I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I spent mine with my parents in Oklahoma. It was quaint and wonderful. I tried to make most of the food since my parents are aging. They are both diabetics and I had grand designs to make it a sugar-free Thanksgiving. But my wife doesn’t really care for alternative sweeteners and I didn’t want to impose my wishes on the whole family. I often eat food that is sugar-free and carb-free, and I also make traditional sweets but with natural sweeteners instead of sugar.
Sidenote: Instead of a full turkey this year, I just bought a package of turkey that was already deboned. I’ll be doing that from now on. It was pre-cooked and seasoned and very tasty.
So how did I "diet" during Thanksgiving?
I did not really diet very much. My saving grace was intermittent fasting. I kept to at least a 16 hour fast (except one morning when I really wanted pie and did a 13 hour). It helps keep most of my cravings away despite eating a bit of sugar, mostly in the form of pies. But for the most part, I ate along ketogenic guidelines with just meat and veggies.
For my Thanksgiving meal, I ate everything. But what I focused on was eating a regular plate and not heaping it on. I just had a good taste for everything and then stopped eating. I didn’t even eat pie until later. Then I started fasting. It was all fairly easy (except for that one aforementioned morning).
Now, taking you back to a few weeks earlier in my life. I had a goal weight that I was striving to reach by Thanksgiving, then I wanted to maintain it through the holidays. I really hit a brick wall doing that. I was intermittent fasting, ketogenic, and some calorie restriction. But I wasn’t losing. My body totally rebelled against what I was doing. I even upped my cardio a bit and all my reps for lifting weights were in the 20+ range. I still stopped losing.
Mind you, I am against doing everything by the scales. I usually don’t even check very often. I’ll go weeks without checking. I don’t believe in fretting about what the scales say. But I did during this diet and I think it was to my detriment.
So I finally checked my weight this morning. I was a few pounds UNDER where I was before Thanksgiving! Huh!!! I’ve heard Ben Greenfield and others talk about similar things before. Just like our body becomes resistant to insulin if we bombard ourselves with sugar all the time (hence the utility of intermittent fasting); we also become resistant to calorie restriction diets. Our body sends survival signals to retain water, fat, and proteins so we don’t waste away. It is a preventative mechanism against starvation.
I’m not saying the dieting I did before Thanksgiving was bad or that I needed to go hog wild for the holidays. But it makes total sense to have a day where you relax the restrictions. Scientists talk about how this can reset the system where your body exercises its other hormones to keep the plasticity in your physiology. Then it’s ready to get to work with the dieting again.
I truly believe in shocking your system now and then to make it perform more optimally. We get into ruts, even if they are good ruts. Here are some ways that we can stimulate our systems into growth:
-take a mild cheat down with food. Have some ice cream or pizza or birthday cake. Then get back to a disciplined way of eating.
-over-hydrate and/or under-hydrate now and then.
-do a CrossFit Hero WOD or some endurance goal, like walk/run for 6-8 hours.
-take a long rest if you normally workout a lot; like an entire week or weekend.
-pamper yourself to the extreme with massage or other recovery therapy.
-expose yourself to very cold or hot temperatures, or both. Contrast baths can do wonders for your body.
-try to do something barefoot, like hiking a trail or walking around the neighborhood without shoes. It reconnects you and makes you realize how shoes aren’t all that helpful to our health.
-lift something heavy with 1 to 3 rep ranges. Also lift something light, like 100 kettlebell swings with a light weight.
-binge on something, like reading for the day, taking a seminar, or squatting every day for a month.
-deprive yourself of something, like get out of the house and go camping, turn off your phone for the weekend, or don’t eat sweets for a week.
All of these things are good not only for our physical health, but also for our mental/spiritual health. David Goggins calls its the "cookie jar". Put away things in your memory (or in a diary or actual cookie jar) of achievements that you’ve made. Achievement could be finishing an ultramarathon or it could be fasting for two days. It is measured in many forms. But they are all things you can pull out of your cookie jar when times are tough. Maybe you just broke from a relationship. Pull out of the cookie jar the time you went on a week’s vacation by yourself. Think of how you did just fine during that time and actually enjoyed yourself. Or if your health is in the dumpster, think back to when you wrestled in high school and sweat it out in two-a-day practices for months. You can do that again. Just put your mind to it. I’m reading "The Spartan Way" right now and it alludes to much of this. It helps to find physical and mental toughness.
What are you going to put in your cookie jar today?