Fast forward to January 2. The Holidays are officially over. No more parties. You wake up and step on the scale. Are you the same weight as you were on Thanksgiving morning or leaner? Or are you saying, “Holy SH%$!!! I am 5 pounds heavier!!! WTF!!”?
Which version of yourself do you want to be? The heavier version or the leaner version? I think the answer is obvious and if you have been reading my posts and articles for a while now, you know where I stand. However, if you really do want to be the “leaner version of yourself” then I would challenge you to think about that NOW, starting TODAY.
Why today – what’s the rush?
After all, you want to enjoy the holidays and all of the sweets and binging that comes with it, right? Well, here are some things to consider.
Thinking “I’ll just diet and run it off in January”
Many people think that once Jan 2nd comes along, they will join the local gym and all will be well. They’ll jump on the treadmill and sweat off those extra pounds in 4-6 weeks. No problem. The reality is quite different, however. Many people have a food hangover, after eating like crap, which continues well in January. It’s not easy to just turn it off – sugar cravings are powerful. Not to mention, excess cardio in isolation is a poor modality for losing weight and/or excess body fat.
Thinking “This is THE year that I’ll get in Shape”
Really? What is going to make this year any different from past years or any of the preceding 5, 10, 20 years before it? Motivation starts high in January but wanes significantly in 4-6 weeks. Gym attendance around the world tanks between Feb 1 and Feb 15.
The Science of Weight Loss
There are multiple theories of how to lose weight floating around the fitness industry. There are proponents of the calorie theory, in which it’s all about cutting calories. There an also proponents of the hormone theory, by which it’s all about insulin and cortisol. Personally, I really think that the truth lies in the middle of these 2 theories.
This theory says that the only thing that matters is calorie restriction. Simply cut your calories and the weight will come off. This is just too simplistic, because the body is very complex. I do think that total calories matter, but if the theory was totally true, then it would be really easy for everyone to lose weight, and if you’ve been to a mall for holiday shopping recently, then you know this isn’t true, because there are lots of really big people around.
This theory says that it’s not about calories but rather about the hormones insulin and cortisol, with insulin being the most important. In a nutshell, the hormone insulin is secreted by the body in response to the level of blood sugar in the body. And then the body is unable to “use” insulin effectively by shuttling it into muscle, then the body simply stores it as body fat. This is all scientifically true, but even if you have fantastic insulin sensitivity and control your cortisol (stress hormone) really well, and you over-eat like a ravenous hippo, you will not be able to lose weight.
What’s Necessary for Weight Loss
- Reduce calories below maintenance levels
- Improve insulin sensitivity through specific strategies
- Dial in your nutrition with a focus on Nutrient Density
- Lower stress and sleep better
- Exercise with intelligence, i.e., specifically for weight loss
- Maintaining motivation for consistency
All of these topics are worthy of their own article.
A Better Way
So now, back to the purpose of this article, which is eating during the holidays. In my opinion, a better way to live your life and have better health is to manage your nutrition throughout the holidays, rather than “letting it go.” Why wait until January when the damage is done? Science has conclusively proven that the older you are, the harder it is to lose weight. So if your preference is to go nuts from Thanksgiving through New Year’s and try a quick fix in January, it will get more difficult and take longer every year, as you age. That’s just human biology, plain and simple.
My suggestion is to take steps NOW to improve your nutrition that will result in meaningful, and in some cases, dramatic ways. Below is a list of nutrition ideas to jump all over starting today.
- Increase the total volume of veggies you are eating daily.If the only veggies you get each day are a few florets of broccoli at dinner, then you are have a huge opportunity for improvement.Consuming a lot of veggies daily will improve your body composition and health in dramatic ways.Aim for 4-7 cups a day, if not more.No, I am NOT kidding.Have a huge salad for lunch (with lean protein and healthy fat, of course).Snack on carrots or pepper strips.Eat 2-3 cups of veggies at night with dinner.It’s not that hard and this is gold.
- Drink more water.Aim to drink ½ of your body weight in ounces.So, if you weight 140lbs, you should be drinking 70 ounces of water per day, which is the equivalent of 9 cups.If you are now saying, “but I don’t like water,” then here is some tough love.Adults don’t say that.Kids say that.Grow up and drink your water.It’s for your health.And by the way, coffee and tea count.
- Eat more protein.Strive to consume 1 gram of protein for every pound of body weight.Are you concerned about meat causing cancer?It’s over-blown media bull-sh&@.If you want the real, science-backed facts, send me an email, and I’ll be happy to educate you.Adults need more protein than they are currently consuming, in general, and since protein is more thermogenic and has much more satiety than fat or carbs, it’s the MOST IMPORTANT macro-nutrient when it comes to weight/fat loss.Extrapolate that fact to the concept of eating for the holidays and it’s easy to understand that if you are more sated, then you’re less likely to consume more junk food.And you’ll get more bang for your buck, since you’ll burn more overall calories by eating more protein.
- Reduce sugar dramatically and this includes fruit.I know for sure that some of you are now completely opposed and frowning.But fruit is healthy and tastes good?I like to eat 3-4 pieces of fruit per day.Yes – fruit is healthy but it contains gobs of sugar calories and eating too much fructose (fruit sugar) lead to weight gain and body fat.Once again – this is science.Look, is it good to eat fruit?Sure, but in small amounts, and we want to reduce overall sugar intake during the holidays.So, cut back to 1 serving per day or a few servings per week.Particularly if you know that you’re going to indulge at the company holiday party, on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and on New Year’s Eve.What I am saying is to enjoy the special occasions, but make up for it by significantly reducing sugar intake the rest of the time.And that often means less fruit or no fruit.
- Completely cut out all processed foods.No bars.No packaged crackers, chips, cookies.No soy – because all soy products are heavily manufactured and processed to be edible.
- Limit grains to once per week and make darn sure they are whole grains.You DO NOT need to eat breakfast cereal or oatmeal every day.You DO NOT need a sandwich or a dinner roll every day.You DO NOT need to have pasta once per week.Open up your mind and stop with the self-limiting nutritional theories guided by media myths.Grains are not nutrient dense foods.So, cut way back on them.
- Eat fat, for the love of God!!If you are still living in the dark ages and think that dietary fat is bad, it’s time to get re-educated to the current nutritional science of 2016.Fat not only tastes great, but is good for you, and will help you to lose fat.Focus on healthy whole-food fats, such as nuts, nut butters, avocados, olives, full-fat dairy, butter, olive oil, coconut oil and fatty cold water fish.Avoid vegetable oils.
- Between meals, chew mint gum.Walk.Do a few air squats or push-ups.Drink water or tea.Meditate or pray.DO NOT snack on junk food between meals.
If you adopt these strategies today, rather than wait for January, you will change your health status in numerous ways and will likely lose weight along the way. For certain, you won’t gain the typical holiday weight that so many folks do. And then, when the calendar flips , you’ll be in a much stronger position to move forward to improve your health even more. This can be highly empowering.
Don’t wait until the new year to take control of your health. Start today by Eating SMART During the Holidays!!