Although I am writing this article with Christmas in mind, it can be applied to any time throughout the year when you will be ‘going off plan’ or eating more than usual (e.g. birthdays, parties, family gatherings).
I’m going to attack this from two different angles so I can cover all eating habits. Calorie or macro counters (you track the food you’re eating) and intuitive eating or non calorie counters.
Let’s start with those of you who count calories and stick to a macro based diet. This style of eating will make this time of the year much easier for you to control and try to limit damage to your physique. It is as simple as making room for an increase in calories on a certain day(s) by lowering the amount of calories you eat in the week running up to the social event (Christmas party or Christmas Day). Let’s take an individual who eats 1750 calories a day with a macro split of 125g PROTEIN, 200g CARBS and 49g FAT. For this individual I would drop 20g of carbs and 5g of fat EACH DAY for 5 DAYS leading up to the event. This is a 125 calorie drop per day meaning that the individual has 625 calories ‘extra’ to consume on the day of the event. This will give them a total of 2375 calories for that day. Notice that protein stays consistent throughout, DO NOT drop the amount of protein you are eating to make space for more food on the event. If 125 calories a day (625 calories extra for the event) is not enough of a buffer then work out exactly how many calories a day are needed in order to hit your calorie buffer target. Remember that carbs are 4 calories per gram and fats are 9 calories per gram. If you are looking for a 1000 calories buffer for Christmas Day then you’ll need to drop 200 calories per day in the 5 days leading up to it. This would look like 25g of carbs and 11g of fat per day.
You do have flexibility with this method of a ‘harsher’ drop in calories by reducing the calories you eat the day before. However, protein should be kept the same as you normally eat, which could mean you eat nothing but lean protein and vegetables for that day.
If you eat like a pig and drink like a fish and completely blow your calories for the event out of the water then you should do the same drop in calories for the days after the event as you did before. Using our example above, this individual would drop 125 calories a day for the 5 days leading up to the event and drop 125 calories per day in the 5 days after the event, leaving protein consistent throughout.
For those of you who don’t count calories and just eat intuitively or what you think you should be eating then the method is similar to above. Except, instead of working with exact calories and macros, you will take out food items that are consistent in your daily diet. Things like pieces of fruit, breads, cakes, biscuits, bagels, bowls of cereal, handfuls of nuts, chocolate….you get the idea. If you are eating these things regularly in your diet then dropping 2 to 3 items each day in the 5 day build up to the event will create a similar buffer to that stated above. The higher the calorie content of each item of food that you drop higher the buffer you’ll get on the day of the event. If you have some chocolate, nuts and a banana every day then simply dropping these items from your diet for 5 days could save you 100-300 calories (portion size dependent).
Once the event has passed, you can get back on track to your normal diet.
I will say that tracking macros makes this kind of thing much easier. As you have consistent data to work with and it makes the reductions and manipulations in calories much easier. If you are unsure of how to go about eating with a macro calculated diet then I have written a couple of previous blogs to help you, linked below:
Even though this tactic will help you during times when you are going to eat more than normal, I have to state a few facts. An influx of calories will cause you to put on weight in the short term. You may look ‘fluffier’ than normal and weigh more due to the increase in food volume and possibly holding more water. This will return to normal after a few days as long as you return to your normal diet and exercise routine. Just something to bare in mind if you’re wanting to feast for a day or two. My last point is that you don’t need to eat as much as physically possible for a couple of days just because it’s Christmas or your birthday. Eat what you want on this day but you don’t have to eat everything in sight. Enjoy your Christmas dinner, have some dessert but once you are full – stop eating! You don’t have to eat an entire box of chocolates as well just because YOLO. In my opinion, this binge eating is as much of an eating disorder as avoiding food on Christmas altogether. Pace yourself, enjoy yourself and don’t be a pig.