Toxic Diet Culture?

Today I saw a post referring to calorie counting / losing weight (dieting) as toxic.

Toxic!

In 2022 can we please stop referring to anything we don’t personally like as toxic? Because whilst calorie counting may not be right for everyone that doesn’t mean it’s toxic. same with weight loss.

Now, quick caveat, there are people for whom calorie counting isn’t a good idea, it can indeed for some become obsessive and be damaging. For those people yes calorie counting is not to be encouraged.

But for many calorie counting is the most simple straight forward, cost effective and practical way of creating a calorie deficit – which if you want to lose weight – is what you need to achieve.

So let’s reframe the notion that calorie counting is toxic. Calorie counting is simply a method of tracking energy intake which for some people will work well but whom for some may not be beneficial.

Swimming is a very good way to exercise. Except not for me, because I can’t swim. Does that mean swimming is toxic and a bad way to train, because it doesn’t suit me? Pretty sure everyone reading said no in their head just then.

Very few things in life are in themselves toxic, our relationship with something may well be toxic, that doesn’t mean it is also toxic for everyone else.

Diets get a bad rap, because traditionally they’ve been seen as restrictive and not sustainable. That’s really not the case these days. Most coaches will encourage sensible calorie deficits and won’t suggest you cut out food groups or stop eating your favourite foods.

Diets are just using a bit more energy than you consume each day to create a physical change in your body. Unless you’re doing that to please someone other than you it is not toxic.

Certain things might be a bit triggering to us personally, that doesn’t mean they’re automatically toxic, I think it’s a bit unhelpful to ourselves not to recognise that, as it puts all the responsibility for our reactions onto society, when in reality we can’t control what other people say or do so we have to instead look to control how we chose to react to it.

Christmas Eve Eve

Christmas Eve Eve.

Officially now the time when all food consumed, bar a bit of a roast on Christmas Day, is chocolate based.

Train if you want to train, eat a vegetable or two if you fancy. Or don’t.

There will be lots of posts from people like me after Christmas about how to get your fitness goals on track but let’s face it, after the last twelve months, we all deserve to celebrate as we see fit.

And if anyone tells you otherwise just make sure there’s some wine and cheese to and and tell them you’re in a business meeting.

Should you train over Christmas?

Should you train over Christmas?

It’s really up to you. One the one hand if you want to take a break, relax and do nothing that’s perfectly fine. Equally if sticking to your training exactly makes you feel better there’s absolutely no reason you should feel bad about still training on Christmas. You just don’t want to get to the point where you are running a half marathon on Christmas Day because you feel like you should.

This is the thing about training on holiday / over Christmas / during celebrations. There’s a difference between doing it because moving makes you feel good and doing it because not doing it will make you feel guilty. I personally will do something over Christmas, I genuinely enjoy a little 20 minute run on Christmas morning, it sets me up for the day and the fresh air and movement just makes me feel good. I’ll probably go to the gym on Boxing Day or the day after, again because it’s my favourite time to train, I’m not in a rush to get somewhere else so can really focus.

I think that’s the sign that you train in a way you like. If the thing you normally so in the gym feel like a punishment that you deserve a holiday from maybe it is time to try some new things and do something that makes you feel good, you enjoy, you actually kind of want to do, even if you occasionally have to drag yourself to it initially.

Even then if you want to take a break over the holidays do it. See training as a complimentary thing in your life.

Advent Calendars

I may have just opened 13 windows of my advent calandar in one go.

I only got given it today (Covid has a lot to answer for).

I was going to open 2 windows a day.

Then I sat and opened all 13.

At this time of year you can exercise control or you can accept that you will eat more and probably move a little less. 

And that’s ok because we want to look after our bodies to be able to live, not live to train and diet.

If you want to stay strict and controlled this month do, don’t let anyone make you feel bad for that.  But if you don’t that is also ok.  You don’t have to go crazy in either direction, but if you want to, then eat all the advent calendar chocolates!

Best Christmas Fitness Tip

What’s the best fitness tip I can offer for the Christmas period?  If you were to think about nothing else related to your diet or training across December.  Something hat would make you feel better.

Hydrate!

Staying hydrated all year is important but as December festivities commence we often drink more alcohol, more Christmas Coffees and as a result end up drinking less water.

Yet because of the increase in alcohol very often more water is exactly what we need.

So if your training goes out the window.

If everything you eat is Christmas food related.

Still try and drink plenty of water each day.

It will make you feel better if you have a hangover, be it foor or alcohol related. 

How much water – aim for around your weight in kg x 0.033.

So if you weigh 80kg that’s 80x 0.033 = 2.64 litre.  So between 2.5-3 litres a day.

If you exercise for an hour try and an extra 0.5 litre.  If you’re hungover maybe try and increase a bit too.

1 pint glass of water is about 0.5 litre.

Keep things simple whilst your busy over Christmas and aim for small wins.

How Strict Should You Be Over Christmas?

How strict should you be with your diet over Christmas?

A question that is asked every year again and again and will always garner some varying answers. Some will argue you should continue to track, offer ideas for damage limitation. Others will be aghast at this and say this is extreme and Christmas should be enjoyed.

Now let’s be honest here.

If you are happy where you at, are not working to lose weight or towards any specific goal and want to binge eat mince pies from 1st December then go for it.

If you are trying to work towards a goal however that mindset is likely to leave you feeling a little crap by January. What might be a more balanced approach is to decide in your mind when Christmas actually is. Because Christmas is really the days between, say, 24th- 26th December maybe even 24th- 31st December. The rest of December is the Festive season sure, but not actually Christmas.

So a strategy of:

  • Not tracking at all and eating whatever you like between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day (or New Years Day)
  • But tracking for the rest of December so you are aware of what you’re eating
  • Yet also being aware that you might not hit a deficit or even maintenance every week because you’re still going to be going to events and celebrating with friends
  • But being aware that by tracking you probably won’t go madly off track every single day and you’ll feel in control which in itself can stop you from going on a mad binge
  • When you do go out you can then chose whether you just eat whatever you want or if you decide to follow damage limitation strategies (not depriving yourself but substituting full fat mixers for diet, having a small wine instead of a large, lining your stomach or pace yourself so you’re less likely to eat a kebab shop on the way home and so on).

The upshot is in December if you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner there are 93 meals. If you eat whatever you want between 24th- 31st December that’s 24 meals. That’s 25% of your month. If you are sensible (not strict just not a dick) for 75% of the month to be honest you’ll start 2022 feeing pretty good.

So how strict should you be over Christmas- the answer is not strict at all but Christmas isn’t 31 days long unless you want it to be!

What Day Is It?

The bit between Christmas and New Year. The bit where days merge into one, nobody really knows what day it is, what time the shops shut and the fridge is still full of Christmas food meaning the food coma kind of just rumbles on.

This is the week you might well feel a bit rubbish, fat, unfit and generally feel the urge to commit to a month long detox in January where you consume only lemon and water.

Of course in actual reality your body does a pretty good job of ‘detoxing’ itself and actually just eating and training in moderation will make you feel better pretty quickly and be far more enjoyable.

People tend to like extremes. A diet doesn’t work unless we go from whatever size we are to emaciated stick in three days, a training programme doesn’t work if you can’t go from couch to marathon in three sessions. If it doesn’t have a label on it that says natural, vegan friendly and detox on it it isn’t goo to be effective.

These things don’t last though. When was the last time you made a drastic New Years resolution and actually stuck to it?

You know what does last? Finding a nice little routine that works for you.

I love food. I eat a lot. No point in being restrictive – I just ricochet the other way. I also enjoy moving. Running, lifting, classes – movement makes me feel good. So I move.

I’m writing this on an exercise bike in the gym – some people here are clearly working off their Christmas. Me – I felt stiff after a few days of largely sitting and wanted to move. I didn’t need to guilt myself to coming here – I wanted to, I woke up looking forward to it.

This January find yourself something for your body and mind that will make you feel good. Doesn’t matter if there is something my else that would be more ‘effective’ for fat loss or fitness. You’ll stick to the thing you look forward to doing, the thing that you feel great after doing. You won’t stick to the thing you ‘should’ do.

Then next year when Christmas is over (and we are in tier 784) you’ll be heading off to do that thing that makes you feel good for moving and not thinking about what you can do in January to feel less like baby elephant.

Christmas Over Indulgence

It’s Christmas. Christmas means food right… and by the end of a few days of eating feeling like we’ve massively over indulged.

Now, Christmas or not, we all have days when we over indulge – whether that be food, alcohol or both.  It shouldn’t be a case of trying to never do that because that would make life pretty miserable.  We can however choose to respond more positively to these over indulgences so we don’t sabotage our results in the long term.

So what do you do if you feel like you’ve massively over indulged to stop yourself feeling rubbish?

Do drink more water

Depending on how you over indulged you may be dehydrated, but regardless extra water will make you feel fresher.

Don’t do extra exercise

Avoid using exercise as a punishment for over eating as this will create a negative association with training, plus if you have a hangover exercise isn’t really what you want to be doing.

Do use the extra calories to fuel your next workout

Whilst you don’t want to add extra training in you could use those extra calories to push yourself harder in your next scheduled workout and come out feeling really good, or you could take yourself on a long walk to get some fresh air, sunlight and move a bit which almost always makes you feel better.

Don’t starve yourself

Punishing yourself by drastically reducing your calories in the days after will create a negative cycle of eating.  You could look to slightly reduce your calorie intake for a few days subsequently (couple of hundred calories max) but reducing what you eat dramatically to make amends will only make you feel worse.

Do eat nutrient rich / dense foods the next day

Eat foods that will both fill you up and make you feel good the next day, making you feel better without starving and allowing you to mentally get back on track.

Don’t skip meals

By the same token don’t purposefully skip meals to try and compensate.

Do Move on

One bad meal or day doesn’t define your diet overall, so rather than punish yourself for it look at it as a day / meal you enjoyed and focus on the next day / meal instead.

Don’t scrap the rest of the week

Try moving on straight away instead of saying well I may as well start again Monday now.  This essentially ensures damage limitation.

Training Over Christmas

Do you plan to train over Christmas? Do you normally train over Christmas?

I like to go for a short run on Christmas Day, less for exercise purposes and more to get a bit of fresh air and loosen up my body (which is almost always stiff after sitting on trains travelling cross country) and I like to get a gym session in on Boxing Day if I can, again because it feels good to move.

Some people of course prefer do nothing over the festive period and others like to stick to their normal training routine completely.

One thing that I know can be common for people who do train habitually as part of their every day life and who chose to train in anyway over Christmas is that others can find this strange and make comment on it. That might be because they are visiting family they don’t normally stay with and who aren’t used to them making time to train, or it might be because family members feel they should instead be spending that time doing Christmassy things or that they should be taking a rest because it’s Christmas.

Throughout the year people who train often can find confused reactions from those in their life that don’t, generally overtime the people important in your life will understand you needing to take time to go to the gym each day, but like many things, this reaction can feel heightened at this time of the year (where festivities are supposed to over take everything in our order of priorities). If you don’t enjoy training it can be genuinely baffling why someone would choose to go for a run or to the gym when they have the perfect excuse not to.

The same can of course apply to your diet. I don’t mean your calorie deficit, i just mean your daily intake of food. You may for instance have decided to eat normally until Christmas Eve but if you decide to not partake in all the chocolate and Christmas foods that always appear from 1st December you can be classed as odd, boring and obsessed. It can hard for those who love Christmas foods (I count myself as one of this camp) to understand why others don’t seem to.

If you are someone who wants to train over Christmas don’t feel guilted into not doing so or bad for taking a bit of time out to move if that’s what makes you feel good. If you aren’t one of those people just know that exercise is rarely just about exercise and many people who chose to train over Christmas will be doing so because it brings about a lot more benefits than just burning a few calories, and if you let them have that hour without making them feel bad for it the rest of the day is likely to be a lot more enjoyable!

Finally – Christmas will be a lot different to normal for many this year, so if you need to train to help with whatever has happened – do!

Eating Over Christmas

We often get stressed about what to eat over Christmas. Parties, drinks, meals out, mince pies and the seemingly never ending stream of food on Christmas Day itself can create a feeling of guilt and overindulgence which makes us feel fat and wretched.

When you think about it, Christmas is one day, three if you count Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. Yet we often spend the whole of December muttering about how much we’ve eaten and how much we are going to need to go on a diet come January. There are various ways you can approach food over the festive season, whether you give up all pretense of eating anything that resembles a vegetable on the day you open the first door of your advent calendar or continue to strictly count every calorie berating yourself for the mince pie you accidently ate last Tuesday.

Now either of these might work for you and if you want to do them you are free to do so, we all suit different ways of eating. But there is such a thing as the middle ground.

Do you want to abstain everything you would enjoy over the month of December? Probably not, but equally even the most level headed person would probably feel some guilt over eating like an unsupervised child in a sweetshop for four weeks straight. But what about picking certain days to forget the tracking (the three big days, those days when you’ve events planned) and during the rest of the time eating normally.

Now I get to the idea of eating normally – because when I say eating as normal, that doesn’t mean not having those Christmas treats- because those treats can be part of your normal diet. Whether it be Christmas or any other time of the year having flexibility in your eating is the way you will most likely see success and find you working towards your goals.

That’s not to deny that Christmas can be a more challenging than other points of the year. Maybe you need to put some extra strategies in place to help you eat normally and not go mad. Perhaps you have a big brunch before that last minute shopping trip to avoid the need to stop and grab high calorie fast food options, perhaps you decide what days you’ll have that creamy Christmas coffee instead of your normal black coffee rather than replacing every coffee with a Christmas alternative. If you have lots of celebrations planned (less likely this year lets face it) maybe you pick some to not drink to reduce your alcohol calories of hangover food feasts. These type of tactics to help you stick to your goals can help at any point of the year though, so shouldn’t be thought of as specifically Christmas related.

So my diet message for Christmas is, think of this time of the year as no different from any other. Some days you will want to relax your focus and eat ALLL THE FOOD, but if you eat normally all the days around that you can still reach your goals. A few days a month of not eating within your calorie range will not undo everything – at any time of the year.

If you try and take away the mental association we tend to have of overeating and Christmas going hand in hand we can enjoy the festive period without feeling like we need to repent in January.