Eating on Holidays: Finding a Healthy Balance
How to Have a Holiday.
It really shouldn’t be difficult. But not every holiday can be a WOD Holiday! And as this Bank Holiday weekend approaches, I just wanted to throw out a few recommendations for enjoying yourself and not stressing about your food or fitness, while at the same time not throwing all your hard work, dedication, and diligent eating habits out the window.
When it comes to special occasions and holidays with family and friends, you have to be able to set realistic boundaries and limits. What this looks like will be different for different people and different circumstances. But it’s important to note, your choices when it comes to celebrations and holidays don’t have to be all-or-nothing, black-or-white, feast-or-famine. There is such a thing as finding the grey area. Enjoying time off, indulging, and having fun with loved ones is a very balanced and mentally healthy approach to holidays and vacations. Don’t stress. For most normal people’s goals, a variable few meals over a few days is not going to make or break the bigger picture of your long term healthy lifestyle. So get some perspective and relax a little.
Does this mean you should go all out and binge until Tuesday? ABSOLUTELY NOT! It’s important to be able to enjoy life, but it’s also important to be mindful of the choices you make–and especially the consequences of those choices. If you decide to go on a drinking and food binge (been there, done that, and it may happen again some day…), be prepared to suck it up and accept that you may get sick, your training will be impacted, your fat loss efforts will be stalled, and it may take in the magnitude of several days to recover and get back on track of the clean-eating train. (Okay, I’ll admit I’m specifically speaking about my own personal experiences here.) However, if you want to try and stay the middle ground, minimize the negative consequences, but still have a good time, here are a few tips:
Tip #1: Do not skip meals! Even if you know you will be indulging later in the day, skipping a meal will just set you up to overeat even MORE when the time comes. Eat your typical nutrient dense breakfast and/or lunch with adequate protein and healthy fats–include some complex carbs to keep you satiated. Don’t skip your protein. Even if you’re traveling, you can typically request eggs from any B&B or restaurant. Heck, don’t be afraid to bring your own protein bars or supplements for shakes if needed in a pinch–but hopefully you won’t have to resort to that! A lot of the fun of hols is enjoying the cuisine. If you’re staying at home for a holiday weekend, but plan to relax your ‘rules’ a little for a fun night out, eggs and spinach with avocado make a great start to the day. Throw in some sweet potato or porridge if you managed to fit in a training session. Just be sure to eat something healthy to prevent becoming a ravenous beast when you do head out later in the day–especially as you pass by that pastry shop window…
Tip #2: Only indulge if it’s worth it: When you do pass that amazing pastry window on holiday with your family or loved ones, it might be appropriate to deviate from your typically healthy regimen in the name of LIVING. If you do decide to treat yourself, you have a couple of options:
Cheat clean! (as the kids like to say). Many restaurants and shops these days offer better-for-you options or paleo friendly desserts that can both satisfy that desire to treat yourself, while simultaneously minimizing the negative consequences you may feel physically. If you find you feel better when you avoid grains or gluten or dairy, ask if they have any grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, or paleo options. It’s becoming more commonplace. But keep in mind, dessert is still dessert–even if it’s ‘natural’ or paleo. ‘Paleo’ is not synonymous with ‘good-for-you’! And ‘natural’ doesn’t really mean anything at all. But if it makes you feel better, go for it.
Splurge on QUALITY. Choose whatever sugar-laden, wheat containing, masterfully crafted, whipped cream topped extravaganza is calling your name. If you decide to go for it, make sure you’re not settling for mediocre. Stay away from the day-old pastry from the convenience store that’s dried out and stale just because you’re hung-over and want to stick something–anything–in your face. If you’re going to eat something that’s not particularly good for you, the least you can do for yourself is make it worthwhile and don’t ‘waste’ it on some sub-par, low-quality, made in a factory, piece of crap. Also–you’d better damn well make sure you enjoy EVERY. SINGLE. BITE. Guilt free. Who knows? You may find you don’t even need to eat the whole thing to be satisfied!
Tip #3: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Whether you’re traveling or staying in, it’s still crucial to drink plenty of plain old water. Shoot for a minimum of 20 mL of water per kilogram body weight. If in doubt, at least 1.5 liters of water a day is a good starting point. Buy bottled water from a shop or convenience store first thing upon arrival at your destination and keep it stocked in your room. If you’re traveling somewhere by plane, DEFINITELY bring at least a liter of water on board with you. Carry an empty water bottle through security and refill it on the other side if you don’t want to buy the expensive airport water. Throw a bottle of water into your purse or bag and bring it with you. Ask for water in cafes and restaurants, and when it comes to bars and pubs…
Tip #4: Alternate alcoholic drinks with water. If you’re drinking alcoholic beverages on holiday, it’s especially important to drink adequate water. By alternating drinks of water alongside your drinks of booze, you’ll not only consume fewer empty calories, but you’ll also help minimize the dehydrating effects of the alcohol and potentially soften the misery of a subsequent hang-over. Additionally, when possible, try to stick to clear spirits mixed with club soda or fizzy water (i.e. no sugar) with a squeeze of fresh lime. It’s best to avoid sugar-laden cocktails and mixers.
And when dining out:
Tip #5: Order vegetables with your meals. Just because you’re dining out doesn’t mean you have to forgo the ‘good-for-you-stuff’. You can enjoy a nice meal out, but also request extra green vegetables or an extra side salad instead of the bread or chips that often come with a meal. Unless it’s a super fancy place where the food is expertly crafted and the dining experience IS the experience, then be sure throw in a polite, “Please hold the sauce and dressing on the side, thank you!” Common courtesy is nice when making special requests while dining out. And don’t be afraid to ask for what you need–most places are very accommodating.
Tip #6: Make time to exercise. If you can drop in to a local gym or CrossFit affiliate, that’s awesome! If not, do the best you can to incorporate a quick workout in your room (or better yet find a park or beach). Push-ups, planks, jumping lunges, air squats, and burpees require nothing but your body and a tiny bit of floor space (and a heap of motivation)–and you’ll feel so much better after taking a few minutes to move and get your heart rate pumping. Alternatively, go for a run–sometimes that can be the best way to see a new city or town. At the very least, get plenty of active recovery on foot by walking, hiking, or cycling around your holiday destination.
No matter how you choose to spend your holidays, whether a more relaxed approach is on your agenda or you feel better sticking to your regular structured food and fitness plan, be sure to have fun and make the decision to have NO guilt–no matter what choices you make. Also, keep your fingers crossed for an opportunity to get outside to enjoy some nice sunny weather!
By Coach Kortney
For more tips on nutrition check out Kortney’s website