By: Payton Cowan
When it comes to the holidays, a lot of people are tempted to stuff themselves like Goku and party like the Black Bulls! However, to counter the joy and carefree attitude the holidays bring with them, many suffer from constant dread of their holiday dinners ruining their diet and not being able to recover from them.
When I started lifting, every single calorie that came into my system was monitored and would not allow anything that broke my macros into my diet. The consequence was ultimately being unhappy with my life - to the point where my temptation to cheat and exceed my macro goal was higher than ever.
Your relationship with food, life and consistency of diet are why it is important to let yourself relax and enjoy the holiday meals!
Relationship with Food:
A relationship with food is one of the most important relationships that need to be maintained for someone who tracks their food. Many people get into an unhealthy practice of tracking everything that they eat, to no limit, and end up not enjoying eating and therefore harming their relationship with food. More often than not, when people track their food obsessively, their unhealthy relationship with food makes them lose touch with what food, and calories, are truly used for.
Calories, or kCal for non-American readers, are quite literally an energy unit for food. Finding a calorie amount to maintain is simply finding the energy needed from food that is most optimal for the goals of the individual. However, regardless of what your goals are - creating an unhealthy mental association with food will lead to unhealthy eating habits… that ultimately will take away from your long-term goals.
To avoid the mental trap of unhealthy eating habits, take times like holiday meals, family meals, cheat meals, etc. to relax and eat what YOU would like… rather than what your calorie mark requires you to hit. By allowing yourself to enjoy the holiday season, within moderation, you will maintain a healthy relationship with food and will be better off in attaining your long-term goals.
Relationship with Life:
Your relationship with your life is just as important as your relationship with food, and oftentimes one is indicative of the other. In my experience coaching, people who often over-track their food to the point of diet exhaustion are the same people who more often have little to no enjoyment during the holiday season due to their obsession with their goals.
While chasing long-term development is important to maintaining a healthy association with life, an over-obsession of these goals ends up hindering the quality of life and therefore hurting your goals.
Therefore, enjoying the holiday season, and giving yourself a break for a few days out of the year, increases the quality of life through a short time of relaxation. Similar to stretching/massages for recovery, allowing the mind to rest and relax is just as important.
Many neglect their mind due to the degradation of it not being felt immediately, and often when it does it is not associated with their hyper-fixation of their goals. To conclude this point, maintaining goals is important, however, it does not need to be at the sacrifice of quality of life.
Consistency of Diet:
Finally, allowing a cheat day on holidays typically leads to more successful diet maintenance. While there are some people who simply can chip away at their goals without needing time for relaxation, most people do require that in order to main a high average of consistency with goals. The goal of dieting, or most anything in life, is keeping a high average of consistency with the goal.
For example, if your maintenance calories are 3500 and you eat 5000 calories at a Thanksgiving dinner, your average calories per day are 3714.3. Notice how the average calories consume on a week with one cheat day is hardly over the maintenance calories that are typically consumed in a week.
One cheat day, every once in a while in moderation is NOT going to tank your diet. Rather, allowing a cheat day allows you to divulge into your food cravings for a day… which will, in turn, allow you to focus on your diet moving forward without the distractions of those foods that simply do not fit into the plan.
Therefore divulging in your food cravings and enjoying food for a day creates a healthy relationship with food, increases your quality of life, and those two factors, in turn, will lead to a higher probability of sticking to a diet plan.
Tracking calories heavily on holidays leads to a lack of enjoyment, a poor relationship with food, and a lower quality of life due to that. Eventually the diet will be cheated on because of the natural strive for intermittent breaks required from plans.
Setting high goals for yourself and striving for them continually is important… and certainly promotes growth for the individual. However, goals need to be taken in moderation… because tracking goals to a near neurotic level only diminishes the returns that the work put in gives.
On the contrary, allowing a day to relax and enjoy the presence of family/friends while enjoying food together facilitates a more productive environment for goal pursuit. Through creating a healthy relationship with food and a good relationship with life, you will be able to stay more consistent with your diet on average.
If you take anything from this article… it should be that anything is okay as long as it is done in moderation. Over-neuroticism of anything creates an unhealthy relationship with it and can tarnish your progress in the long term.
Hi! I’m Payton Cowan, I have been a part time powerlifting coach for 2 years now and I’ve been powerlifting for more than 4 years! I am a full time college student and a huge anime fan! My favorite anime of all time is either Violet Evergarden or Naruto.