Saturday, 24 December 2016

Post 38: Cowlean at Christmas

Hi Guys,

Let’s set the scene for a traditional Cowlean Christmas: “serves 14” Turkey is doling itself up in the kitchen, the mother is clucking around ensuring all glasses are full, and the plastic Christmas tree is proudly proclaiming its immortality from the corner of the living room once more. It’s humbling to know that whether or not I leave a mark on this world as large as I hope, that this tree will outlast my legacy.

This week we’re going to discuss Christmas; we’re going to discuss all the great things you can look out for, why you shouldn’t feel guilty for stuffing your face, and how to put together some effective New Year’s resolutions.

So pull up your Christmas socks, whack on that hideous jumper, pour a glass of mulled wine, and banish the relatives from your yuletide presence. It’s time to listen to Cowlean wax lyrical about the most magical time of year....

It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid (of gluttony)

There’s a riddle I ponder every year, something that swirls in my mind and gets turned over and over until my poor brain is wracked with confusion: why is it that turkey is so delicious and juicy at Christmas, but is dry and unpalatable the year round?! Christmas represents the one time of year where this delectable beast is in wonderful abundance, so look no further for your protein source. I recommend eating at least a heap a day, if not two heapings! ;)

Christmas is also a special time for fats. It is the one time of year where your previously uncooperative family and friends jump on the fat wagon and join you for a festive gallivant. No, I’m not referring to the extra pounds you’ll carry once it’s all said and done, I’m talking about the wonderful world of animal fats and real butter. So make sure that those roast potatoes are cooked in goose fat, and that you’re using rich, creamy pure Irish butter (we all know which one I’m referencing…).

And for all those lifters out there, don’t just spend all your time at the pumps, pump some iron as well! All of that food is ideal for making some strength gains or at least getting into the gym a couple of times and doing some crazy one rep max tests.

All I want for Christmas is carbs

If your year was a pressure cooker, building up steam, then Christmas is the time to let that steam off. Forget the diet and forget the rules (rules are only guidelines after all!). Let your hair down and indulge yourself to the extreme. While I do think that an initial period of immersion is good for a budding dieter, Christmas is not the time for it. Much like how someone might have a weekly cheat meal, Christmas is my “cheat time”.

If you let yourself get guilty over the holiday period for indulging, then you’re setting yourself up for unsustainable purging in the new year. This leads to yet more pressure, and eventually more binging.

You can build pressure as long as you know you can let it out at some point: take the Yin with the Yang. Periods of intense focus and output need to be matched with periods of relaxation where you rest and recover. Just think about how important sleep is in building muscle.

So this is me giving you permission to go nuts. Eat all the food and drink you’ve denied yourself over the past 12 months and become the glutton you’ve always dreamed of.

This is what I’m planning on doing, and did do to great effect last year. In fact, over the Christmas week I gained a staggering 17 pounds. Admittedly, this was after a long period of caloric deficit and low water retention, but still! As always, I look at the positives of the situation (and conveniently forget the negatives), and take this opportunity each year to blow off steam, refill glycogen stores, and remember how it feels to be bloated.

Last Christmas I went my own way, but the very next day, I was sat eating cake

You might have heard of two conflicting schools of thought in goal setting. One school says goal should be SMART (specific, measureable, agreed upon, realistic and time based), and the other says that you should set your sights further than your grasp. Now, in most cases, I don’t enjoy the SMART school of thought because it encourages mediocre goals, but it has some useful ideas when it comes to NYR setting.

Every year you’ll hear your friends and family prattle on about their resolutions and deep down you know they will not fulfil 99% of them. This is why, dear readers, we need to approach them strategically because they can set the year off on a wonderful, successful note.

Most people make them intense and rigid: “I will quit X” or “I will do Y five times a week”. Unfortunately, this doesn’t lead to success because once the resolution is disobeyed once, the whole thing falls apart like a house of cards.

My advice is to look at what you’ve done well this year and pick out your top three to six accomplishments. Choose one of these accomplishments and make it the subject of your NYR. Make the NYR something that can be achieved in January itself so that you get the year started right.

For example (and since this a health blog):
  1. Lose the weight you’ve gained over Christmas. Weigh yourself today and on January 1st do the same, then work out how much you need to lose each week.
  2. Commit to a strict fasting window twice a week. Twice should be easily achievable if you followed the CKA series (Up sell! Up sell!)
  3. Or simply read a book about health. I find that whatever I’m reading at the time massively influences my daily thoughts and motivation. Some personal favourites are The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, The Bulletproof Diet by Dave Asprey, and The Wild Diet by Abel James.


This bring us to the end of another post. I’m heading off to stuff my face, as promised, but before I go let’s have some takeaways.

  1. Christmas is full of positives in the food it entails so be on the lookout!
  2. Don’t at any point feel guilty for indulging yourself over the festive period.
  3. Get 2017 off on the right foot; set yourself a goal to achieve in January

Until next time,


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