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Monday, 14 March 2016

Have Your Egg And Eat It Too - Reducing Weight-Gain This Easter

   Food is wonderful - it's a big part of every culture and it's silly to try to deny yourself something nice once in a while. But 'once in a while' can mean different things to different people, and even if it's once a fortnight or even a month and you're a bit silly like me, it can still leave you feeling guilty afterwards. And with Easter almost upon us, I'm quite conscious of the fact that some of my hard work is going to be undone by a wonderful chocolate egg.
   There are things you can do to lessen the blow of Easter, all of which can be applied to other celebratory holidays and even spontaneous bingeing, and I'm going to talk about those today. So none of us have any excuse to feel guilty this Easter!


   Special occasions typically involve special food, and on Easter in particular that's chocolate. In such a situation you'd be a fool to deny yourself a little indulgence, especially when everyone else around you is participating - like I said before: food is a huge part of many cultures, so unless you have will power of steel (not even your favourite fitness idols do), it's best to accept right from the off that your eating isn't going to be as good as it could be on that particular date.
   Special occasions are likely to have been planned in advance, however - we know when our birthdays are and when Christmas is, for example - and that means that you can start reducing the impact of a wonderful big dinner, glasses of bubbly or indulgent Easter eggs before the day arrives.

   To lessen the impact of a planned indulgence, be sure to pencil in workouts around the date, both before and after. Choose high-impact body weight workouts, HIIT or kettlebell workouts on the run-up to the date, that way you can shift your body into fat-burning mode in advance so Easter eggs won't be sitting on your waistline for as long, and the energy within them put to quicker use. You can find loads of workouts like these on my fitness Pinterest board.
   By planning cardio workouts afterwards, especially the next two days after Easter, you can burn them off quicker, too, before they get a chance to make themselves at home. The act of planning in these workouts also make them easier to stick to, and planning the workouts themselves - either choosing a DVD in advance or working out/looking up a circuit - means you can begin with intention, know precisely what to do once you get started, and use greater focus and greater effort in the workouts themselves, ultimately making them more effective than clumsily moving without any kind of plan.
   You can further reduce the impact by eating clean on the run-up and as frequently as possible on the day itself, that way you won't be making the occasion unnecessarily decadent. Easter typically means chocolate and a big dinner, so the best thing to do is try to stick to your usual eating habits, but certainly tone down the carbs. Turn to steamed veggies for a snack - it might not sound exciting, but the Easter egg you're going to tuck into later, if you haven't already, certainly is, and it'll help you towards your 5 a day if you eat a selection of different veg.

   If you like to make a bigger deal of the date, or it's your birthday for example, it's always fun to make the day as special as possible, and that means a change from the norm. But that doesn't have to mean cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner, even if it sounds like the best idea ever. Plan out a special breakfast that is as healthy as it is new instead.
   For example, I usually have porridge for breakfast, so on my birthday I made pancakes instead, but rather than typical pancakes, they were made with 1 egg, the juice of half a lemon, half a cup of Greek yoghurt and a quarter cup of wholemeal flour. They were nutritious and a change from my routine, but they were also delicious and I recall them both clearly and fondly. I admit I put a few mini marshmallows on them and a touch of whipped cream, but it was my birthday and still a relatively healthy start that still put me in a dandy mood, and I made them again a few weeks later without the 'toppings' and it was still delicious.
   The same can be applied to lunch, choosing something different from the norm but healthy - I had a delicious salmon salad - and having clean snacks on hand like your favourite Nakd bar or fruit yoghurt can keep you on the straight and narrow without getting repetative. This way, when you tuck in to a birthday dinner at home or in a restaurant and then have the biggest slice of birthday cake on offer, you won't be adding on to an already bad day and making yourself feel guilty for overdoing it. You'll be glad of the earlier effort and not regret a thing. And if you do, well, you've been working out in anticipation of this and will be working out the next day, too. So where's the problem, really?

Rules To Live By - Immediately Lessen The Impact of Bad Eating Decisions
   We all have our bad days and our cut-ourself-some-slack days, it's ridiculous to think others don't, but whether we recognise that or not, we will often feel guilty for it. Bad eating decisions will get to all of us, especially if it's all laid out in front of us in a bakery, in a restaurant or someone's private dinner party. Or you've been given five Easter eggs. Temptation is, by nature, difficult to fight, and in these cases, giving in excessively will lead to justifiable guilt, followed by the feeling of hopelessness and that you've just reversed in five minutes what took a week or two to achieve.
   But don't give in to that hopelessness, and especially don't give up and make the situation worse with the mentality of 'the damage is already done', because there are a few things you can do to reduce the impact of binge eating.

1) Drink water. This should be done immediately - not as in drinking half a litre 3 minutes after the last bite, but making the effort to drink an extra 500ml to 750ml (about 2-3 glasses) of just water over the course of the next two hours. This helps your body to metabolise what you've just eaten as every chemical reaction in the body requires water, meaning it'll be broken down and put to use sooner. This is a great step as it's something you can do immediately rather than turning to the old 'I'll do better tomorrow' or simply giving up and continuing as you were, making a bad day worse, and because you can get started immediately, you can also immediately change your state of mind, preventing you from continuing as you were.

2) Skip carbs at breakfast the next day. Turning to protein instead - a couple of eggs, salmon and asparagus, as a hearty example - will give your body the chance to use up the extra carbs you ate the day before (it's almost guaranteed that it was carbs you over-consumed, like chocolate, cake, biscuits, or pasta, bread, rice, and so on) without adding any more onto it. You won't lack energy or focus so there's little to worry about, and as you have breakfast at the start of your day, you'll also be setting your mind onto a more positive road for the rest of the day. There's little need to skip carbs from lunch onwards, so you don't have to restrict yourself all day - restricting yourself so much can actually lead to you repeating the earlier mistake, and this time with no occasion to use as an excuse.

3) Do extra cardio the next day - add an extra 20 minutes on the treadmill, stick on a dance DVD after your usual workout, or, if you don't usually exercise, do so. This puts the energy from those carbs to use before they can get settled as your body doesn't immediately store it as fat, and if you do your workout an hour or two after breakfast, you can keep your mind and determination on that positive route and greatly reduce the chance of making bad decisions that day, too. It will also generally make you feel happier both for having spent your time well and burning off what you ate, and your endorphins going from simply getting your blood pumping and pushing yourself beyond your normal workout or daily routine.

   It's important to note that these three points can't reverse binge eating or bad decisions, but they're simple enough to do and they will undeniably lessen the impact. Acting upon it right away with water and attacking it with a workout the next day keeps you in full control and gives you far less reason to worry about it, and, similarly, by taking action so quickly you can also get rid of it with greater ease. If you leave it for a week your body may fight against you harder in order to keep it. After all, your brain is the reasoning centre, not your body, so your body assumes that there is a biological reason that you ate the way you did, and as you didn't use the energy the food provided, it figures it'll store it for a later date.
   But none of these points should be used as excuses to eat however you like, whenever you like. You simply cannot out-exercise a consistently bad diet, no matter what you do, and while a little indulgence here and there truly is harmless, and larger ones on days that only come around once a year, doing so on a frequent basis will not do your waistline, your chemistry or your mood any good at all, and all of that matters as much as the last.

   And, finally, remember: the more refined sugar (ie not fruit) you eat, the more you crave it. Giving in to the craving doesn't satiate it, it only feeds it. That's the difference between 'craving' and 'needing'. But it also doesn't take long for your body to obliterate that craving. It takes me, personally, three days of minimal chocolate and the fourth day of none to kick the habit, and come day 5 I don't think about it anymore.



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