This week I started back at work and my well rested PT clients were a little shocked to see the Skinfold calipers out on their arrival. Cruel? sadistic? maybe but why should I behave any differently just because it's the start of a new year?
Most clients were measured pre holidays to assess their progress to date and assessing after the break provides useful feedback regarding how well each person manages flexible exercise and dieting. The holidays introduce a range of different challenges: change of routine, different access to food and exercise options, increased socialising which invariably includes increased exposure to alcohol and party food, plus the expectation of friends, family and yourself to indulge. In addition, there can be a multitude of distractions not normally encountered during a working week that make planning difficult.
Is it ok to just let yourself go during your holiday?
Obviously this is a matter of opinion, and as this is my opinion piece here is my chunk of it.
It depends on a variety of factors:
1. Length of Holiday- During a short holiday of 3-7 days it could be beneficial or at least not deleterious to your goals to completely abandon your usual exercise and nutrition routine. You may have been training consistently at great intensity, accumulated a number of injuries (especially for those cross fitters), or motivation might be waning. Sleeping in, watching lots of DVD's eating your favourite junk food may just be the slothitis to propel you into healthy living with new enthusiasm.
If your holiday is four weeks that could be in excess of 4 kilos gained, plus the kilos you are already trying to off load to the universe. The next 2 months could be spent paying off your holiday fun with sweat and more sweat.
2. Level of debauchery- clearly if your idea of letting yourself go is having dessert at Christmas and a few drinks at New Years there is not much to worry about, but if your holiday looks like one continuous fast food menu with beers, wines and cocktails to match, it may be wise to make some exercise progress payments during your holiday.
3. Personal Goals: having 30 kilos to lose or preparing for your first ironman event would probably indicate that the holiday should be spent dedicating spare time to a more focused eating and exercise regimen. When maintaining health, weight and fitness, having a week off is not going to be a major disaster. Keep in mind however that losing the positive habits you've gained may take awhile to reacquire after a break particularly if you're the sort of person who took awhile to get on the healthy band wagon.
4. Amount of weight loss required. Recommended weight loss is somewhere around 1 kilogram per fortnight, of course the Biggest Looser contestants achieve far greater loses than this, however 75% of them regain their weight after filming stops. With 52 weeks in the year, that's approximately 26 kilos a year of weight loss. If your weight loss is in the big figures, a more permanent and consistent lifestyle change is essential.
5. Effectiveness of metabolism. A fast or high metabolism can clearly burn more calories, that friend you have who's preparing for the marathon is always eating right? And if you go away on holidays with people like this you'll find them indulging in a regular dessert etc. without obviously gaining weight. If you have a metabolism that is around 1200 calories, eating pancakes for breakfast, a burger and fries for lunch, plus a dessert and a cocktail in the evening can really push you above what your capable of burning off.
As a trainer I am passionate about building great metabolisms that can burn up as much calories as possible. In all my years training clients (20 years), I have only ever encountered one Client who did not enjoy food. Spending time developing a healthy metabolism is an awesome weight loss tool and will help minimize that holiday blow out.
6. Exercise work ethic. Are you 7/8th couch potato? Do you struggle to do any form of exercise? Do you constantly miss training sessions because work and family commitments get in the way? If this is the case, your capacity to repay your holiday debt is going to be limited. Whereas, if your passionately committed to your program, and you naturally do some form of exercise on most days of the week getting back into your routine for a few weeks should be all that is required to return to your pre-holiday health and fitness.
How to Avoid the Holiday Blow Out -Strategies
Before your holiday find exercise options, research food and restaurants, prepare your friends and family that you will be looking after your health over the break, before the start of each day think about where you can fit in some exercise, set food and alcohol targets.
B.Plan to exercise at the start of everyday
Your best intentions can be weigh laid by group choices but you could complete 45 minutes of exercise before most of your holiday companions have crawled out of bed.
C. Include activities in your holiday
Simply just move, whether it be lawn bowls, hiking, skiing, rock climbing, golfing, increasing your activity level will somewhat balance your increased consumption.
D. Find a gym in the area and go on the very first day and set the habit
E. Eat protein with each meal
F. Try and get some high fibre complex carbohydrates
G. Eat plenty of vegetables
H. Don't worry about sleeping in, missing meals, don't obsess!