The 80 per cent rule – Winnipeg Free Press

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Fifty-five — that’s the number of days remaining in 2022.

It’s also a tough stretch for fitness goals. Some research shows weight gained these next two months take months to lose. And many never get it off, so it compounds year after year contributing to adulthood weight creep.

But good news, I’m not going to tell you to abstain from candy or Christmas treats. That’s stupid advice.

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After over-indulging, chugging water first thing in the morning helps you get back on track.

But there’s still 50-odd days left this year where you can eat right and exercise and avoid the weight creep.

Sticking to 80 per cent to a plan equates to 24 out of 30 days of the month. If you’re on plan those 24 days, you can expect to make progress. And I’m willing to bet the fittest people you know don’t deviate much from their routine this time of year.

The only way to succeed over the long run is to do the right things most of the time, not when you feel like it or when the stars align.

You can’t take the summers and winter holidays completely off. That’s one-third of the year.

Let’s face it, falling off the wagon happens to all of us this time of year. The Halloween candy is taunting you from the pantry and there are plenty of social engagements to navigate.

I had a night out with too much food indulgence last weekend and woke up feeling hungover — and I didn’t drink — and was struggling to get my energy where it should be. That’s all the reminder I needed to keep things in check and enjoy the sweets in moderation.

I just feel healthier and happier when I eat right and exercise as my norm.

So, how do you make sure you do well 80 per cent of the time?

First, forgive yourself when you overindulge. You’ve done nothing wrong. You’re human.

Second, the secret is getting back on track as quickly as possible and doing relatively well on the non-‘holiday’ days in between.

When you wake up the morning after over-indulging:

• Chug water to hydrate

• Consider a strong coffee to give you a boost

• Do some breathing exercises if you’re anxiety-ridden (drinking and rough sleep do that to me)

• Get in sunshine ASAP… a 10-minute quick walk does the job as early morning sun exposure is tied to healthy circadian rhythms

• Eat a light breakfast (the opposite of the typical North American breakfast — smoothie or egg omelette with greens)

• Work out (you could do it before breakfast — something simple to reset your mindset and sweat it out a little)

You can’t gain pounds of fat overnight

There’s good news if you overdid it. Even if the scale says you’re up a few pounds, it’s very unlikely any of that is body fat.

There are about 3,500 calories in one pound of fat. So, theoretically, that’s how much more you need to eat to gain a pound of fat in a week.

But I say ‘theoretically’ because it seems this number is much higher during periods of brief overeating. A recent study notes body-fat increases are generally not seen until after a week of chronic overfeeding with a daily caloric excess of about 1,000.

Another study, by Hiroyuki Sagayama, investigated the changes in body composition after three days of overfeeding participants by 1,500 calories, or 4,500 in total and more than enough to gain a pound of fat on paper.

The participants did gain weight, but the increase was not body fat.

People mistake weight gain on the scale for fat gain. But the jump on the scale you see after a day of overeating is due to a combination of increases in glycogen (stored carbs in muscle and liver), water, salt and carrying more food in your stomach.

The study by Sagayama I referenced above found the increased body weight returned to baseline within about five days of participants returning to their usual intake (though there were individual differences ranging between zero and 14 days).

As you can see, it’s very hard — if not impossible — to gain fat from a day of overeating.

So indulge a little and then get back on track the next day with the steps recommended above.

Want to do as little damage as possible these next couple months without bringing Tupperware to dinner?

1. Don’t starve yourself going in

This goes against a lot of advice, as on the surface, eating lightly all day when you know you’re going to overindulge later makes sense on paper.

But it can backfire, leaving you to eat and drink even more than you expected because you are so hungry going in. You aren’t you when you’re hungry.

A better bet is to eat healthy, slightly smaller meals before you head out… think protein and produce (filling and low-cal) and then enjoy your favourites in moderation.

2. Eating just
‘because it’s there’

Your once-a-year indulgence in your Nana’s famous gingerbread — go to town on that.

The store-bought stale cookies someone left in the work lunchroom? And you’re stuffing them in your pockets for the ride home? Not so much.

They’ll just leave you feeling bloated and sorry you ate them.

3. Drinking too much

There are a lot of reasons to be intentional about your alcohol intake.

It can interfere with your sleep and dehydrate you to the point of a nasty hangover, plus it contains a lot of empty calories.

I use an Oura Ring and there’s nothing worse for my sleep scores than even a little bit of alcohol the night before.

But here’s something you might not realize: It can lower your inhibitions, which means you get “food goggles” around the stuff you’d probably avoid with a clear conscience.

That’s a double-whammy.

4. Letting your exercise routine slide

One of the things we’ve learned over the past few years in research is that being fit is a huge part of being healthy — it can keep your immune system strong and in shape.

Yes, this season can be hectic… but do your best to squeeze in at least a quick workout most days of the week.

Not just for your results, but for your mind and overall health.

5. Not getting
enough sleep

Making time for sleep is so worth it.

You’ll have more energy to tackle the holidays, tolerate that drunk relative with the dad jokes, and help keep your metabolism revved with appetite in check. Sleep is the foundation.

Bonus. When all else fails, remember, it’s all about moderation.

Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fitness coach for men and women like his former self. Heavyset in his 20s, he lost 60 pounds and now helps clients find their spark and lose the weight for life. Visit mitchcalvert.com to grab yourself a free metabolism jumpstart or inquire about his New Year’s Little Black Dress challenge.

Mitch Calvert

Mitch Calvert
Fitness columnist

Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fitness coach for men and women like his former self. Obese in his 20s, he lost 60 pounds himself and now helps clients find their spark and lose the weight for life.