According to the US Department of Agriculture, Thanksgiving is the most indulgent day of the year when it comes to food consumption. Super Bowl Sunday follows closely behind as the second most extreme “cheat day” of the year. As reported in Forbes, 12.5 million pizzas will be bought by Americans on Super Bowl Sunday, 1.33 billion chicken wings will be eaten and at least 325 million gallons of beer will be drunk.
Don’t expect to make progress with your weight loss or overall health when your bad habits account for more than 25% of your week.
Irrespective of holidays & special occasions, there’s an inherent tendency in American culture to overindulge on the weekends. By all means, if you don’t mind waking up on Monday morning feeling like you were force-fed battery acid and run over by a bus, then fill your boots! But don’t expect to make progress with your weight loss or overall health when your bad habits account for more than 25% of your week.
If you’d rather start your week off feeling like a winner then do away with cheat days and check out these strategies for keeping your indulgences in check. You can enjoy your Sunday Funday without the guilt and Monday Blues.
Newsflash! None of us are perfect. Whilst it might be reasonable to go out now and again without indulging, this is Super Bowl Sunday! Wherever you go to watch the game, platters of delicious treats are going to be staring you in the face saying, “eat me! EAT ME!” You will eventually succumb to temptation.
So let’s be realistic. Plan your day so you can include some treats at the party. Ask your friends what will be on offer or if you’re going to a bar think about what you’re going to have and plan accordingly. The majority of foods will be high in fats and carbohydrates. So it’s never a bad idea to save a good portion of them for the party and get some lean protein in throughout the day. If you want to stay reasonably healthy & track what you’re eating then prepare your own dish to take with you.
The bottom line, allowing yourself some treats whilst out, will greatly reduce your desire to binge and eat EVERYTHING. Remember a healthy lifestyle is all about balance & long-term sustainability. A couple treats here and there are not going to ruin your overall progress.
Keep Alcohol to a Minimum
It’s easy to forget that calories can come in liquid form too. Alcohol is not a macronutrient but it contains 7 calories per 1g making it almost as calorically dense as fat. If you’re tracking your macros you’ll want to account for your alcoholic drinks by treating them like carbohydrates. Don’t forget to also account for any mixers you’re consuming too.
Not only does alcohol eat a big chunk out of your calories, but it usually impairs your decision-making abilities, easily turning those 2 cookies you had planned into an entire plate of cookies and a slice of cake. Waking up the following day with a hangover is also unlikely to motivate you to eat well or go and train. Hello snowball effect!
If you like to have a drink or two, try to avoid cocktails with sugary mixers. Mix your spirits with club soda & fresh lime instead and be sure to space out your drinks with plenty of water in between. Ideally set yourself a limit and stick to it.
Don’t skip your workouts. If your weekends are your rest days from the gym, then no big deal. A little refeed can do the body good and may make all the difference to your performance in your next workout. But make sure you plan a workout for Monday and commit to it. Find yourself a workout buddy and set a time to meet at the gym. Having a date will make you less likely to back out as you won’t want to let your friend down.
If you can though, do your best to continue to be active over the weekend. Snacking can easily become a mindless habit when you’re just sitting around the house. If you know you’re going to be eating out and enjoying a little more food than normal, then why not work up a bit of an appetite with some quick HIIT (high-intensity interval training) style workouts. Most high-intensity workouts are short & quick like Tabata intervals (20 seconds on, 10 seconds). You could do a 16 minute Tabata circuit with 4 body-weight movements, like jumping squats, push ups, jumping lunges & sit-ups. Or ditch your usual 45-minute jog for 6 rounds of 400m sprints with 90 seconds rest in between. Short and intense workouts like these are amazing calorie burners as your body continues to burn calories for hours post-workout unlike regular cardio activity.
Eat Sensibly Before You Go
Fasting all day before a party is not a good strategy for a lot of us. We all know what happens when we go to the supermarket when we’re hungry, so why would you think going to a party on an empty stomach would be any different? The only difference is instead of filling your shopping cart with lots of delicious treats, you wind up filling your belly!
If you know you have a tendency to overeat and destroy your macros when you’re famished, then plan to eat sensibly throughout the day instead. Stay on top of your lean protein and steer clear of starchy carbohydrates like rice, bread, pasta & cereals. Having a green, protein smoothie before you go out is a great way to pack in some nutrients & keep your hunger at bay so you don’t turn up to your event like some kind of starved raptor. Give yourself a good buffer of carbs and fats as those will always be easy to come by.
Beware of the salt content of food when eating out. Bar food and fast-food in particular, contain up to half the recommended daily amount of sodium per dish with roughly 1250 milligrams. US dietary guidelines call for no more than 2,300 mg per day. Too much salt in your diet can lead to adverse side effects over time because excess sodium causes your body to hold on to water. Eventually, this leads to problems such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Aside from serious health risks, excess sodium can cause you to bloat from all the water your cells are retaining. You can pre-empt this by staying well-hydrated throughout the day and whilst you’re out. According to the Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board, most adult men and women need somewhere between 64 and 128 ounces a day. To ensure you’re meeting your minimum daily water needs, take your bodyweight in pounds and divide in half. As a general rule, I try to drink a big glass of water before I start eating to ensure I’m not confusing hunger cues with thirst signals.
Remember a healthy lifestyle is all about balance & long-term sustainability. A couple treats here and there are not going to ruin your overall progress.