Thursday, December 20, 2018

Eat up, it’s the Holidays…Strategies to Maintain Your Weight Year Round

By James Schaefer - Peaks Coaching Group

Happy Holidays!  To me it appears that retailers have now completely overlooked Thanksgiving as a holiday.  As soon as we hit September the Halloween accessories hit the market, then November 1st its all about Christmas.  For me, Thanksgiving is the holiday I most look forward to.  You don’t have the pressure to be in “the Christmas spirit”, you don’t have to find that perfect gift and go from house to house to house doing it all over again.  No, I am not Mr. Grinch; I just like Thanksgiving and yes, the food.  And food is my motivation to write today.

My email inbox is full of blog posts with advice of how to cope with the temptations of this holiday season.  Practice moderation, add this healthy substitute, and all sorts of “don’t do this.”  It’s the holidays!!! Eat up and enjoy.  My motto for this time of year has always been: It’s not what you eat between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s what you eat between Christmas and Thanksgiving that matters.  Tim Ferriss, in his book The 4-Hour Body, endorses this in a somewhat different way.  His premise is that eating healthy and consistently 90% - 95% of the time allows you to splurge once in a while. In the book, this is one 24-hour period each week. If you allow yourself to do this on a somewhat regular basis you will tend to maintain healthy eating habits.

As for my own journey with healthy eating habits (not just eating healthy – there is a difference) it took several failures at maintaining what I believe is an acceptable weight for me.  Let’s take a quick look back to how I got where I am today.  My goal race was the Bermuda GP (October version) and I wanted to get my weight under 60kg.  So, I did what worked for me in the past, eat less!  This time however, there were tools out there to help. My brother suggested Fitday.com, which was a great resource and helped me achieve my goal.  But eating less was all about abstinence, not moderation.  That meant for me no sweets, pizza or even allowing for a beer every now and then. I was totally committed to the goal, and I suffered, it was just part of training.  The race was amazing and I was able to celebrate my success by standing on the podium under the “Flagpole” on Front Street.  All my self-discipline backfired when I returned.  One of the promises I made with an athlete I was coaching at the time was to go out and get a pizza and a beer to celebrate the end of the season.  We did, but I didn’t stop “celebrating” until I had gained most of the 10kg I had lost leading up to the race.  It took me two years and more suffering to settle into a healthy eating habit that allowed for enjoying the foods I crave and maintain a reasonable weight range.

So how did I create the conditions in my life to go from extreme calorie counting to understanding how to monitor and maintain a weight range with health eating habits? First, I have a target weight for each phase of my training season with a maximum “allowable” weight for any time of the year.  In the beginning, I weighed myself each day on a scale that displays weight and body fat, among other metrics.  I did this for the better part of two years and found patterns that were reflected in my weight and body fat with what I had eaten in the past 24 hours.  I used mindfulness and meditation (Headspace.com – mindful eating and cravings packs) to help notice the habits I have created around food.  I switched to fitday.com to track my calories and nutrients.  I entered EVERYTHING I ate, even the tastes from the pot and cutting board. I entered the food as I consumed it, not at the end of the day. Fitday links directly to my Training Peaks account so every time I signed on, I was reminded of the progress I was making. 

Fast forward 4 years, I am currently on a “maintenance” program.  I continue to meditate in an effort to create the conditions for mindfulness in all aspects of my life.  During the transitions between training macro-cycles I rest my habitual eating habits to reflect the changes in my activity levels associated with each phase of my training plan. I will again weigh myself on a daily basis in an effort to reestablish the eating patterns that lead to my desired weight.  I have found that moderation and portion control are the key to maintaining a consistent weight year-round. So, enjoy the foods you like, have pizza and beer or whatever your indulgent food preferences are, but consume them in a way that doesn’t cause you to regularly overdo it.  But most importantly, enjoy the holiday and eat up, as January and the race season will be here before you know it!


James is an Elite/Master Coach with Peaks Coaching Group and a Level 1 (Elite) USAC certified coach and has been coaching and mentoring for over 30 years.  He coaches and mentors athletes of all ages and abilities. James’ coaching focuses on cycling, running and triathlons.  He is also an accomplished ice hockey coach.  James is a former full-time racer. He raced nationally and internationally for 10 years until retiring to raise a family.  

His athletes have stood on the podium in prestigious events including the Haute Route (Alps, Pyrenees, and Dolomites), Tour of Friendship (Thailand), Killington Stage Race and numerous national championships.  His athletes have also achieved life changing goals such as completing the Bike-4-Chai Grand Fondo and creating and maintaining healthy habits.

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