By Registered Dietitian
on September 26, 2008
Years of misjudging your intake by just a few calories at a time will end up sabotaging your weight. For example, if you gain the average amount of one pound per year, this means you’re off by only 10 calories a day. More...
By dotFIT experts
on October 07, 2008
Dieting to lose weight is difficult at best, and generally ends in frustration for the average person. The majority of people gain most of the weight back within the first year. However, there are three strategies that have consistently proven to be effective in losing weight and maintaining the loss. More...

Cheat to Win - Weight Control in the Holiday Season

Cheat to Win - Weight Control in the Holiday Season

Be free to indulge in holiday cheer without sacrificing your fitness goals
Believe it or not, you can start the New Year in BETTER shape than you are now while still enjoying parties and seasonal foods during the holidays.

Control the CALORIES so you can cheat when you want to
Consistently controlling appetite during the holiday season is difficult at best, so I don’t even try when confronted with any holiday party – especially because I don’t want to. In fact, people always ask me, “how does anyone control themselves at parties?” and I simply say “don’t”. My advice has always been the same since my bodybuilding days: first, set a small weight/fat loss goal starting in early November. Next, cast aside all previous “dieting knowledge,” books, friends’ well-intended but generally bad advice. Stick with the undisputable truth, which is the fact that any calorie burned cancels any calorie consumed, period. And the reverse is true: any calorie NOT consumed is one that won’t need to be burned, which forces your body to burn its stored calories or fat. In other words, when it comes to weight management it’s not WHEN or WHAT you eat and do, but HOW MUCH you eat and move over any given timeframe, which in the following example will be the month of December.  So “cheating” is not cheating as long as you make it up – and that’s easy.

Control the AVERAGE daily deficit

There is a certain daily caloric deficit a person must average in order to lose a specific amount of body fat in a designated timeframe. Your average weekly weight change, quantified as pounds and/or body fat percentage, validates the size of your deficit regardless of what you think you ate or recorded.

The key during the holidays is to focus on the average deficit rather than your daily deficit. This is because you most likely will not be able to reach your goal deficit on the “party days,” but you can compensate on other days in order to remain perfectly on target. Let’s view a typical holiday plan.

Goal: Lose 2 LBS in December
One pound of fat equals 3500 calories. Therefore, for the month of December, you need to burn 7000 calories more than you eat in order to lose two pounds. And we don’t care how you do it (other than liposuction).

Insert the following formula into your dotFIT Program
Time period = 30 days; goal of 2lb loss = average daily deficit of 230 calories (30 days x 230 = approx. 7000 calories or 2 pounds). Since I am a typical working parent, we will use myself as an example: At 180 lbs with a sedentary job and exercising 30 minutes, 3 days a week, my average daily calorie burn is 2700 calories. Using the 2 pound loss goal, I can choose not to do anything different in my daily activities, which means my average daily calorie intake will have to be 2400 calories – and remember, whether I record my food intake or not, my weekly weight/fat trends will capture my true success.

Next, let’s assume during a holiday gathering I let go and consume 5000 calories (in my case some of those may have been from alcoholic beverages, which is generally the trigger that sets off much of my excess food/calorie consumption – i.e. I really stop caring what I eat and go for all the often “forbidden foods”). Theoretically I can make it up in one day by not eating (which certainly is not recommended), or by adding 2300 calories of movement, which might be difficult “the morning after.” Instead, a better strategy might be to alter two days in order to stay on track.

The two-day solution
As long as you know you are going to blow it ahead of time, prepare by cutting the previous day’s calorie intake in half. Using our example, I would consume 4 meals totaling 1200 calories the day before the event (see sample menu). I would then consume 5000 calories the day of the event, and then repeat the 1200 calorie menu the following day, bringing my three-day calorie intake to 7400. Assuming I burned my 2700cals/day average, my three-day calorie output would total 8100 and I am virtually back on track. And probably ahead of my goal because I participated in a function that went well into the night, resulting in more calories burned than if I had stayed home and gone to bed (especially if by myself).

Let’s summarize: my three-day calorie deficit total was 700 (8100 calories burned minus 7400 calories consumed) or an average daily deficit of 230 calories.  I’m still on track and had a wonderful time!  And remember, I did this all by only manipulating food intake. Every calorie I burn over 2700 during these three days can be added to the number of calories I can consume and still lose weight. For instance, if I had gone for a walk while on a phone call or puttered around the garden for an hour, I would have burned 300 calories more than normal, which allows me to consume 1500 total calories on one of the two 1200 calorie days, or I can have 5300 calories on the big night. Anyway, you get the point – the more you move, the more you get to eat (this fact applies anytime). You can also choose to make up the deficit over a longer stretch of time such as 10 days with an average deficit of 560 calories. I simply like my “pain” quick and over, (which also allows more frequent “fun days”).

Now that you know the drill, you can use it any time it’s necessary.  
You can incorporate the above process anytime you need to – just plug in the numbers and control portion sizes on makeup days. Many successful dieters have a “cheat-day” once a week.

Now you can “have your cake and eat it too” when it’s time to let go. It all comes down to a very simple adjustment – no magic, no guessing, just the facts using the undisputable laws of energy/calories.

Holiday helpers
No matter how you choose to navigate holiday meal temptations, make life easy for yourself and use dotFIT bars and shakes during the “catch-up” and “save up” periods. These foods are more satisfying than other foods of equal caloric value and allow you to accurately count your calories.

Weight management is easy when you only use the facts. And the facts are simple: calories in and calories out. Now you know the secrets used by dotFIT experts to manage their weight, and you won’t have to make the same old New Year’s fitness resolution – you will already be on your way!

Now get out there and enjoy each and every moment of the holidays!      

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