With Christmas approaching and Thanksgiving at our heels, what we think is just a couple of days of pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes turn into a two-month junk food bender. And come January 1st, we wake up in an eggnog-induced daze and consequently fifteen pounds heavier.
This time of year, most of us won’t ever consider starting a new diet or getting off our duffs right when it’s getting cold, especially when sitting by a warm fire with apple pie and watching football is way easier than getting to a gym or out in nature. And as a coach, I’ve seen the resolution cycle over and over: this new year, just like all others before it, we will make some new resolution about our health…and then just blow it off come March and continue the year with self-loathing and bad eating all over again.
Aren’t you sick of it? Aren’t you tired of being fat and feeling low in energy and hiding under that holiday sweater? That’s why this week we are talking about diet – the first installment of the “big four” I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Let’s get into some strategies to manage this through the holidays and yet still enjoy it all. Wouldn’t you rather look hot in a new suit or backless dress showing off your traps and flat belly rather than avoiding the camera, fearful of looking terrible on a company Facebook post? Then listen up! Here is what you need to focus on. And don’t worry a little cheer is part of this plan!
Step One: Lose the carbs. Digest that (pun intended). The data is mounting and mounting and I would be a liar and unprofessional to even allude that carbs in any form from candy and Coke to mashed potatoes are acceptable, especially if you are obese or overweight. It’s clear that the grains and sugars and crappy refined vegetable oils are the majority of the problem, not just in how we look or how we perform, but in feeding obesity and its subsequent problems such as heart disease and yes, even erectile dysfunction. There is evidence that this junk can lead to cancer and even dementia and Alzheimer’s. So, you are doing your health and longevity a solid by dropping your daily carb intake to less than 50 grams. But you say, “what about the pie and eggnog?” Here is the thing: there is no problem with enjoying Christmas or eating with the family on turkey day. None whatsoever. It’s the days in between that matter! You could eat what ever you want on all the holidays and your birthday forever because honestly, those days are meant to be excessive and gluttonous. It’s the normal every day that matters, and if you are trying to get rid of twenty or thirty pounds of previous year’s excess, then it’s time to reexamine the habits that got you there to begin with.
Step Two: Increase your above-ground multicolored veggies to about five handfuls a day. This not only floods your cells with valuable micronutrients but allows those protective bacteria to thrive in your intestine and keep you safe from leaky gut. Below-ground veggies like potatoes and beets – albeit delivering a blast of micronutrients – also deliver a large dose of undesirable sugar, so let’s avoid them, at least until your body fat percentage is low (10 percent for men, 15 percent for women).
Step Three: Change the way you think about protein because you don’t need as much as you think. While important, studies prove that 15 to 25 percent of your daily calories is sufficient to help recover from those heavy deadlifts you will be doing at Black Box this week. Eating more than that may actually be detrimental to helping you reduce body fat.
And Step Four: Embrace fat because it is NOT the enemy. One of my childhood athletic idols and blogger on marksdailyapple.com has a great analogy: If your fuel is like a campfire, then think of carbs like kindling; it takes a ton of them and they burn quickly and are smoky and toxic. Therefore, think of dietary fat as a hardwood log that burns long, hot and clean. So, increase your good fats from sources like olive, avocado, and coconut to about 60 to 70 percent of your daily caloric intake. This will fuel your fire, preserve your muscle and stabilize your hormones so you can get rid of that holiday gut and feel good again.
Remember that making major dietary changes and avoiding tempting food at holiday parties or that peppermint mocha at Starbucks can be extremely challenging. Just focus on being kind to yourself and most importantly, being patient. It took years to make you fat and sick, but with dedication, it will only take a few weeks for that hero come out again.
And here’s a bonus tip: Eat when you are hungry and only to satiety. Once you’re over the insulin roller coaster, your body can send signals that help you regulate and manage based on natural signals, so listen to your body and what it is telling you and free yourself of the carb nightmare!
Your health coach,