Read this if you wish you hadn't finished that last slice of pizza.
Two weeks ago, I talked about how I got "tricked"into buying a gym membership during the holidays.
I"ve also talked about motivation for going to the gym. If your goal is weight loss, you're just not likely to go. That's behavioral psychology, bitches.
Hey, the holidays can be a great time to hit the gym. It's an awesome way to get away if you're having a frustrating time. It's something to do when you're feeling lonely or stir-crazy. Exercise also releases endorphins. It's literally a way to feel better if you're angry about how your Aunt burned the Brussels sprouts.
BUT........Thanksgiving is just one of those times when it's too easy for trainers to talk about "burning off" your food. It's just a hot mess of "fat talk" and "preventing weight gain."
In case you are feeling anxious about the Black Friday gym rush, here are some reasons that you can take a break.
1. Gyms make money off you not going.
In 2014, All Things Considered revealed how gyms need the people who don't go to subsidize people who do. For example, Planet Fitness has 6500 members, but if all 6500 of those members actually showed up, they would likely be breaking fire code.
If you're not likely to go anyway, subsidize your self-care, not the diet industry.
2. Built-in breaks are good for you.
My old swim coach used to say that you could ramp up your training for up to 12 weeks. After that, however, you might be hurting yourself rather than helping.
Since this was over a decade ago, the best source I could find to corroborate this was livestrong.com. Bodybuilders do what they call a "deloading week." This actually enhances their performance.
Maybe Thanksgiving & Christmas could be your "deloading" weeks.
3. Health is not just about EXERCISE.
Arianna Huffington wrote a whole book about this. In her book Thrive (and on other places on the internet) she explains the importance of rest. She points out that Americans leave "175 million vacation days unused." She writes, "61 percent of Americans confess to working while on vacation."
Not only are Americans not taking their vacation, but they're also working on vacation. And vacations are good for you.
Sleep and rest and love and family are good for you, too. So, if your gym routine is getting in the way of those healthy pieces of your life, it's okay to skip it.
4. Diet and exercise are not preventing weight gain in the long run.
People often talk about spiraling out of control whenever they're off their normal "routine."
Weight gain after periods of "routine" might be a signal that you are restricting too much. There's actually more correlation between dieting and weight gain than dieting and weight loss.
5. If you're not restricting, set point theory will protect you from ballooning.
Genetics play a big role in determining your weight. You might have noticed that your weight doesn't fluctuate too much even when you diet. I know I've gained and lost the same pounds over and over again.
I've talked about set point theory a lot.
But if you still don't believe me, listen to this scientist explain it.
Set point theory means that your body has a certain weight it wants to be at. If you eat extra stuffing, your set point will keep your body at homeostasis within a certain range.
6. Gaining a little weight might keep you warm in the winter.
If you're into seasonal foods, why not be into seasonal weight gain? Our ancestors wanted a little extra to keep them warm during cold winter cave nights. Winter foods tend to be heavier. They tend to be more "caloric" and lower in fiber. You might even find yourself craving something with extra fat when it's a really cold day.
If you were a caveman living in Scandinavia, you'd be hella grateful for that extra turkey fat. Maybe you can save a little money on not buying cashmere this year.
7. WHO CARES IF YOU GAIN WEIGHT?
I can't emphasize this enough. Your weight is not an indicator of health.
So what if you're not getting swipes to the right because you gained a free sweater's worth of weight? That person doesn't understand economics and they're shallow.
So, put on your sweater, skip the guilt, and skip the gym if you want to.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving!
Somehow, some way, we've intertwined weight loss with health.
Weight gain can be healthy. And it might even be healthy for you.
In order to convince you of this, I will start with the most obvious example I can think of: anorexia.
You know when you've just eaten something and you feel like you've transformed from a human being into a manatee. And not a calming manatee.
It seems like you have a little food baby inside you that is quickly taking over your cells a la Prometheus. And here's the sentence that comes out of your mouth:
"Ugh. I'm fat."
Being uncomfortably full does not mean you've ruined your life, that you're having an alien baby or that you are slowly turning into a large sea mammal. Although that might be pretty cute. Before I found intuitive eating, this uncomfortable feeling of being really, really, really full was synonymous with guilt. But it doesn't have to be.
Here's what it could be instead:
1. Feeling too full doesn't necessarily mean that you ate "too many" calories.
Sometimes, you eat rice, drink too much water and the rice expands in your stomach. Sometimes, you're digging into a large helping of Brussels Sprouts and the fiber makes you bloated and gassy. Sometimes, you eat something spicy and the water you drink to wash it down fills you up.Sometimes, if you're voraciously hungry for Grandma's famous holiday recipe and you eat it all without chewing, your stomach reacts badly because it has to do the extra digestion that your mouth and saliva were supposed to do.
This is why many ayurvedics recommend that you drink water prior to eating or drink small sips instead of gulping it down. Rice expands in water, fiber fills you up and gulping down a drink instead of chewing your food can cause a back-up in your stomach. According to webMD, soluble fiber increases digestive flora in your intestines which creates more gas in your tummy, too.
If you've filled up on water or fiber, chances are you didn't eat "too many" calories as most fibrous foods and water actually don't have a lot of calories.
2. Your body likes homeostasis AKA staying the same.
The main reason people say diets don't work is due to set point theory. This is the idea that your body has a genetic blueprint for what is a healthy weight range for you. That means if you start to fall below that number, you body slows down its metabolism and works really hard to maintain the weight that your DNA is telling it to maintain. Ergo, you keep eating less but you "hit a plateau" in terms of weight loss.
Really, restriction is what sets you up for weight gain because it slows down your metabolism thinking your body believes it's caught in a famine. So, as long as you're eating regularly leading up to a big meal, your body will likely do the same set-point thing it does to protect you from weight loss and speed up metabolism to accommodate that extra food.
3. Maybe you needed more food.
The Ancel-Keys study showed how restricting food can actually lead to a binge. If all you ate in a day was an egg and lite salad, you might be starving by 6 PM. If you go to dinner hungry, you will probably leave super full.
Eating more at night is really just your body getting its daily calorie intake. Holiday shopping or house cleaning or just being in the hustle and bustle of living your life can distract you from your body's natural hunger signals so you might have some extra calories to make up for when it's time to hit the feast.
4. Overeating once may not lead to permanent weight gain.
I'll admit that the perfectionist inside of me really struggled with writing that last sentence. I was totally there with you, dear reader. I think the question that used to pop into my head was, "What if it does, though?" I have been scare-mongered for years by women's magazines about how the 1-2 pounds that I gain during Christmas will slowly add up over the years.
In fact, your weight fluctuates for lots of reasons on a daily, weekly, monthly and even quarterly basis that may not be even related to the quantity of food you consumed. Your body might simply be doing the work of surviving, adding and subtracting water and other fluids and particles.
In the past few years, I've practiced intuitive eating and my weight has felt more stable than ever. I can't say for certain because I don't weigh myself much any more. When I do, I find it hasn't changed much. It definitely helps that I don't check very often. ; )
So enjoy the bacon-wrapped dates and jump into the pool of holiday feasts without worrying about turning into a manatee.