Up till now, I have deliberately not done comp prep over Christmas for a very good reason – I like Christmas, I like my turkey with all the trimmings and lots of dad’s gravy. I like the mince pies with cream/ice cream and/or brandy butter (all of the above??). I like the cheese (stuff the lactose intolerance for a day or 2!) and chocolates and lollies and ‘nourishing’ Taylor style G & T’s and more than several glasses of dad’s best battery acid…I mean – wine.
I like my dad’s greasy fry up breakfast with Loch Fyne kippers dripping in butter – if you’ve never had Loch Fyne kippers then you’re missing out.
I like Christmas to be relaxing, chilled out and not have to contemplate macros, eating schedules, calorie limits, weighing and measuring portion sizes, and this Christmas was meant to be a complete break away from everything I usually do especially as it was my parents 50th wedding anniversary year. Early on in 2015, the plan was hatched to all get together at Christmas. Last time we were all together was about 3 years ago in Italy, the last time we all got together for Christmas was about 6 or 7 years ago, when my brother still had his pub! So 2015 was special, and it was all booked up and organised by May.
‘Perfect’; thinks I, I’ll have finished competing, I may have decided to retire, I can relax, enjoy being with everybody and not care one little bit about what I eat, drink…or weigh.
But then, having decided to kick my season off early with Natural Universe at the beginning of September, I started my prep in April and because it was my pro debut, I really didn’t want to go in cold without having done a warm up show. Handily enough, the IFBB added a show in Bendigo exactly a week before Natural Universe – sweet!
And, of course it turned out to be an Arnold Classic qualifier…well, that sealed it, I was definitely going to do it and at the time I completely forgot about the fact that it might impact this special Christmas…until about November when I checked the calendar to see how many weeks the Arnies was after Amateur Olympia.
Now I had a bit of a dilemma. Having done such a long season and been in comp prep mode or holding full on competition condition for over 8 months (!!!) I needed a break. I had to give my body some down time.
I also really needed a mental break from the discipline that is competition mode that had been my life for virtually the whole year, I was tired, and fed up with training and just not enjoying being in the gym.
But how much down time could I afford with only 16 weeks before my next show?? Especially with Christmas falling in that 16 weeks!
For the first time, I was going to have to be in prep mode over Christmas.
Now, I always give my prep clients time off over Christmas – ‘forget diet, forget training’ are the instructions – but I’ve always been curious if they’ve been able to really switch off and fully relax and enjoy it, or whether there’s always that lurking, nagging voice or guilty feeling if they have one more mince pie than perhaps is good for them…
Well, I was about to find out!
The plan was to reverse diet after Amateur Olympia for the 19 days before I flew out to England and get my calories up to 2000 – which I did – and although the 1st week was a little bit up and down, I think I’ve adjusted the best I’ve ever done this time round. I deliberately included a measured amount of complete crap (gelati + honey) in my diet to try and offset the insane gelati cravings I had last year and although I did have a binge, by the time I flew, I had settled into a stable routine and my weight, which bounced up 3kg within 24hours of my 1st training session 5 days post Olympia, then climbed to a hair under 58kg over the next week, before settling back down to 57kg – only 2.5kg over stage weight.
A 2.5kg fat loss is very do-able in 11 weeks, so I was in good shape and decided that the 2 weeks in England was going to be total down time. I would train when I could, I would eat sensibly when I could, but I was not going to go out of my way to make sure I had 5 meals a day, at prescribed times of the day, with prescribed amounts of certain types of food.
Put it this way – when the mob doesn’t surface out of bed until 8-8:30, breakfast generally takes about an hour (and a half) at which point we discuss what pub we’re going to go to for lunch (another 30mins – 1 hour) – it doesn’t leave much time for strenuous activity before going to said pub. And when the weather is foul, you’re in the middle of nowhere, there’s a cosy fire and silly games – well who wants to head out anyway!
But it’s not so easy to simply switch off, and let it all go – the 1st day I was home, all I could think of after the shitty (delayed – again) journey was how much I needed to train. I simply couldn’t contemplate doing anything else until I’d hit the gym. It wasn’t a particularly good gym (I had to pay a membership and undergo an induction course!!), it wasn’t a particularly good session, but it was training and I felt so much better for having done it. Sensible breakfast before and after, sensible lunch – phew. What a relief.
Then I headed up to my brothers house in London for a few days and even though we caught up with another (youngest) brother, my sister in law and their kids to go out for dinner, I still couldn’t quite let go and chose a sensible dinner. I did have a glass of mulled wine at the Christmas markets and instantly felt guilty.
This was going to be harder than I thought.
Day 2 and we managed to get another training session in, as middle brother is quite focused on his fitness too. Lots of sneaky ab checks, lots of sneaky mirror checks – abs still there, shoulder vascularity still there, sensible breakfast before and after. Phew.
Nagging little voice kept happy again.
Then it was off to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park with brothers, sister in law + kids. It was great fun and with the damp, cold grey wintery weather, the bright lights and stalls of hearty European winter street food, it was properly Christmassy. Mulled wine all round, and fairy floss – for me, stuff the kids! :-p
But then I felt terribly guilty again – the nagging little voice piped up – think of all the calories! Yikes! And once I got on that particular train of thought, then of course I started fretting about how I could make it up, how could I burn it off? What could I have for afternoon snack – there wasn’t any clean food to eat, I didn’t have any chicken with me – how would I be able to get my protein in for the day, I would start getting atrophy! Would I be able to get to a shop and get some chicken to take with me for the 5 hour journey to Derbyshire the next day? What was I going to eat on the journey – would we have time to train before heading off?
I had to forcibly drag myself out of my head and back into the present moment and concentrate on having fun with the kids.
And it was great fun – we went on every ride, the bumper cars. We went in a black London cab to a rainforest themed cafe where they have all the jungle sound effects and animated displays. Unfortunately the kids were so worn out they fell asleep before we ordered food, so we had to take them back to their hotel – where they promptly woke up and started jumping around – on the beds, on Aunty Sarah…great fun!
We ordered room service and I managed to get something fairly sensible. Phew.
Day 3. Off to Derbyshire – youngest brother arrived all in a flurry of military organisation with already frazzled kids in tow – and it was only 8am! A hearty veggie omelette for breakky, a quick stock up at the supermarket I was able to find some raw vegan snack bars. On the way, the motorway service stations are so much better than in Aus – more like at an airport with 5 or 6 food outlets instead of just the standard pie or dim sims and fries. Sushi, carrots and hummus on the way so I felt fairly ok.
Nagging little voice, still happy-ish…
After sitting in a car for 5 hours, by the time we got there I was itching to do any kind of activity, I couldn’t sit still and my back was hurting, so even though it was raining I set off for a tramp around the village.
Then the rest of the mob arrived and once everyone was unpacked and settled, well it must be time for a reunion G & T!
Oh dear…what a dilemma! Did I have the G & T (or 3) before dinner or did I wait until dinner and have a glass of wine? If I didn’t have the G & T would that be weird?
I didn’t have a drink and it felt weird. I felt like I was on the outside looking in, part of, yet at the same time apart from everything. No-one said anything, but I could feel the unspoken comments along the lines of ‘chill out it’s christmas, one drink won’t hurt you’, but I couldn’t let go, or switch off the nagging little voice – 12 weeks to go, 12 weeks to go…you can’t get fat, it will make prep very hard.
The issue was not actually the drink itself, but what it represented – all of us being together, as a family, doing what we’ve always done…except that I don’t do that anymore. It was weird and I didn’t feel at all comfortable.
I had 1 glass of wine with dinner – but then dinner was a monster affair and I ate far more than I should have and by the time I got to bed, I was feeling very bloated, guilty and what made it worse is that there was no way I could get in any exercise to fix it.
Christmas Eve morning I woke up still feeling fat – quick abs check…
Well…if I look really, really hard and suck my stomach in as much as possible then there may be a faint hint of abs…
I did a 15 min bodyweight circuit – squats, press-ups, glute bridges, mountain climbers before setting out on a tramp around the village in the rain before breakfast.
When I got back, breakfast was just getting started and again, I could sense that both mum and dad were wanting to say something, but they didn’t – and sometimes it’s the words left unspoken that say the most – I needed to knock this on the head or come up with a way of managing the situation that I could live with because otherwise I was going to spoil my holiday.
I knew each day would revolve around a pub for lunch and a huge dinner in the evening. Ok, I can’t change that, so I’ll just have 2 main meals a day. I’ll cut out afternoon snack and 1st breakfast – that will be a coffee, then I’ll do my bodyweight circuit and tramp around the village before small 2nd breakfast of veggie omelette or eggs on toast. I won’t have a drink at lunch and hold the chips (everything comes with chips in England), but I’ll have the ‘mandatory’ G & T pre-prandial and a glass of wine with dinner and load up on veggies wherever possible.
Ok conscience is that cool?
Apparently it was…strategy in place, I could actually start to relax. Kinda.
Christmas day, Boxing Day were fab – I broke my own rules – completely :-p
What the hell – YOLO!
3 days in Yorkshire followed at our remote little cottage on the moors and I managed to get some real walking in at last. This time, it was just me, mum and dad, so it was a much easier situation to control and I was able to mostly switch off and enjoy being away from everything.
A stop off at an old friends on the way back down to my parents house, resulted in a massive blow out – there was never any way is wasn’t going to be! More alcohol in a single afternoon than I’ve probably drunk all year! Proper English greasy spoon brekky the next day followed by a 2hr train journey and I was back on my guilt trip again – fretting and stressing about how (if) I could limit the damage.
Within about ½ hr of arriving back at my parents house, I got my mum to drop me off at the gym. I couldn’t stand the lack of training and just feeling fat anymore and with a big new year’s eve dinner planned, a final pub lunch on new years day before heading off to the airport and 24hrs on a plane I needed to hit it hard.
Once I’d arrived back in Melbourne, I just dumped my bags and headed straight to the gym!
So what’s the upshot of all this?
Well, the whole situation was more difficult than I anticipated. From a physical perspective, I think because I generally eat very cleanly and tend to eat similar foods every day, the instant I deviate from that routine it really doesn’t take much to throw my system completely out of whack, and the effects are magnified exponentially resulting in uncomfortable bloating and water retention. I definitely didn’t help the situation by eating cheese, which as I wrote about earlier this year is now on my ‘evil food of satan’ list. Alcohol, even just a single glass of wine, also has a huge impact on me and leaves me generally feeling sluggish, lethargic and tired the next day because I wake up when my body is detoxing the alcohol and can’t get back to sleep again. When we’re together as a family we tend to eat huge meals later in the evening – a behaviour I changed very quickly when I lost all my weight 6 years ago. I’m an early person, always have been, and big night time meals tend to knock me sideways, especially big night time meals with alcohol attached. Over the last few years, I’ve tended to avoid big group social gatherings where food and alcohol are involved, because quite often I’ve been in comp prep mode so it’s too contradictory to my goals, and it can be quite isolating in a way if you’re not ‘joining in’. There were a couple of times when I definitely didn’t quite feel part of the action, because I was holding back on eating and drinking knowing I would feel crappy the next day and wouldn’t be able to alleviate it by exercising or getting back onto my usual diet.
Mentally it was also difficult – part of me wanted to totally switch off and have the real break that I needed from watching everything I eat, drink and do, but a larger part of me just couldn’t let it go, because I’d be setting myself up for a hard time when I got back. I was in situations that I’ve actively moved away from over the last few years, so to be back in those kinds of situations conflicted with who I am now. Setting a strategy that sort of managed the situation as best I could definitely helped alleviate some of the anxiety, although I was not able to completely shut my conscience up the whole time I was away.
Unfortunately the damage has been done and I’ve put on 2 kg!!
What do I do about it? Get straight onto full comp prep diet and training of course! 4.5kg in 11 weeks…thats nearly as much as I had to lose for last years prep, but with only half the time to do it.
So now I know what it’s like, will I do it again?
Christmas is Christmas and I will not stuff it up being on comp prep.
Comp prep is comp prep and I will never do it over Christmas again.
11 weeks to go…game mode is on