It’s that time of year. The time of year when all of the Halloween/Christmas-themed seasonal candies show up on the shelves of your local supermarket. No matter how determined you are to not cave to your sugar temptations, white-knuckled will power can only carry you so far when your children bring buckets of chocolate-coated confections into your home. So here are six steps to help get your diet back on track after a derailment:
- Start over today. Do NOT talk yourself into another day of poor eating. Do NOT tell yourself it is okay to start over on Monday, or the first of the month, or the first of the year. You see the problem here? If you allow one day of poor choices to turn into two months of poor choices, you’re going to wake up with a migraine headache and the flu, on the second of January, weighing twenty pounds more than you did a month earlier. It is a slippery slope, my friends.
- Get any offensive foods out-of-sight. Or, better yet, get them out of the house altogether. Assuming that you didn’t eat the entire bag of fun-sized Snickers last night, put them away this morning. If you can, I recommend actually throwing them away. The money is already spent, but that doesn’t mean you have to do further damage to your body because of it. If you feel like throwing them away is too wasteful, pawn them off on someone else. If they are in your house in a moment of weakness, it probably won’t end well. If you are unwilling to get rid of them (Or, if they actually don’t belong to you…anyone else steal a few pieces of their kiddo’s stash?) at least get them off of your kitchen counter.
- Don’t weigh yourself. Look, I know it is tempting. You want to see what damage was done by eating half of a bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups last night. And seeing that number on the scale is sure to scare you straight. But there are two possible outcomes, here. Let’s explore them.
- You weigh yourself, and you gained six pounds. Since it is highly unlikely that you actually consumed six pounds of food that your body instantly converted to body fat, you probably weigh more because you are retaining water and increased your inflammation level and/or glycogen stores. Seeing this “false” weight gain is probably more likely to discourage you than to motivate you.
- You weigh yourself, and you didn’t gain, or actually lost weight. Trust me, this one is worse. You will reason with yourself that your binge was okay, simply because you didn’t gain weight. (Never mind the fact that you feel like crap.) And if you “got away” with eating garbage once, you could get away with it twice. Right??
Just trust me on this. Get your eating habits back on track for a couple days, and then you can assess the damage.
- Eat small, frequent meals in the days following a binge. So, when you take in a large amount of sugar or carbohydrates in one sitting, your pancreas must create and release insulin into the blood to help process the sugar. This can cause a spike in your blood sugar, which is usually followed by a rapid fall. Eating small, frequent meals following a binge will help to stabilize your blood sugar and get your cravings back on track. Have a couple eggs for breakfast at 8:00, some almonds and an apple at 10:00, a chicken salad at noon, etc. Eating every couple hours is ideal. The goal here is to eat before you are hungry. Because once you are hungry, the carbohydrate monster in your head will start trying to talk you into all sorts of things.
- Eat some superfood. Consuming sugar and grains creates inflammation in your body. Inflammation can lead to bloating, joint pain, constipation…a whole myriad of unpleasant symptoms. In fact, inflammation is at the heart of almost all disease. Every taken an ibuprofen to get rid of your headache? There is a reason those drugs are called “anti-inflammatory”. The cool thing is, you can reduce your inflammation with foods, too.
Here are the seven best foods to reach for, to reduce your inflammation: Salmon, Leafy Greens, Blueberries, Green Tea, Fermented Veggies, Shitake Mushrooms, and Garlic. (Read more on why these foods are anti-inflammatory at www.mercola.com.) Including as many of these foods as possible throughout the days following a binge will help reduce your sugar withdrawal symptoms. Personally, I like to throw a few of these foods in a blender and make a smoothie or two.
- Get moving. Chances are, you woke up the morning after a binge feeling bloated, sluggish, foggy, and lethargic. This would be the time that you feel least like exercising, right? Which is exactly why you should. I am not necessarily talking about high-intensity cardio here, either. Some yoga, a walk, or a hike might serve you best, if your inflammation levels are high. www.marksdailyapple.com talks more about the link between inflammation and exercise, but regular exercise tends to lower markers of systemic inflammation, generally speaking. Another bonus: exercise releases endorphins in the brain that can help improve your mood.
Which brings me to…
- Identify any emotions that could have triggered the binge. Unfortunately, this is one of the aspects of poor eating habits that is less-focused-on. And it actually may be one of the biggest reasons for failure. Many of the clients whom I see for nutrition coaching, experience some type of emotional connection to their (unhealthy) foods. Lonely? Grab some cookies. Stressed? Try some potato chips! Depressed? How about a pint of ice cream?
It usually works, too! At least for a while. You see, sugar is a temporary mood-booster. But, “according to a 2012 article in the journal Nature, it is a toxic substance that should be regulated like tobacco and alcohol.” (www.webmd.com) “It also wreaks havoc on (y)our liver, mucks up metabolism, impairs brain function, and may leave us susceptible to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.”
So what can you do instead when you’re feeling down? I think that the most important thing to do is to recognize the emotion and experience it. I am going to use a personal example here, because it’s relevant.
My husband leaves for two weeks at a time. He has been doing this for five years now. I have found that I am most likely to reach for unhealthy comfort foods the first day after he leaves. (Chocolate and kettle chips are my weakness!) I want these foods because I am lonely, and I know I will miss him when he is gone. But a way of coping that is more effective than chocolate, is for me to acknowledge my emotion. I recognize that I feel lonely, and find a healthy behavior to cope with that emotion. Some of my favorite coping mechanisms are exercise, texting friends, reading, writing, or listening to music. I avoid watching TV, because I have noticed that that makes my emotional food cravings worse.
Until you explore your emotional food triggers, you will have a harder time making healthy choices.
The holiday season is upon us! I wish you luck, and the will power to treat your bodies right! But the next time you find yourself on the other end of a candy-bar bender, use these tips to prevent a total dietary landslide. 😉
Yours in health,