You don’t need to earn the right to eat. Let’s end that nonsense right now. Should I eat less on holidays? Typically the questions goes like this. I am off to the cottage for a couple weeks, I won’t have access to a gym, should I eat less? Now I don’t know about you, but for me dieting on holidays is not my idea of a holiday. So this is something I would like to put to bed once and for all. You don’t need to earn your right to eat. I can understand the mindset, but it is actually flawed and limiting and I’d really love for us to let that go. Right now my back is hurt and I am limited in my workouts and I too have had all these thoughts running through my head. Should I eat less? Maybe I need to cut down on how much I eat since I am doing less in the gym. Hard to get the same burn when you can’t use your lower half.
But that thinking is somewhat backwards. We don’t workout so we can eat, we eat so we have the energy to workout and live our lives! First comes sleep, second comes proper nutrition, and then after you have these two nailed down you get to play in the gym. Eating is a basic life requirement. You get to do it no matter what, and unless you are 5 years old, 1200 calories isn’t enough to keep anyone thriving. Yes, as an active person you probably do need to eat more to meet your needs. So yay for you! But if you are on vacation or unexpectedly take a few days off the gym we don’t need to automatically jump to restricting calories. In fact a period of doing a little less while eating good food might just be what you body needs at times.
From my coaching experience, on vacation with a reduced stress loads, we often see body composition improve naturally. Less stress and more sleep does the body good. Plus vacation means less time sitting behind a desk, more time biking with the fam or walking and touring visiting new cities. All this usually makes up for less traditional gym time.
But back to this concept of earning your food. For me my position on this has evolved over time. I use to set two sets of macros for everyone. One for workout days and one for rest days. In theory this made sense when you workout you burn more and you tend to also be hungrier. Problem is that only reenforces the mindset of earning your food and I think can actually contribute to the unhealthy relationship many of us may have with food. This is not what I want to stand for. In some cases it may be appropriate to manipulate calories for weight loss, but in general it actually plays against us. Understand that the carbs you eat today will keep your blood sugar level happy and may make you feel good in the gym, but the carbs you ate yesterday are actually helping fuel your workout. So eating less on rest days mean we go back into training with less than optimal glycogen stores. You wouldn’t go on a big drive with an empty gas tank! If you care about performance you probably shouldn’t go to the gym on empty either. It can take up to 24hrs to replenish glycogen stores so what we eat today is contributing to our recovery and fuelling up our rest days. For an athlete training 4-6 days a week it makes sense to eat consistently.
Now if you think “well I am not an athlete, I don’t train that hard or that often so this doesn’t apply to me.” It still does. As someone who may be less active you are probably eating a little less than someone who does Crossfit twice a day, but if you still eat appropriately for your needs and lifestyle you can also benefit from better consistency. Those who are more consistent also tend to have a healthier mindset around food. Restricting leads to binging. Under-eating leads to over-eating. And that mindset of all or nothing just continues. You probably shouldn’t plan to diet on holidays, but I also think if you need a vacation from the way you eat, then it likely isn’t a sustainable approach in the first place.
On holidays my days tend to have a lot of similarities to my day to day life. Yes, there are more meals eaten out and some treats enjoyed along the way. But I am also usually active daily in some capacity, I love dropping into Crossfit boxes on the road, Scott and I usually make a point of keeping breakfast and lunches very similar as at home. I keep an eye on my daily fibre and protein and I still get my 7-9hrs of sleep. The way I treat my body is the way I always do. Maybe I track, maybe I don’t. It depends on where I am at and my goals but whether or not I use a scale and enter my food on my phone I still eat like a grown up who values my health but enjoys good food. 🙂 I don’t know about you, but I like to come home full of memories not regrets.
Speaking of coming home, when you do, don’t freak out when you step on the scale. It may be up a few pounds, but take a deep breath, step off the scale and go right back on your plan. Resist the urge to slash calories, just get back on your routine, remember we said your body likes it’s routine and consistency. Give it a few days and most likely things will settle. If the scale is a trigger for you, might even be better to wait a few days to weigh yourself, I know I usually do.
If this sounds all too familiar and you wonder if there is more to life than living in restriction or losing all control our coaches would love to help you find your own food freedom and set a sustainable plan for you. Reach out for support.