The festive season is upon us and unfortunately, it doesn’t just bear gifts and joy but also many challenges, one of which is sticking to a healthy diet.
Surrounded by gooey gravy, melty, crusty baked mac’n’cheese, cloud-soft mashed potatoes, and comforting apple pie... you will get tempted.
Because you’re human.
So today I will teach you how to fast around the holidays.
But first, let's add some context here.
Why should you fast around the holidays?
A single meal, irrespective of how "bad" it was, will not really impact your body weight.
The trick is really letting that one meal not become several "bad meals."
This is particularly true of my all-or-nothing Type A overachieving ladies (you know who you are).
When your choice is only perfect or nothing…
You will usually choose nothing, throw your hands up and proceed to have several oversized meals.
This then begins to add up to excess calories and weight gain.
A classic case of the "F its"
If you can’t be perfect, then just eat all the cake.
So here are a few strategies to help you have your slice of cake, and stay on track.
First things first - you should enjoy yourself during the holidays.
Look, I’m just like you - I love food.
It brings me pleasure.
There is something beautifully nostalgic about puttering around the kitchen, perfuming the home with homemade foods passed down from past generations.
Baking, cooking, smelling all the delicious ingredients makes me insanely happy.
Plus, the festive season happens to be during the grey, cold months of the year when you simply need to have something to look forward to.
Yes, like a big holiday dinner with the people you love.
Which is why my goal is to help you have your cake and eat it too.
This is where fasting comes in.
Through strategic fasting, you will minimize fat storage and increase your body’s fat-burning and muscle-building potential.
Here are two ways to do it.
Use these 2 ways to fast around the holidays
Now, if you’re not yet familiar with intermittent fasting, check out this podcast episode I recorded last year to explain how it works.
If you know what intermittent fasting is already - perfect.
Let’s dive in.
Holiday Fasting Option 1
In the week leading up to a big holiday dinner, decrease your carbohydrate intake.
I eat a predominantly low-carb diet so, in the week before a holiday meal, I’ll drop down to almost no carbs at all.
Yep, we are talking Keto or bust.
Depending on where you are in your cycle, do a 24 or a 36-hour water fast the day before your meal.
And don’t worry - this isn’t as daunting of a challenge as it may sound.
As long as you know how to cycle your meals and workouts, a 36-hour fast would be extremely manageable.
To find out how to fast strategically according to your hormones, I invite you to check out my signature Estima Diet here.
If you’ve never fasted before, go for a 12-hour to 14-hour fast.
And on the day of the big Thanksgiving or Christmas meal, do a cardio workout where you combine Zone 2 training and High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
This workout will deplete the stored glycogen in both your liver and muscles.
So when you do eat your crusty mac’n’cheese pasta, you will first be replenishing that glycogen before storing any of it as triglycerides (excess fat), as well as feeding muscles that are repairing.
After the feast, round up your partner and kids and go for an energizing walk outside.
The post-meal walk will help with your digestion and you won’t feel super full and bloated.
It will also preferentially put the glucose from the carbohydrates into the muscles that are working - namely your leg muscles.
My partner and I, and our kids squat after dinner to get our legs moving and get that extra glucose to go into our muscles instead of being stored as adipose tissue.
Trust me, using these hacks is a lot easier than asking your parents-in-law to change their recipes and veer off their traditional ways just for the sake of your diet.
Holiday Fasting Option 2
Between homeschooling my kids and recording the podcast, sometimes I forget that there’s a holiday coming.
So I don’t have a whole week to prepare.
If this happens to you too, here’s what to do.
Jump into the fast after the meal.
Have your holiday feast, enjoy your wine, and mash.
Then, go for a walk after the meal.
And right after, go into a 24-hour or a 48-hour fast.
This will deplete the glycogen stores you have in your liver and muscles and you’ll start using fat as energy.
Continue to work out as you normally do.
This is mechanical stimulation that will help you maintain the muscle you have and get rid of the water you’re retaining.
This strategy is similar to the first one we discussed, just in reverse.
And with all of that said…
Allow yourself the pleasure of food during the holidays
Don’t deny yourself the joy of a chocolate chip cookie, a slice of pecan pie, or a bite of cheese fondue.
Don’t obsess over what carbs are doing to your body.
Because at the end of the day, you’ll have the beautiful memories of togetherness and feasting, not the blood sugar spike that the meal gave you for a few hours.
Remember it is what you do all year that counts - not so much the one-off big holiday meal.
Now if you want to avoid the several days of indulging, resist the temptation to keep all the leftovers for the next week.
Toss it and get back to your regular eating and movement regimen.
And if you’re looking to hack your way to fat burn all year round and still enjoy delicious, indulgent meals, have a look at my signature Estima Diet.