Thanksgiving has just been upon us, and what a beautiful chance to express and reflect on all the gratefulness that seems to escape our minds throughout the year. I love Thanksgiving because I love family get togethers, and I love family get togethers because they are always filled with good food, lots of laughs, and an overabundance of love...all in one dinner!
Working in the fitness industry for 5 years now and being submersed in it for 8 years, I have heard many a confessions of what I call the "Holiday Eater". The Holiday Eater is someone who follows a very strict diet or is very conscious about what they eat throughout the year. They are avid exercisers, and are usually pretty fit to anyones standards. The number one complaint from the Holiday Eater is what they ate, how much they ate, and how bad they are going to punish themselves in the gym after any given holiday that included food (i.e., all of them).
The minute you ask them how their Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Halloween, etc, was, the first thing they'll tell you is how much they ate, and how bad they are going to punish themselves in the gym for it. They won't actually say the word "punish", but make no mistake, that's exactly what they're doing. I always think to myself after talking to a Holiday Eater:
"I didn't ask what you ate, I asked how your holiday was".
The Holiday Eater totally negates all the positive attributes and characteristics that go along with any given holiday, which usually centres around love, community, nourishment, and relaxation, and focuses on the one thing they couldn't "control"...food.
If you eat a balanced and healthy diet 90% of the time, is it really worth it to beat yourself up for a few holiday meals in the year?? When I see gym goers go into animal mode after a holiday, these are the things that go through my head that I want to get across, because you who is reading this may have the Holiday Eater Mindset:
- They missed the point on what the holiday was really about, and all pleasure is lost. Pleasure puts us in a relaxation response which enables the body to digest and assimilate nutrients efficiently (i.e., we become calorie burning machines).
- They lost sight of the fact that every now and then, it's good to have a meal that isn't regimented and one that is full of extra carbs, fats, calories, etc, to give not only the body a break from restriction, but the mind also. It's actually good for the metabolism to have meals like this every now and then.
- If they would have just let themselves enjoy the holiday meal, they probably wouldn't have felt like they needed to consume as much as they might have.
- They might have actually NEEDED to totally binge for various reasons.
- Self attack and punishing exercises puts the body in a stress response, so killing themselves at the gym is actually counterproductive to what they're trying to achieve. The body elevates cortisol and insulin when we are in a stress response, which signals the body to store fat and inhibit lean muscle growth...which is exactly what they're NOT trying to do.
After a Holiday where you may have eaten a little too much, it's better to be gracious with yourself. You didn't "fall off any wagon" because you ate two helpings of turkey dinner, you just ate a holiday meal. It's fine, just breath, and relax into what the holiday was truly about. We can get so caught up in our own neuroses, that we take everything out of what the holiday truly meant and put all the focus on ourselves. YOU ARE NOT THE CENTRE OF THE UNIVERSE, the holiday wasn't about what YOU ate, it was about family and love. Get over yourself and what you ate on a holiday...just give it up and let it go.
If you feel like you stumbled with eating, it's ok. Just getting back into a normal routine is satiating to the body and to the mind. I have to stop myself from trying to kill myself in my workouts after a vacation, but I also know it's important to keep moving, to eat healthy, and to exercise in a way that feels right to me. Do I push myself a little harder in my workouts after a bigger meal the next day? Maybe, but I try to make a habit of pushing myself every time I workout. I push, I do not punish. I don't use exercise as punishment, I use it as a chance to express how my body can move.
When I spent 4 days in New York and ate out for every meal and had food that I normally wouldn't have on a daily basis, I naturally ate a bit lighter for the following week, but I was happy to get back to my own cooking and eating foods that i prepared with my own hands, knowing that all the food was organic and sustainably grown or raised. That nourishes my mind, body, and spirit to eat that way, it's not a chore. If you tune into body wisdom, you would most likely naturally want to consume less food following a holiday to give your digestive system a rest. But you need to trust your body and listen to what it's telling you, not just immediately force it into a detox or crossfit workout just because you ate a heavier meal or two.
If you can't tune into your own body wisdom, every holiday will be a challenge for you. If you can't learn how to relax when routine gets shaken up, you will never be able to enjoy holidays or vacations. If you don't learn how to relax around food, you automatically default to self attack and punishing yourself with exercise, restrictive diets, detoxes, or whatever method you choose, after a holiday. And you choose to rob yourself of the joy, the relaxation, the pleasure, and all the love that is in that holiday.
Is it worth it?