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Eat What You Want: A Holiday Hack

You’d be amazed at the amount of otherwise disciplined, well-intentioned clients I have that completely lose it around this time of year.

I don’t know if it’s the change of weather (not an excuse in Singapore, since I live in a place with zero seasons), the festive decorations hung all over town, or the general increase in parties and celebratory events, but somehow everyone feels like the holiday season is a free pass to skip workouts, eat until you’re pleasantly plump, and drink to unreasonable excess.

Listen, I’m not trying to sound like a Scrooge here – quite the opposite, actually, in that I am writing this entry to the tune of Christmas carols and with a lit Christmas tree within my line of sight – but let it be said:

Christmas is one day. Thanksgiving is one day. Chinese New Year is...well, anywhere from two to fourteen days depending on how you celebrate it, but my point still stands: there are literally DOZENS of other days in between holidays that don’t warrant a complete and utter farewell to fitness and nutrition.

The folks at Precision Nutrition hit the nail on the head by calling holidays “eat what you want (EWYW)" days - a much better alternative to the term I've always hated, “cheat days” (sure, you can love your food, but jeez, you’re not married to it – you can have an order of fries and still be a good “partner” to your diet). The EWYW days simply mean that you don’t have to meal prep, count a calorie, log a gram of protein, or stress over a sip or two on a given day.

The point here is, any EWYW day is one day. For some of us, it could even just be one meal (like the very ample Thanksgiving dinner I am looking forward to this week!). It’s not an entire weekend, it’s not a whole season, and God forbid it turns into a year or two (no one needs to wake up in 2024 with an extra 20 pounds around the middle….but sadly, I’ve seen it happen).

Here are some general guidelines for holiday eating, or any EWYW day you choose to have:

  • DO enjoy an adequate serving (or two!) of the foods you truly enjoy

  • DON’T load up needlessly on crappy, low-quality foods that will only make you feel overstuffed and sluggish (do you really love those marshmallow-topped yams and canned cranberry sauce, or are they just traditional filler on the plate?)

  • DO eat slowly – the food will still be there, so take a few breaths between forkfuls to actually savour, taste and appreciate the EWYW foods you look forward to so much

  • DON’T count, log, track, or otherwise think about your food as any more than it is – a delicious way to celebrate with family and friends, fill your tummy, and make you happy

  • DO have a tipple if you choose to celebrate with alcohol, but DON’T swallow a bunch of booze on top of a bunch of indulgent food unless you’re really looking for a double-whammy hangover-and-food-coma the next day

  • DON’T leave any room for guilt – on a true EWYW day, it’s a non-issue!

  • DO make time for exercise on EWYW day (Turkey Trot, anyone?) or the day after to do a bit of energy balance control and to help the extra food pass on through

Again, guys – the holidays are indeed a time for lots of celebration and togetherness – but it doesn’t have to be only about coming together over food. Get out for a holiday charity run, prepare a special surprise for your kids, volunteer your time at a place or for a cause that needs extra help this time of year, or spend time writing cards or letters to friends and family far away.

That kind of holiday cheer is always served up low-carb and with extra helpings. ;)

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