Firework and American flag

The Fourth of July was my favorite holiday growing up. It’s been that way for most of my life. Early on in my life it was awesome because, as a kid who grew up in the middle of nowhere, it meant a chance to shoot off fireworks for hours on end. Sure, there was always this off chance that I might start a fire in someone’s field. Luckily that never happened and I’ve got years of fond firework-related memories to look back on. Later on, it turned into this day that I looked forward to because it encapsulated everything I love about summer.

Grilling out? You bet. Spend all day by the pool getting way too sunburnt? I’m there. Eating great food and having a few drinks? Well, that might be a most-days-during-the-summer-thing. But it’s especially a Fourth of July thing.

As time has gone on, I’ve also added a new layer to my relationship with the Fourth. A less hedonic and more responsible one.

I’ve always been into health and fitness and taking care of myself. But it wasn’t until I started seriously working with people that I began to see that the Fourth is also a significant source of anxiety for plenty of folks. Very few of us are strangers to the idea that we diet to get ready for summer. What often goes unacknowledged though is that the work we put in doesn’t stop during summertime. The work has to continue if we hope to maintain those results. 

This is why I think it’s important to have an idea of what you want to accomplish before heading into a holiday like the Fourth of July. If you hang around the world of Stronger U for any length of time you’re going to learn we’re big fans of being prepared, and we mean that in nearly every applicable way. When we talk about preparation, we’re not just talking about the meals you’re prepping. We’re talking about evaluating what you look to accomplish over a session, a week, or even a holiday weekend. 

It’s that sort of forethought and preparation that can help alleviate stress around a holiday like the Fourth of July. Let’s not overcomplicate things. Just because there’s a big holiday coming up doesn’t mean that you need to adopt an entirely new mindset or system of behavior. In fact, it might be even more helpful to double down on the basic behaviors that you know work well for you. 

What does that look like heading into the Fourth of July? 

Plan ahead.

Groundbreaking. Novel. Brand new. All of those are terms we would not use to describe the idea that you should plan what you’ll be doing this weekend. But just because planning isn’t groundbreaking idea doesn’t mean that it’s not worth doing.

The beauty of planning is that it doesn’t stop being a smart idea, no matter the situation and no matter the context. We could get really esoteric and talk about how the ability to plan for the future is one of the developments that sets humanity apart from other animals. But instead of getting that weird, let’s just accept the fact that if we have a plan for how to handle ourselves we’re far less likely to be caught off guard. And if we’re less likely to be caught off guard, we’re more likely to behave in a way we wanted. Which, in this case, means enjoying yourself. Within reason.

But the primary point that often gets lost in planning is the work that’s done ahead of time. Before you begin planning your weekend and how you want to handle things, you need to have an idea of just how you want this weekend to go. 

What exactly does that mean? Put simply, you’ve got to know if you want to go off plan this weekend, if you want to stay as on plan as possible, or if you want to exist somewhere in the middle. 

So this weekend, try planning. You could plan any number of ways, including:

  • Plan your meals ahead of time
  • Plan for an untracked meal by prioritizing protein early in the day and saving most of your carbs and fats
  • Plan to know you won’t be logging for a specific day, but have your food and numbers planned for the next day

The point of effectively planning isn’t that we all follow the exact same plan. It’s that we apply the principles of planning into our lives in a way that specifically works for us. 

Prep food ahead of time. 

This one dovetails nicely with planning since prepping is a form of planning. And admittedly, this one is applicable to some of us and might not be easy for others of us. Depending on your plans, you might be in a situation where you’re able to bring some of your own food or you’re in charge of making food. If this is the case, this is a perfect opportunity for you to control as many choices as possible, making it easier to make choices you feel good about. 

  • You could make a healthier side to bring with you so that you know you’ve got something that you can count on to help you keep things in check. 
  • If you’re in charge of the grill, you can grill up lean protein options 
  • You could bring low-calorie mixers and/or mocktails so that you can indulge in a couple of drinks without them eating up a big portion of your numbers.

And if you’re looking for something new to add to your cooking game, then maybe one of these marinades is worth a try.

Seriously, don’t try and exercise the food away.

For close to a decade, the Fourth of July was consistently a day when I worked out harder than nearly any other day of the year. One year I even did deadlifts for an hour straight with fellow SU Coaches Nick Sorrell and Robbie Farlow. This was before we played basketball for about two hours. This wasn’t abnormal for me on the Fourth. It was how I did things every year. 

Why? Because I just operated under the assumption that if I worked out really hard it would negate everything I decided to eat and drink later in the day.

Don’t be like me at that time in my life. Especially don’t deadlift for an hour straight. Your hamstrings will react angrily and you’re gonna curse yourself when you need bend over and pick something up the next day. Trust me on this. But if trusting a personal anecdote isn’t enough, that’s okay. We’ve talked extensively about the calories we burn during exercise and how those don’t make near the difference we like to think they do. If only someone would’ve told me that news a decade ago. 

Remember: a day is not a week.

Very rarely does a single day of eating and drinking undo all of someone’s hard work. In order for that to happen, you’d seriously need to consume thousands upon thousands of calories. Which, by the way, is possible — but not comfortable. Just go on Youtube and look up a 10,000 calorie day challenge. The people who willingly put themselves through that kind of challenge aren’t having any fun. Anyways, we’re getting off on a weird tangent about how much someone can eat during a day. 

The point is, gaining and regaining weight doesn’t just require excess calories. It requires time + excess calories. If your indulgence is confined to one single day, it’s difficult for that day to negatively impact your progress. If you’re seriously over-indulging one day a week, every week, the story changes. If your one day of indulging turns into two days, which turns into a week, then you’ve got a whole new situation on your hands. That’s how we backslide and regain weight and undo hard-fought progress. 

Recognize this weekend that while you’re planning for how you hope to handle this weekend, you’re also planning for a clearly defined starting and stopping point. Do that and then enjoy the weekend, guilt-free. 

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