How To Indulge Without Ruining Your Waistline

Author - Stephen Griffith C.S.C.S. , Pn1 


I’m at one of my favorite holiday festivals of the year.  Spanning 3 long avenues with red, white, and blue awnings hanging from the street post. Can-can dancers kick their legs and ecstatic fans chant “Allez Les Bleus” (Go the blues)in celebration of Frances world cup victory just an hour ago.  A brass band marches down the middle of the street lined with booths from some of the best French restaurants in the city - I am at the NYC Bastille day Festival.

Bastille Day celebrates the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution. It’s the equivalent of Independence Day here in the states. I am not French nor do I have any lineage to France, but what I do have is an appetite. I enjoy eating delicious foods and arguably no culture takes more pride in their cuisine than the French.

Much like Thanksgiving, Bastille Day is an annual day of indulgence for me. I will ignore all the advice of portion sizes, listening to your body, and eating in moderation, and if all goes according to plan, I will not gain any weight nor lose any progress. This is not due to genetics but because I had a plan.

All of us face days when we know we will be ‘bad’: Christmas, Thanksgiving, The Super bowl, Our Birthday, Saturday, or in my case Bastille Day.  These days don’t have to mean gaining several pounds and losing all the progress you’ve made. If you know you will have a bad day, there are a few simple things you can do to help limit the damage while not compromising on the fun.

Binges on Occasion

Can you imagine a life where you never eat chocolate ever again? Never eat cake? Pizza? or whatever your favorite treat is? For most, the answer is no. These foods help bring value into our lives and the moments we love. The key is to have these foods only occasionally.  It's possible to reach your goals without sacrificing your sanity.

The tips I’m about to disclose below can help you mitigate the damage of one of your bad days. However,  they will not work if every day is a bad day. A good diet should be calorically balanced, full of whole natural quality foods, and high in nutritional value.

Skip or have a light meal

I am not one for recommending people to skip meals. The reason being that when people skip meals it leaves them hungry and more likely to make poor food choices at their next meal. However, in this scenario, you know you will indulge - The decision to eat the cake has already been made.  So how do we limit the damage?

Weight gain comes down to calories in vs calories out - If you consume more calories than you burn you will gain weight. Let’s consider this playing out over the course of a day. During this day your body will burn 2000 calories. This means that to avoid gaining weight you will want to stay at or under 2000 calories.

A typical day may look like this -

  • Breakfast - 500 calories
  • Lunch - 500 calories
  • Snack - 200 Calories
  • Dinner - 800 Calories
  • Total - 2000 Calories no weight gain.

Now let's consider Thanksgiving.

  • Breakfast - 500 Calories
  • Lunch - 500 calories
  • Snack - 200 Calories
  • Dinner - 1200 Calories
  • Dessert - 600 Calories
  • Total - 3000 Calories  - 1000 Calories over - Weight gain

The two days above are the same until dinner comes along. Once Thanksgiving dinner is served the binge is on and the result is going 1000 calories over for the day.

The key to limiting the damage we do on a binge day comes down to playing with the math. On a day where we know, we will binge and consume a lot of calories from poor sources our best bet is to lower the amount we consume during our other meals. This can be through fasting or by eating light. Imagine if we applied this to our Thanksgiving meal.

Thanksgiving with a light breakfast and lunch

  • Breakfast - 400 Cal
  • Lunch -300 Cal
  • Dinner - 1200 Cal
  • Dessert 600 Cal
  • Total - 2500 Cal

In this scenario, we know we will indulge at dinner so we have decided to have a slightly smaller breakfast,  a light lunch, and no snack. This leaves us hungry and ready to enjoy the meal of the day. We take 500 calories off of our total for the day sacrificing nothing from our meal of indulgence.

Drink Water

How else can we get the number down without depriving ourselves? The answer is drinking water. Besides being an essential component to all of our body's cellular processes and necessary for maintaining health it can also help us feel full.  

A nice trick that works just as well on non-binge days is to have a large glass of water 20 minutes before a meal. The water has zero calories but will help fill you up, reduce your appetite and, help you eat less without feeling like your depriving yourself of your meal.  

Thanksgiving with adjustments

  • Breakfast - 400 Cal
  • Lunch -300 Cal
  • Dinner - 1100 Cal  
  • Dessert 500 Cal   (600 cal - 100 calories because you were full earlier.)
  • Total - 2400 Cal


Your weight results from Calories in vs Calories out. We went over 2 strategies you can use to reduce the amount you take in during the day. The other way we can get our total calories down is by burning more during the day. I recommend all my clients when they're about to binge to schedule a workout during the day. Scheduling a workout provides two benefits- the first is that It allows us to burn more calories.  

Thanksgiving with exercise

  • Breakfast - 400 Cal
  • Lunch -300 Cal
  • Dinner - 1100 Cal  
  • Dessert 500 Cal   ( 600 - 100 calories because you were full earlier from water)
  • Total 2400 Calories
  • -300 Calories from workout
  • = 2100 Calories total for the day

Almost to neutral.

The 2nd benefit to exercising comes down to how our body uses the calories we consume.  Not all calories are made equal. 500 calories of cake affects our body differently than 500 calories of grilled chicken and veggies. Processed meals that such as cakes, cookies, or other treats are also often devoid of nutrients. These foods often leave us feeling unwell, leads to insulin spikes, and ultimately are more likely to be stored as fat within the body.

However, it's Thanksgiving and I'm gonna have mommas special apple pie! This is where the 2nd benefit of exercise comes into effect. When we exercise our body breaks down sugars in the muscle for energy, muscles get damaged, and our body releases hormones. After we exercise our body becomes more receptive to the foods we eat. For example, after we exercise the glucose transporter GLut-4 becomes more active within the muscles. Instead of sugars being pulled into your fat cells there now being pulled into the muscle for later use.  Glut-4 is just one example of the many chemical and hormonal changes that occur after exercise and helps the body to recover.

Take a Walk


I recommend my clients after a large meal to take a walk.

1st because walking will help burn more calories. - it may not be much but some it adds up.  

The 2nd reason is that strolling after a meal will get the blood flowing, the muscles working, and help increase the sensitivity of your muscles to make use of the calories you used. It is also a great way to void the sluggishness that follows a large meal.

Thanksgiving with a workout and a walk

  • Breakfast - 400 Cal
  • Lunch -300 Cal
  • Dinner - 1100 Cal  
  • Dessert 500 Cal    - 100 calories because you were full earlier.
  • Total 2400 Calories
  • 300 Calories from workout
  • 50 Cals from after dinner walk
  • = 2050 Calories total for the day

After all the interventions,  we have taken our total calories for the day down to maintenance level. With this, I want to include one more lesson. Sometimes you won’t have the luxury to exercise or go for a walk or perform the strategies above. Fear not.

The thing to understand about weight gain and loss is that it doesn’t happen over one meal or one day. I encourage you to think about your weight on a weekly scale. Just because you overeat on one day doesn't doom you to gaining weight. How does that day look in the scheme of a week?

Assuming your daily caloric expenditure is 2000 calories

  • Monday - 1800
  • Tuesday - 1800
  • Wednesday - 1800
  • Thursday- 1800
  • Friday - 2400
  • Saturday - 2600
  • Sunday - 1800

Average for the week - 2000  Calories - no weight gain

In this scenario  - yes the person ate excessively over the weekend but they also ate reasonably and in a deficit the rest of the week.  They averaged about as much as they burn and should be able to maintain their weight. If you overeat on a day, then you may benefit from reducing the amount you eat on the following days.

Remember, though that this can also work against you. A few days of eating well can also be wiped out by a weekend of excessive eating and boozing.


Natural disasters happen. There is no good that comes from making believe they don’t. As a society, we acknowledge they will occur and then we make plans to ensure that we can limit the damage. Binge days are the same thing.

I’m a proponent of moderation and sometimes that means allowing yourself to enjoy a special occasion.  None of us are perfect and binge days happen so what can we do to minimize the consequences?

The answer comes down to managing calories in vs calories out

Consume less

  • Consume less during the rest of the day - fast or have light meals.
  • Drink water before your big meal and during the day - it will help you feel full and manage your appetite.

Burn more  

  • Exercise - Get a nice workout in during the day. Preferably before the meal.
  • Go for a walk after the meal - This will help your body make the most of these calories

Adjust for the week - Even if you can't fully mitigate the excess on one day simply apply these lessons to the days either preceding or following the big day. Nothing drastic - no starving yourself and no trying to work it off (you're likely to just hurt yourself). Just reasonable reductions in your meals and exercise as normal.

Bastille Day Case Study

Putting lessons put into practice -

6:00 am - 40-mile bike ride to the dam - about 1400 calories burned

8:00 am - a Light breakfast - 2 eggs on a slice of toast

10 am - Watch world cup at Rockefeller center

12 am - French Fans go nuts and we start walking over to the festival

12:30 am - Arrive at the festival

12:31 pm -  Begin eating

A pair of quiches 

A pair of quiches 

A blurry picture of macaroon ice cream sandwiches - Life is good 

A blurry picture of macaroon ice cream sandwiches - Life is good 

Poulet Fries - Shredded chicken, Bacon , BBQ Sauce, Melted Mozzarella, over fries. This certainly seems like an American Creation

Poulet Fries - Shredded chicken, Bacon , BBQ Sauce, Melted Mozzarella, over fries. This certainly seems like an American Creation

What not included are the French Tarts, the French Cookie, The crepes, and who knows what else I may have consumed during the 4-hour stand I was there.

4 hours later - I stop eating and take a 20-minute walk over to the train with a delightfully full stomach

Following day - Monday arrives and I have had a wonderful weekend. My weight is the same and my life and diet resumes as usual.

Be smart, enjoy life, and find the right balance between enjoying those special occasions while not sacraficing your health.  

Stephen Griffith1 Comment