By Ken "Skip" Hill
I used to think that bodybuilding and the holidays didn’t mix. Clearly, the holidays provide a scheduling dilemma for most bodybuilders who feel they absolutely must get that workout in on Christmas or Christmas Eve, and what is a bodybuilder to do when the food served at a family gathering is something like ham and green-bean casserole? It seems like added stress at an already stressful time of year, right? But while we may miss a workout here or there during the holidays, there are a few benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked.
The competition season usually slows to a crawl at this time of the year, and it’s rare to have shows close to Christmas and New Year’s. Not only that, but the next year’s shows are rarely earlier than March, so most people really don’t have a reason to be dieting over the holidays anyway. Of course, there are exceptions, and those people who’ve allowed themselves to get too fat in the off season will likely have to struggle through the holidays lying to their prep guy about how they can’t figure out how they gained 12 pounds over the week of Christmas and claiming that it must be water weight. Note to the reader: Your nutritionist / prep guy knows that your fat ass ate the equivalent of two hams and a pecan pie and then washed it all down with full-fat eggnog. Just own it.
I know I’m going to get gasps from more than a few readers, but the holidays are a time to enjoy family, friends and …. Oh my GAWD …. FOOD. I’m not talking about chicken breasts and broccoli, either. I’m talking about ham — the full-fat version that makes killer ham-and-cheese sandwiches for a full week after Christmas. I’m talking about stuffing, casseroles (notice how that word is pretty close to “ass rolls”? — yes, it was a reach), cheese logs and pecan pie. We have the rest of the year to focus on our obsessive issues by eating like a bodybuilder. The holidays are time to be normal.
It isn’t like bodybuilders don’t cheat on their diets and end up feeling like putting a gun in their mouth for doing so. But for the holidays, you can give yourself permission to eat with family and friends, and the food you shovel in won’t be typical bodybuilding cheat foods like ice cream, Burger King and pizza anyway. Holiday food is usually home-cooked, and aside from the high caloric content, it’s actually pretty healthy compared to standard cheats. Plus, your mother or grandmother will be flattered that, for once, your stupid ass didn’t bring Tupperware to her house, metaphorically slapping her in the face by not wanting to eat the food she cooked.
Eating all of this normal food will also give you some motivation in the New Year. You’ll come off of the holidays like everyone else in the world and feel like a fat ass. Embrace this. It will only motivate you more than ever to get into the gym and tear the place up. It will also make you that much more focused on your diet. See, breaks like this are good for your psyche, believe it or not. If you can get through the initial feelings of suicide that company an obsessed bodybuilder missing a workout or having to eat normal food, it can actually be to your benefit. See? You had no idea that reading my rants would end up being therapeutic, did you? Hey, I’m here for you. Now come back to the couch and lie down ...
During the holidays you can also take the time to really ask yourself what you want to accomplish the following year. The holidays are a time to look forward but also a time to reflect. For bodybuilders, these goals will have nothing to do with career or family but will focus on what show you plan to compete in or the new training style that will finally get you from not placing in your state show to catapulting into the top five at Nationals, threatening to attain that inevitable pro card. You can then drink too much eggnog and proceed to explain in depth to everyone within earshot how you plan to accomplish these goals. No one will give a shit because they hear you talk about yourself the rest of the year, but they’ll pretend to listen because, well, it’s the holidays and people are just nicer to family during this time of year.
When all is said and done and Auld Lang Syne has been rung in or sang or whatever the hell happens on New Year’s Eve (I don’t really know because I’m usually propping my drunk wife up, holding her hair back so she doesn’t puke in it and trying to find her clothes so that I can get her to the truck because the neighbors are asking us to leave their party at 10 pm), you get to look back on the holidays with fond memories of family and friends. Sure, you’ll ask your wife if your jeans are making your ass look fat, but you won’t care by mid-January because you’ll be back to your OCD dieting and training. You’ll be back in bodybuilder mode for another 11 months, and you’ll have turned the channel back to the “me show.” In the meantime, I encourage you to enjoy the holidays and make memories with your family and friends. Even if you have one of those families where everyone wants to kill each other and everyone talks about everyone else, stick it out and spend that time with them during the holidays because as the years pass, you’ll lose that opportunity at some point. Plus, and probably even more importantly, if you don’t spend time with your family and friends, they just might not come to your show. Obviously, you don’t want that. Hey, Just sayin’.
Ken "Skip" Hill has spent 30 years in the trenches of bodybuilding. He owns TEAM SKIP Nutritional Consulting, where he specializes in conditioning for bodybuilders and high-level athletes. You can reach Skip through his website, TEAMSKIP.net and follow him on Twitter (@IntenseMuscle).