Surviving Festive Eating: The Rebuilding Part 1

peanut shellsIn the aftermath of any battle, there’s a rebuilding process, whether you won or lost. The winning side may have less to do, but it still needs to repair damage. In the same way, even if you’ve eaten less than most people, you’ve probably got some extra calories to shed.


I’m hoping you won, by following the battle plan I laid out for you in Surviving Chinese New Year: The Defence Strategy Parts 1 and 2. If you did, you probably have very little damage to repair. If you didn’t, you have a whole lot more to do. Either way, this process takes time. So the sooner you get back on track with your quest to achieve the health, fitness and physique you want, the better.


This article lays out a roadmap for the post-battle bebuild. Once you pull yourself out from the rubble and renew your efforts with determination and purpose, you’ll be back where you left off at the start of CNY, with hardly a battle scar to show for it.


Let’s do it!

1: Mindset – The Bullpen


The first step in all undertakings is to get the mindset right first.


In the case of post-festival feast blues, there’s usually some guilt and lack of confidence in tackling temptations. We have to nullify that self-defeating mindtrap before starting on action or you’ll just be going through the motions before self-doubt creeps in.


First remember there’s a valid, worthy reason to celebrate festivals with friends and family. The bonding, the reconnecting, the laughter… these are experiences that are precious and memories that should be cherished. If you had to break your heathy streak, it was at least for a worthy cause.


Second, be excited about resuming your journey. The past does not predict or dictate the future. Frequently, people hit one snag in their quest for change, be it exercise, diet, or cultivating a new habit, let this failure be ‘proof’ against their success, and hence give up, resign themselves to failure. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Think about little successes. Use those as a platform of confidence to bounce back into action. For example when we created our battle plan, our goal was to minimize weight gain, not prevent it completely. If you’ve kept to that plan, you managed to save on calories. Focus on THAT success!

bull pen

I like to use the analogy of the bullpen to explain why you must have the mindset of getting back onto the wagon ASAP. Imagine you have a dangerous bull locked in a bull pen. If the lock was not secure, you have to push back as soon as you see that door swiveling open. Will it take effort? You bet! But it will take a lot less to force that bull back in and lock the door again, then when the bull is half out… fully out… then at full charge building momentum all the way.


So set your mind, set your determination, and plan to act for the future. Far too many people get stuck in the past, reliving should-haves and would-haves, and obstruct their own forward progress.



2: Set Realistic Expectations


Next we’re going to set realistic expectations – a marriage of what you want with what will fit your situation without affecting the important things in your Life. Without doing so it’s pointless to set targets like exercise frequency, weight loss goals, and so on.


One important concept often neglected is the ecology of goals. This concept acknowledges that people cannot set goals and hope to achieve them in a vacuum, divorced from the realities of real-life challenges. These can be anything from lack of time to the commitment of being a new parent to the scientific limits of what your body can or cannot do.


An example of a realistic expectation is losing the weight you’ve gained over CNY in a relatively short time.


Why? Because you were that weight a short while ago! Your weight gain hasn’t achieved momentum on a downslide, so your priority is to stop it before it does. It’s that bull pen thing we talked about above.


But now we need to set realistic expectations about how much exercise is needed and how long it will take.


Let’s use the example in Surviving CNY: The Battle Plan Part 1.


Assume you’re 70kg and you were able to keep your visit eating to the following:


CNY selection

We saw that limiting yourself to this selection, would net you 600kcal per visit. If you did four visits that would be an excess of 2400kcal.


Let’s look at the time required to burn off approximately 2400kcal for a few activities:

Time to Burn



If you exercise

30min x 3 days/ week

Jogging at 8kph for two sessions and

Brisk walking for the third


A quick calculation will show you

Per week burnt 102+300+300 ≈ 500kcal

Time required to burn 2400kcal = 5 weeks


If you increased your duration to an hour each, it would take you about 2 ½ weeks.


Having this realistic timeframe is so important because it prevents you from setting the timeline for your goal of losing that weight too short and getting frustrated you don’t achieve it.  Also, don’t forget you may have eaten more than our example, which means even more work needed to get rid of the excess.


Luckily, you won’t be relying on just exercise to create this deficit, but good eating habits too.


Let’s get to the action part.




3: Action


We’ve spent some time looking at preparation because the game is won mentally first before it is executed physically. Now’s the pay-off.

Stage 1: Resumption of HABITS

The most immediate thing you must do is to resume your programme before CNY.


That means the regular exercise and diet you were on before CNY disrupted your schedule.


Nothing fancy, no slow resumption, break-in periods. This gets you back on track fast, and gives the mind a jolt, shifting it up a different gear when it comes to thinking about food and exercise.


You need to get that bull back in the pen before he’s gone too far from it.


We’re going cold turkey here. No namby pamby cutting down from 2 bak kwa to 1 then ½ a day. Trying to taper back to it means extra calories in addition to what you’ve already acquired during CNY. Enough damage has been done…don’t make it worse!


diet and exercise

The great trader Jesse Livermore once said “…after a man makes money…he very quickly loses the habit of not spending. But after he loses his money it takes him a long time to lose the habit of spending.”


In the same way, after you’ve started feasting and stopped exercising, you very quickly lose the habit of exercise and dietary vigilance. But once you’ve gained weight and need to lose it, it’s far harder to lose the habits of sloth and gluttony.


Resumption of good habits must be your priority. Most people fail to take this step after an event, be it CNY or childbirth, and rapidly slide down the slippery slope that leads to snowballing weight gain. Once the bull has gained momentum, it’s almost all but lost.


That’s it for now. Focus on this for a week. If all you do is get back to taking the same action you were before you started CNY feasting, you’re already better off than a large number of people who never do. For them it’s the beginning of the end. For you, it’s just the beginning of the beginning, because next time we’ll look at some of the extras you can throw in to make things more exciting.


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