I used to have some serious problems with binge eating. I later realized I needed to take control of that part of my life. And thanks to Avatar Nutrition, I finally have. Gone are the days of hanging with my friends and eating just to eat. Now, I can eat pizza, or a burger, and not analyze how much I am crippling myself when it comes to my gains. And since I am not eating to hate myself, a lot of the guilt associated with eating once demonized foods is also gone. One thing still remains, however. The holidays are a tough time for me, and many others as well.
When you go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, there’s a good chance you didn’t take part in cooking the green bean casserole, the turkey, or the stuffing. And who knows what type of glaze they put on that turkey you’re about to eat? So if you are using something like Avatar to track your macros and progress, these types of gatherings can be rather hard to quantify. Having said all that, here are some important things to remember to not sabotage your body or your mind this holiday season.
1. Don’t punish yourself with exercise
Your training is not proportional to how much “naughty” food you eat (or over eat). Every Halloween someone on Facebook will post a picture of various awesome candies. Next to the candy will be a calorie count followed by the types of exercises needed to burn off said calories. Since you’re reading this, you already know the flaw with this. Three fun size packs of Skittles have about the same calorie content as a Quest bar. And from a fat loss standpoint, calories do matter. Create a negative energy balance, and you’re good to go. So logic dictates that if you were going to do 8 million burpees to burn off the skittles, you better do it to burn off the quest bar, too. The demonizing of foods is not an attitude we want to carry with us. Eating is just as much a social thing as it is a physiological thing. We eat and enjoy stories with our families, our dates, to celebrate and so on. So we don’t want to hate it and the good that comes along with it.
So for some reason, when people have a good time eating there is this inane need to punish themselves for it. No. Stay the course. Have fun with your family and don’t deviate from your workouts because you think you need to punish yourself. There are a few practical reasons for this:
- Some gyms aren’t opened on these holidays
- You have football to watch
- You have food to cook
- You have family to spend time with
If you have been compliant, having a big holiday meal with your family isn’t going to kill you or even sabotage your gains that much.
2. Most holiday food isn’t that “bad” for you
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, pumpkins are going to be on our mind quite often. Most of the time it will come in the form of a pie. The fact is though that despite having sugar, eggs, and condensed milk, it’s also made with pumpkin. And pumpkins are a nutrient dense food. With high levels of Vitamin A, some Potassium, and Vitamin C to go along with it, it’s a great Thanksgiving dessert option. The added ingredients don’t make it devoid of any nutrition all of the sudden. The same goes for green bean casserole. Green beans themselves are full of Vitamin C and dietary fiber. And the fact that you cook them with french fried onions and cream of mushroom doesn’t take that nutrient content away from them.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention turkey, of course. If the thought of chicken breasts sickens you, or you love poultry in general, chances are you already eat turkey anyway. Why wouldn’t you? It’s full of protein, for one. And if you are at all conscious about your health and body composition, you know how important protein is. Not only that:
Turkey is low in fat and high in protein. It is an inexpensive source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and B vitamins. A serving of turkey is a 2 to 3-ounce cooked portion. The Food Guide Pyramid suggests 2 to 3 servings from the meat group each day. 
And since it’s the holidays, live a little. Keep that skin on.
Last, and most important, my favorite: sweet potatoes. Loaded with Vitamins A, and B-6, as well as dietary fiber and potassium, they are a staple this time of the year. There’s also a good chance you eat these most of the year as part of your diet anyway. Perhaps the best part about sweet potatoes? If you don’t like pumpkin pie, you can always have a sweet potato pie.
3. To track or not to track
This is going to be individualistic and as such, will be tough to provide an easy solution for you. But, you have options here. One option is to track your food like normal. Given everything stated above—the uncertainty of ingredients and their quanities—your numbers will be guesses. At worst, they will be terrible guesses, at best they might be more accurate. Either way is ok if you decide to go that route. The most important thing is to be consistent with the numbers. If you eat a turkey leg on Thanksgiving day and have the other leg the next day, don’t let the numbers change. Keep it constant.
My preferred route is to set my Avatar on vacation mode and not track anything at all. If you have been paying attention to your macro targets for any length of time you know what various portions of each macro look like. This gives you the knowledge to plan your entire holiday plate. Not tracking is also wonderful because it serves as a break from all the math, and the general focus you have on food, allowing you to enjoy your time with your family and friends.
4. Take it for what it is
One of the perspectives that helped me get over my own binge eating problem is to take the holidays for what they are. And what are they? At the most simple level, they’re a time to celebrate being together with people you love. It’s a social gathering where people can share food, stories, and lives with each other. To that end, it’s just like any other meal, but perhaps a bit more grandiose. And just because the decorations and the people there are bigger than normal, when you strip it all down, it’s just like any other meal. Treat as such.
This treatment can include, but is not limited to:
- Eating what you like and avoiding what you hate
- Trying new things
- Having your old favorite foods
- And (at least for me) not piling my plate up to the roof with mashed potatoes and stuffing so that taking it to the table is a balancing act
I used those four above to help me overcome a lot of anxiety over the holidays and have I have not binged at an outing yet.
These are some options you have before you to help you avoid stressing about the holidays. I hope that with these options that if you do/did have problems with binge eating that they help, at least a little bit. And what if you do go overboard? It’s ok. A day of noncompliance in your overall compliant life will not be too much of a setback for you. Accept it, and move on with the knowledge that progress is not linear. Keep in mind too, that the holidays as we know them can range anywhere from one to 11 days, depending on your beliefs and practices.
If you are among the people who celebrate 11 days worth of holidays, remember that it still only amounts to about three percent of your entire year and with that time, there are all sorts of room for improvements to make. So kick back, enjoy your food and stay away from egg nog. Not because it’s calorie dense, but because it tastes awful.