I first heard of the term “structured flexibility” many years ago as I was listening to Dr. Jade Teta give a talk on some of the concepts discussed in his first book, The Metabolic Effect Diet: Eat More, Work Out Less, and Actually Lose Weight While You Rest.
While this book was first published in 2011, I believe the basic concepts discussed in that book have survived the test of time. Concepts like structured flexibility continue to be great strategies to help individuals break out of the dieting mentality and instead focus on the metabolic detective process. Why?
Following a more structured plan can seem very tempting if you are struggling to find your own plan of action that allows for your SHMEC to stay in check as you see results. Structured flexibility allows you to have a plan but also encourages you to course-correct day by day, and maybe even hour by hour. Building a sustainable lifestyle of healthy habits takes time and patience, something that may seem sparse during the holiday season.
As you learn how to become a better metabolic detective, you’ll still be exposed to various diet strategies through social media, family, friends, and other online publications. Things like “calories in versus calories out” or “eat less exercise more” are terms that may appear throughout the year, but these terms may hold greater importance for you throughout the holiday season.
I understand that It isn’t always easy or fun to invest time in yourself and listen to your body’s biofeedback. Add to that the idea that, as Dr. Jade would say, “we humans crave certainty. It’s very normal. We want to be told exactly what to do, and it’s partly how we learn.” Think about some of your personal strengths. Those strengths were probably built out of your own education and experience over time, not out of a “one size fits all” approach to becoming a better version of yourself.
I’m sure we all can agree that the holiday season can bring about some unique challenges; however, by really fine-tuning your skills around structured flexibility, I bet you’ll feel more at ease with some of the interruptions to your routine instead of feeling frazzled and stressed out. Or maybe you’ll even feel more in control of your day-to-day decisions related to your meals, metabolics (structured exercise), mindset (stress management), and movement.
I’m fairly confident that you could continue to lose weight throughout this holiday season by living off of a daily diet of chicken and broccoli, but this could easily backfire. You could find your December credit card bills piling up with more late-night pizza & burger runs, or evening wind-down routines could soon involve a head-first dive into the cookie jar of holiday delicacies.
If you’ve never practiced using structured flexibility as part of a long-term wellness goal, I want to encourage you to start using this concept today. If you are following any of our Metabolic Living programs, sit down and assess what aspects of these programs can continue to work for you through the New Year, what aspects will create more stress as the year winds down, and what (according to my preferences, psychology, physiology) do you need to be more flexible with this holiday season?
Let’s take a look at some actionable steps related to the 4 M Framework to help you stay successful during this holiday season:
Mindset: What can you do daily to stay on track with your stress-management or self-care routine, even if this requires a temporary shift away from things you might do at other times of the year? If you haven’t had a gratitude practice yet, the holiday season is the perfect time to develop one. If you’ve been slacking on your meditation or mindfulness work, add this to your bedtime routine.
Or, ask your loved ones to save themselves a trip to the store to buy you a gift, and instead ask for an early gift in the form of a gift certificate for a massage, pedicure, manicure, or acupuncture session. Use the gift certificate around the time when stress is building up, and take some time away from the holiday busyness to decompress.
Movement: Can’t go out for an intentional 15-30 minute walk on any given day although that is your preferred level of movement? Do a 5 or 10-minute walk, but also add in some additional activities throughout the day to stay moving. If you are heading out for some holiday shopping, take a few extra laps around the mall or store and park your car further from the entrance.
Put on some holiday music as you decorate your house for company or for your own enjoyment and test out a few new dance moves. Challenge your other family members to a step challenge and have a special prize for the winner on December 31. Or take the month of December to test out some in-home walking workouts if the weather is poor outside. There are so many great ways to still build movement into your day throughout the holidays without feeling pressed for time.
Meals: Use our “5S” meal strategy 70-80% of the time and allow for the remainder of your meals to be a bit more on the indulgent side. “S” meals include soups, salads, scrambles, stir-fries, & shakes. These are foods rich in protein, fiber, and water, providing minimal calories with maximum satiation and satisfaction. The other 20-30% of the time, add in a bit more fat, starch, sugar, and alcohol to make your holiday meals enjoyable but not overflowing with added calories.
When it comes to alcohol, if you know that it can be a trigger for you, focus on staying consistent with your water intake. If you know you are going to be drinking more alcohol throughout the holiday season, stay on top of your own hydration while limiting your alcohol intake through a more flexible approach. My top tip is to alternate alcoholic beverages with water, while also limiting starch around the time you choose to incorporate alcohol as part of your meal.
Metabolics: Exercise routines don’t have to go out the window. If you normally do 3 days of working out but know that during the holiday season 2 is more realistic, 2 days of working out are far better than nothing. If your workout routine typically includes 4 circuits but you only have time for 3, then 3 circuits are better than none. Need to swap a workout for a walk? No problem! You are still moving your body! And don’t forget about exercise snacking!
Don’t fall into the trap of “all or nothing” thinking. Learn how to negotiate with yourself and your time commitments, and recognize that time you take for your workouts is an investment in your health and wellness. Once the holiday season wraps up, you’ll probably feel just a bit stronger, and that will carry forward into the new year.
Life happens, and the holiday season comes around every year. I’d encourage you to focus on becoming the most flexible version of yourself over the last couple of months this year.
As Coach Stefania says, “Acknowledge the complexity and reality of these situations with compassion. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to adjust and adapt to changing circumstances.”
Don’t give up when things don’t go your way throughout the holidays, but rather allow yourself to give in! Give in to being flexible with your plans and then readjust instead of giving up!