Most people, including your clients and soon-to-be clients, tend to wait until the New Year to start a new diet or exercise routine to lose fat. The holiday season is a critical time to jump-start your fat loss for the coming year. Although the holiday season is only a short period of time, it’s the perfect storm for unwanted fat. In fact, it’s not abnormal for a person to gain 10-15 pounds of fat during the holidays!
- Understand the importance of giving your client a plan during the holidays to avoid fat gain.
- Learn the nutritional advantages that clients can use to avoid cravings that can lead them to unwanted fat gain.
- Understand the strategic use of exercise for the prevention of fat gain.
“An ounce of prevention is a pound of cure.”
In the same way, preventing fat gain is the key to long-term fat loss. The goal during the holiday is not to lose fat, but to maintain body fat. If you can help your clients maintain body fat, they will be way ahead of the curve when it comes to losing fat in the New Year.
Monitor each client’s progress but don’t use the scale. Many times a client’s weight may stay the same, yet they claim that they look and feel fatter. This is a scenario in which muscle has been lost and fat has been gained. This fat gain doesn’t always reflect on the scale, but unfortunately may show on the body. A simple and more effective way to measure fat loss is to assess how clothes fit your body. Have your clients choose a pair of their favorite jeans, a dress shirt, etc., and advise them to try on the same clothing weekly to monitor how they fit – tighter or looser. How the same clothes are fitting from week to week may indicate whether they are gaining fat.
Not having a plan going into the holidays can have disastrous consequences. If clients are flying by the seat of their pants and have no schedule for nutrition and exercise plan, then more than likely they will gain fat. With all the parties, family gatherings and travel they’ll be surrounded by foods that put on fat fast. A strategy is really critical to avoid putting on the pounds.
Share this plan of action with your clients:
#1 Avoid Self-sabotage
Often times you have a plan but come across obstacles. For example, you have the greatest of intentions to avoid eating any sweets at a family gathering but your favorite cookies are sitting right in front of you calling your name! You resist all night but cave in at the end.
At this point many people sabotage themselves and eat the whole plate of cookies. Some may say, "forget it” and ditch the entire plan, thinking they will begin a few weeks later in the New Year. By that time, it may be 15 pounds too late.
If you screw up, just get back in the saddle and start again. There’s always a new day. Don't let a few deviations de-rail your plan.
#2 Eat Breakfast
Eating breakfast may seem obvious but many people don't think it’s important. It's really important! Most people that skip breakfast overeat at night. It's a given, if you don't eat anything until lunch your body will need more food at night to compensate. So then you will most likely overeat at night before going to bed in a few hours. This is the perfect timing for fat gain. Additionally, when people are ravenous at night, most of the food that is eaten is in the form of junk food, which worsens the situation.
What is interesting to know about breakfast is the influence it has over blood sugar after lunch. This effect is known as the “second-meal effect.” Research has proven that eating breakfast actually helps control blood sugar after lunch (Jovanovic et al., 2009). This is crucial!
Skipping breakfast may cause people to suffer the dreaded food coma after eating lunch. Many will remedy this by eating chocolate, candy or some kind of sweet snack to get them through the afternoon. The only problem is that this sets up the person to crave more sugar or junk foods in the afternoon and this can become a viscous cycle.
If breakfast is eaten, blood sugar can be controlled and the dreaded food coma will be avoided. This leads to less junk eaten in the afternoon and less cravings at night.
#3 Be a Carnivore
Protein is really key for maintaining weight through the holidays. There are two main reasons: The first reason is TEF. It stands for thermic effect of food. Anytime you eat food, the body has to use its own energy to breakdown and digest the food. Research has shown that protein takes as much as ten times more energy to break it down versus other macronutrients (Tappy, 1996). Eating protein is a great way to increase your metabolism.
The second reason is that protein will help prevent you from overeating. Protein is very satiating. Research has shown that when subjects are fed a high protein breakfast, in the form of high quality beef and eggs, they are more satisfied due to the release of a hormone called peptide YY (PYY). When protein is eaten the ileum and colon produce PYY which leads to a feeling of satiety. Another benefit of protein shown in this study was the reduction of evening snacking of junk foods such as candy, desserts and salty foods (Leidy, Ortinau, Douglas, & Hoertel, 2013).
Make sure to eat protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner. A serving size should consist of the size of the palm of your hand. Great protein sources include:
If you plan on splurging at a party, strategically eat protein before your splurge. Splurging on sugar or carbohydrates on an empty stomach will spike your blood sugar. Once it is spiked your blood sugar will rapidly drop. This drop precipitates eating excessive amounts of sugar and carbohydrates - you'll eat sugar as if you’re a bottomless pit. Eating protein will help prevent this from happening.
Being sedentary is a sure fire way to put on lots of fat. No matter how much you splurge during the holidays, continue to exercise. Splurging usually comes in the form of excessive carbohydrates such as alcohol, desserts and high starch meals. There's an old saying:
"Just burn it off with exercise."
You can't exercise off a bad diet but you can use exercise to help counteract the splurging.
Your body has two locations to store carbohydrates: liver and muscles. The stored form of carbohydrates is referred to as glycogen. Once these two places are filled with glycogen, the overflow goes into fat cells. Fat gain can be an unlimited process.
Think of your muscles as a sponge and carbohydrates as water. If you drop a sponge in a bowl of water, the sponge soaks up the water. In the same way, as you eat carbohydrates, the muscles will absorb the carbohydrates. There is one caveat though. The muscles must be like a dry sponge to soak up the carbohydrates.
Exercise is a beautiful thing! As you exercise, your muscles use glycogen as fuel. This would be similar to squeezing out the water in the sponge. Exercising will help deplete your muscle glycogen so that when you do splurge, the carbs will be shuttled into muscle cells rather than fat cells.
So no matter how much you splurge, continue to exercise and be active.
#5 Take Your Fish Oils
Most people have heard of fish oils for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes but fish oils are also great for preventing fat gain. In fact, fish oils have been shown to burn fat.
A study separated subjects into two groups and supplemented the first group with 4 grams of safflower oil and the second group with 4 grams of fish oil. After six weeks, the group that was supplemented with fish oils lost fat and gained lean body mass. What makes this even more profound is that the subjects “did not engage in consistent, systemic exercise training.” Essentially you lose fat with fish oils even without exercise. (Noreen et al., 2010).
So there you have it. There’s no magic formula when it comes to changing body composition. Make sure you implement these five strategies to jump start your fat loss before the New Year.
Jovanovic, A., Leverton, E., Solanky, B., Ravikumar, B., Snaar, J.E.M., Morris, P.G., Taylor, R. (2009). The second-meal phenomenon is associated with enhanced muscle glycogen storage in humans. Clinical Science, 117, 119-127.
Tappy, L. (1996). Thermic effect of food and sympathetic nervous activity in humans. Reproductive Nutrition Development, 36, 391-397.
Leidy, H.J., Ortinau, L.C., Douglas, S.M., Hoertel, H.A. (2013). Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese, “breakfast-skipping,” late-adolescent girls. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 97, 677-88.
Noreen, E.E., Sass, M.J., Crowe, M.L., Pabon, V.A., Brandauer, J., Averill, L.K. (2010). Effects of supplemental fish oil on resting metabolic rate, body composition, and salivary cortisol in health adults. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 7, 31.