NUTRISHOP Note: This is a multi-entry running article that will be updated daily. Check back for updates throughout the week!
OK, so we overstated things a little bit in our title there.
Hyperbole aside, there’s no getting around it, though: Hallowen represents the official kickoff of the winter holiday season — the four month stretch of typically increased junk food consumption across America every year, and it’s here in just 10 days.
Is a night of costumed kids, scantily clad adults and buckets of candy so bad? Well, for many who are trying to stick to a diet and haven’t been 100-percent locked in to the plan, yes. The temptation alone can cause second thoughts, not to mention the act of a good, old-fashioned chocolate binge for the week after Halloween (we know, you’re just “getting rid of all the extra Snickers” you bought).
This week, we want to help you prepare for Halloween, and it has nothing to do with avoiding the night’s festivities — yes, sweets included — altogether. Instead, we want to load you up with information to help you establish some firm winter guidelines going forward, so that you’ll feel 100-percent guilt-free when you do indeed indulge on Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the rest of the face-stuffing days that pepper the upcoming season.
First things first: Identify the enemy. What’s the first step necessary when you’re about to navigate a minefield? Well, it sure helps to know where the mines are. Luckily, in our case, we’ve got them clearly marked on our calendars. Go ahead and circle every big date you know is going to definitely feature some not-so-friendly food. Conveniently, each is just about spread out enough to give us ample recovery and planning time. If you’ve got some extra birthday parties or nine consecutive days of Hanukkah in there, well, you’ll have to be slightly more creative (and we’ll help you then, too). So, go ahead, do it: Make a physical list, hang it on the fridge, write it on your home office whiteboard, whatever. Just make sure you have something in writing that will serve as a reminder of turbulent dieting ahead. Again — you’re not looking to avoid the food these days have to offer, at least not entirely. You’re just planning so that each is a blip on the radar, and not part of a downward trend.
Planning the diet. Obviously, once you get your “here we go” dates marked, you’re going to use them as cheat days. The hard part — making sure you don’t have more than that one, so you don’t get a snowball effect. At first, it sounds easy enough: Sure, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, are going to be high-calorie days, but you can just jump right back into your regular, healthy diet, right? Maybe — if you don’t own any tupperware or saran wrap. Leftovers are the ghosts of our evil, delicious feasts, and haunt us for up to a week after the original meal, even longer when you’re talking about fun-size candy bars. Come up with a plan for those leftovers: Send them home with family, or find a healthier way to repurpose them (extra desserts should be part of the first group; save extra ham for hearty pea soup or omelettes; feel free to toss out leftover cranberry sauce. Ew). And remember, the candy you’re buying for the neighborhood’s kids is for the kids. If you have extra left over, you’ve got an entire school year of perfect, small desserts for bag lunches (for kids). Even better, just take them to your office, throw them in a central location and let your co-workers chow down.
On top of guarding against the junk food aftermath, you really want to be vigilant about what happens beforehand. Get your meal plan on point, especially in the seven days leading up to a day where you know it won’t be (remember, NUTRISHOP offers free meal plans for customers). Eat plenty of protein, vegetables and fiber, and stay hydrated. That way, when the Big Junk Day comes, your body will ramp up its metabolism to process all the strange, high-calorie food with minimal inclination toward storing any of it as body fat.
Planning the workouts. This one is big. Not only do holiday festivities tend to throw a lot of unhealthy food our way, but they also end up robbing us of the physical activity needed to 1) burn the extra calories and 2) maintain or improve upon the hard work we’ve done year-round. It’s an even more delicate time for fledgling healthy people, new in their goals of fat loss and hit with a massive gamut of temptation once fall rolls around. Here’s how to deal with it all.
The first step is creating a workout plan, and deciding how many days a week you want to work out. Even three good workouts a week is solid, but four to six is ideal, with a little bit of exercise every day (even if it’s a quick walk around the block with your dog or a couple minutes of jumping jacks in the morning) when you don’t go. Once you decide that, you can easily see how many workouts you have headed your way over a given time frame. For example, let’s say you started today, and wanted to get through Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas without missing a workout. Easy — scheduling a workout is a much more effective way to get in your work than deciding randomly to go.
In this case, there is a 62-day span we’re talking about, if you were to start now. Let’s cross off the holidays already as non-workout days (though you really could easily get in some exercise on Halloween — the gyms don’t close like they do for the other ones). Now we’re talking about 59 days. If you’re going five days a week, you’ll have 42 workouts in front of you. That leaves you with 17 days off. Seventeen! See? This stuff isn’t THAT hard.
Knowing that you need to get 42 workouts in during this stretch, and that you have 17 off days to burn, helps with making up for lost time along the way. Let’s say one of these days (Christmas Eve, for example) is just way too hectic, or that you’re too hung over the day after Thanksgiving. Name any reason you might miss a workout. The point is that as long as you can recover and squeeze in another one on what might’ve been a day off, you’ll be fine — and sometimes, the extra day of rest will even benefit you.