I wasn’t sure how to start this article. I knew what message, moral and helpful tips I wanted to include, but for a week I sat on it because I wasn’t sure how to entice you, until I received an email from a client midst writing.
She responded to one of my newsletters– one I wrote in December 2015, just after my 25th birthday. I immediately reread the newsletter and not to toot my own horn, but it’s quite a good story.
I’m going to share the first half of newsletter with you, which is divulges my 25th birthday weekend’s food indulgences.
“I just turned 25. To celebrate, I planned a fun weekend in New York City with my best college girlfriends. We met on a Friday night and kicked off the weekend with cocktails and home-made enchiladas at my friends Jordin’s stellar apartment, located in the heart of NYC on 5th Ave.
Going into the weekend, I knew I wouldn’t have any time to workout Friday through Sunday, but still planned to have a few cocktails. In preparation the weekend I had a Tripact protein shake with spinach for breakfast and then some tilapia and a Quest bar before heading to NYC at noon. Roughly speaking, I had about 400-550 calories, which is not a lot for me! Therefore, when Jordin said she was making enchiladas for dinner I was not only excited to have them, but also starving and knew I could enjoy them guilt-free! I needed the calories!
However, after two drinks (with St. Germain, Vodka and what I thought was diet soda), I ended up having handfuls of chips.
We’ve all been there right?
One handful turns into two, turns into seven. Then you chalk it up to a loss… right? Well, I didn’t feel bad about it for a minute.
You see, bodybuilding taught me that not only does it take SEVERAL “good days” (by “several good days” I mean more like 10 weeks) to lose weight, it also takes several bad days to gain weight. I had nothing to worry about, besides the headache I had Saturday morning when I woke up feeling hungover. Then the girls let me in on the fact that I’d consumed Gluten-filled Domino’s pizza at 2 a.m. after doing a mini-bar crawl.
I realized the diet sodas I thought we were drinking were not “diet” after all– they had 35 grams of sugar in them! No wonder I had a hangover! Nevertheless I felt under the weather until about 3 p.m. when I decided to have two large sausages with two fried eggs, brussels sprouts and bread with butter at a restaurant that was famous for sausages.
Saturday night I had more pizza and skipped the drinks. There was no exercise that day and there was not going to be any on Sunday either.
If I had wasted time feeling mad at myself I wouldn’t have shared as many laughs as I did. In the past when I’ve splurged on heavy meals, extra drinks and pizza I’d go through this incredible stage of guilt and anger. I feel so down on myself that the whole day was shot. But not this time.
In fact, if you follow me on Snapchat you saw my snaps and heard my notorious cackle in the background. It was a splendid trip.”
Fear not: you can get out of this short-term rut. But should you? Have you done anything wrong? Can you have weekends like this and lose weight?
First, read the second half of the newsletter to learn how I took about one day to recoup from my wild weekend.
“I came back to Boston, got up and ran some sprints to burn off some pent of calories/energy. After I taught a morning workout class, I went to deadlift heavy and use those carbs. After lifting, I went to substitute teach a PACKED, sold-out class.
There was moment I thought, “Crap! I am flabby and puffy and gross! Bad timing to teach a packed class!!”
I felt the softest I’d felt in a while, but instead of letting myself worry about what other people thought, I reminded myself that 3 days off might make me feel subpar, (because I like a routine of eating healthy and exercise), but it absolutely does not make anyone gain actual fat.
Seriously– a few days off only helps you recover and refuel.
I taught my booty off in class, walking around with my head held high.
My best advice is the obvious: don’t indulge every weekend because never leaves you feeling great afterward.
However, so long as you keep a level head about your indulgences and know that a few days of treats and FUN will not make you actually gain fat, you are freed. You can enjoy and move on.
It’s not an easy thing to do. In fact I was almost embarrassed to tell you about how I used to freak out about not working out.
However, I feel it’s important to share that 1) I indulge. 2) I’m not always in the gym 3) keeping a positive mind is hard but necessary if you want to keep making progress.
To make fat loss progress you really only need to exercise 3 to 4 days a week.
Enjoy your gym days and if you decide to indulge on a rest day, enjoy every second! One weekend will NOT kill your progress or make you take steps backwards unless you tell yourself you’re taking steps backwards.”
That was one way I was able to get myself feeling better sooner than later, given my schedule.
But there are more ways than one to do this.
Before I list my five tips for combatting an indulgent weekend, here are five tips to avoid over doing it in the first place:
1)eat more during the week and exercise moderately
Many people undercut their calories during the week. It could be because they had an excessive eating weekend and they are trying to be “good” on Monday and Tuesday, (which usually entails like 600 calories and then coming home starving); or they undercut calories because they are overly busy during the week and not prioritizing nutritious meals.
Intentional or not, if you consistently undereat for your bodyweight, by Friday your body will tell you. You will be excitedly looking at restaurant menus or watching the clock until lunchtime and snack time.
Many people feel like they lose all will power by Friday or Saturday night and it’s not that they lose their will power; it’s that they possess an actual physiological need to eat more calories because they are severely under-calorie’d.
And, despite barely eating Monday-Thursday, they still want to lose fat. They can’t figure out why it isn’t working…
Here’s why: although they create a caloric deficit for a few days, the amount of calories they consume when they go out to dinner Friday through Sunday gives them a total calorie intake of higher than their actual calorie needs to maintain their current weight, or they come in at maintenance calories and never see the scale budge.
Here’s an example: let’s say the average 130 pound woman who needs to eat about 1,700 calories a day is eating 1200 every day at her desk job, Monday through Thursday. She’s at a severe calorie deficit by Friday and feeling hungry. All she has to do to maintain her 130 pound bodyweight (or thwart efforts to lose weight), is to consume about 2300 calories Friday Saturday and Sunday.
It’s really not hard to do! Here’s an example of how I’ve eaten 2300 calories in a day:
Breakfast: oatmeal, protein powder, 1 tbsp peanut butter, with almond milk in coffee (~430 cals)
Snack: quest bar (~190)
Lunch: Chicken on a salad with Sweet green’s dressing (130 cals) with a side of bread (~600)
Snack: apple and protein shake (~230)
Dinner: thin-crust pizza with 2 glasses of wine: (~ 800)
Total: 2,250 calories
There’s nothing wrong with any of the foods listed above. The total calorie intake, however, is above maitenance calorie level for a 130 pound woman. Therefore, all of her “being good” during the week suddenly seems like a wash. If her goal is fat loss, she successfully hit maitenance calories, so she didn’t gain but she didn’t lose.
The reason I urge people to quantify what they do during a fat loss phase is because sometimes having alcohol can throw you off and make you feel crappy, but in reality, you might feel a lot worse than the calories you actually ate. It all depends. But this is why learning the skill of calorie counting or being aware of how much you eat can be helpful. When you know who much you can eat or should be eating to maintain or lose fat, you no longer have to worry about the donut or the wine, you’ll simply understand if it’s in your budget or not.
The best way to ensure this cycle doesn’t happen in the first place is to plan out your meals during the week and get enough calories to fuel your body daily. Then on Friday the urge to indulge won’t be quite as intense because your body will not be at such a deficit.
2) Track two of your three meals if you can
One thing that helps me when I travel or have fun weekend plans is to eat breakfasts, lunches or snacks that I can track. Then I know what I can or cannot fit in for dinner. In example, if I am going to my favorite pizza place, I will strategically eat a high protein snack with a protein packed breakfast and lunch so that I can enjoy a cheese pizza and still hit my macros for the day, (meaning, I get sufficient protein in relationship to carbs and fat).
If fat loss is a priority for you, you do not have to stay locked in your house eating out of tupperware, you simply have to make more strategic decisions and I find that tracking at least one of my meals if not two makes it more helpful.
3) Plan for a Saturday morning workout or a Friday evening workout
Let me be clear, exercising every day is not obligatory for fat loss. However, a lot of us feel better when we get in some movement four to five times a week. I’d also argue that there’s something about the connection between exercise and fitness that keeps us on track. In example, if I get up on a Saturday and crush a workout, I’m going to be so proud of it that it will motivate me to also CRUSH my nutrition decisions throughout the weekend.
One of my favorite things to do when I travel is plan a fun workout at a new studio. if I’m not in a city I plan a fun outdoor activity that will help me exert my body so that I can indulge slightly later on, and feel no guilt.
4) If fat loss truly is a goal, make sure youre quantifying what you do the entire week
This may be redundant but it’s important to go over again. You must understand how much you are eating before you an figure out how much less you should consume to make measurable fat loss progress.
When I was five weeks out from a bikini competition, I planned to visit Chicago for Shannon’s 25th birthday. I ate low calorie the entire week leading up to the trip. Given the spin classes I taught and the lifting sessions I completed, averaging a 1200 calorie intake was VERY low, but it was my first competition, I was nervous and I was anticipating a boozy weekend.
I arrived in Chicago on a late Thursday night and on Friday I ate my own oatmeal and quest bars during the day inbetween teaching fitness classes and lifting at my old stomping grounds. Friday night I could indulge in my favorite thin-crust pizza, and eat a salad with chicken and an oil-based dressing without breaking the bank.
The next day I ate my own oatmeal for again for breakfast and snacked on more oatmeal and protein powder throughout the day.
(Side note: oatmeal and protein powder are NOT secret fat loss foods they are simply foods I love which are easy to travel with and quantify and they keep me feeling full).
Saturday night I had way more cocktails than I’d planned on, and followed them up with pizza Sunday morning. Yesterday I looked back at my #bikiniprep excel sheet from that prep and it said “unable to track but had pizza and 3 shots and a few drinks; roughly 1800-1900 calories.” But it was OK, given my deficit for the week was way too far under what I should’ve eaten. I weighed-in 3 weeks out from my competition at 115, hadn’t missed a beat.
The moral of the story is that if you can quantify what you do during the week, your weekend can be higher calorie because your body needs the calories.
5) Pick one thing to make your indulgence
If you are craving wine, then let it pour! Bread? Skip the booze and eat the bread! Pizza? Have a salad for lunch (preferably with some protein on it) and enjoy pizza that night but skip out on the booze or have moderate portions of both, but omit dessert. You can’t have it all at once or in one meal, but you CAN enjoy anything– there are no “good” or “bad” foods.
Without further adieu, here are my five tips for coming back after a weekend away:
When you wake up after a higher calorie meal you might feel a little more full than your usual fasted, morning belly. And, you might not feel like drinking water, but DO IT! In the short term it might make you feel a little bloated. That is only because if you had more carbs than normal the night before, carbs hold onto 3-4 grams of water per 1 grams carb so in the short term (until you expend the energy) you will have more water weight on your body. Despite feeling a little water retention, drink up! The water will help your digestion and give you energy!
2) Get in a good workout
If you ate more calories than your body is used to, you might feel like you have more energy! And mentally, getting into the gym will motivate you to not dwell on the treats you had, but rather to move on and enjoy your health and body for what it can do!
3) prioritize protein for a few days
I don’t know about you, but when I indulge in something yummy at a restaurant it’s not usually protein-packed… it’s usually something carb-y. And, as noted, carbs hold onto more watering the body. The few days after a boozy weekend or a carb-fest, focus on proteins. One of my wacko, but favorite things to eat when I’m hungover is a Subway salad (or any salad!) I get tons of veggies, some turkey, a light dressing and skip the cheese and I feel full, but not heavy.
4) Give yourself some micronutrients!
I also make a shake on day 1 of my “reboot,” filled with 3 huge handfuls of spinach, protein powder and some truvia and ice. I get the yummy chocolate protein powder flavor and tons of micronutrients from the spinach. That’s the beauty of blenders, you can put anything in there! If I need some digestive help I’ll put psyllium or flax seed in there, too!
If you haven’t been getting a ton of fruits or veggies in your diet, add some into your protein shake and give your body some micronutrients to help boost your immunity and feel better after a weekend of travel and heavier food items.
A lot of my clients and myself included are guilty of this– being too hard on ourselves. When you drink on the weekends, sleep is compromised and when you eat foods that are less nutrient-dense you can feel less energetic. If you don’t let your body rest after a crazy weekend you are not going to perform well in the gym. Even worse, when you are tired your hormones will signal to your brain that you are hungry (even if you aren’t!) because your body is exhausted.
It’s typically the opposite of what we think we should do, but, DO rest when you get back from a weekend away. Less awake hours will make it easier to eat less and then you can wake up feeling rejuvenated for a great workout on Tuesday or Wednesday. There is no rush when your calories are in check!
This article was inspired by my group #DTE clients who have all been talking about how to stay on track/ make strides while still enjoying cocktails and eating at restaurants. If you have any questions at all, email me! This article is packed with a lot of tidbits that could easily have entire articles dedicated to themselves, so take your time digesting it and please do not hesitate to reach out! Also, if you missed Part I of this series, read it here!