit more leeway for a couple of weeks, say that 60-70% compliance.  You can choose the events you want to have a 'splurge' on and plan what that might be, and make doubly sure all other meals are on track.  I find that once you change your lifestyle to more healthy foods, you will be suprised at how this becomes easier - even on holiday when I think I'm really 'off plan' I still hit at least 60 - 70% as I just prefer healthier foods, and don't like feeling low on energy and sluggish.

You can tighten up to 95% the weeks where you don't have much on, and of course in the New Year (I can't this year as a busy Jan / Feb which is helping keep me on track over the festive season!) to speed things up or just balance things out a bit when you get the chance, but you no longer have to think 'I'll start on Monday' or 'I'll be super strict in January'. 

Just think, you can actually enjoy January this year!  You won't have let yourself lose it totally, because you have indulged a bit, so you won't have to 'pay the price' in the New Year.  You can maintain a sense of calm and balance about the festivities, knowing you are still on track!   

Copyright (c) 2009 Caroline Radway

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