January 1st is fast approaching, which means EXTREME DIET season. People across the country will endure juice fasts, wellness retreats, kale salads, and copious cups of detoxifying herbal teas for a few weeks in search of glowing skin, weight loss, and holiday redemption. But, is all of this really necessary? Can a simple 2-6 week diet undo all of your holiday sins?
The answer is no, not really. While starving and suffering for a few weeks may feel redemptive, you’re putting more stress on your body than is healthy. Regardless of how you twist it, the popular post-holiday detoxes are still diets, and diets, especially extreme ones, can lead to bodily stress and yo-yo binging. Instead, focus on improving the quality of the foods you eat. By the time January 1st rolls around, must of us are hooked on that 11am, 3pm, and 9pm sugar fix, which is simply not healthy. A gentle cleanse can help you to purge yourself of these toxic, incessant cravings for sugars in a more relaxed, wholesome way than a short-term diet. Two to six weeks of sugar limitation can nix your newly developed addiction and set you up for successful and sustainable dietary habits in the months following New Year’s Day, not just weeks. Instead of dieting, try these 7 tips to get you back on track and healthier than ever for the New Year.
1. Ditch Processed Foods.
For the umpteenth time, this is important. Processed foods, like crackers, sauces, cereals, breads — mostly anything packaged — can be filled with sneaky sugars and unhealthy ingredients. Instead of stressing about scrutinizing labels constantly, ditch the packages for a couple of weeks and opt for fresh, natural foods instead. Eventually, it’s okay to add a few healthy favorites back into your diet, but practice moderation and resist dependence.
2. Only Eat When You’re Hungry.
The holiday festivities can be very food-centric, and the come-down can be rough. When you are bored, sad, stressed, or tired, don’t just reach for an unhealthy snack out of habit. Ask yourself: Am I really hungry? Would I eat an apple or a carrot if I had the option? If the answer is “no, I want a brownie”, grab a big glass of water and find something productive to do — you are not hungry. If the answer is yes, find an apple or carrot and munch away! If later you find that you’ve still got a hankering for sweets, enjoy a serving of fruit salad or one-ingredient banana ice cream! No harm done.
3. Dump Added Sugar.
This means table sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave, and molasses are going to have to take the back seat for a while. That also means ketchup, soda, certain salsas, and most packaged/processed foods need a wide berth as well. By slowly cutting all added sugars from your diet, your tastebuds will learn to crave and appreciate natural sugars instead of the super sweet, blood-spiking kick of a candy cane. Some good spices to try are cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, salt, and stevia. All of these can give the illusion of sweetness in foods without spiking your sugar levels.
4. Eat Veggies.
This holds true year-round. The natural sweetness of veggies and some fruits can help to wean you off of the hard stuff you’ve been enjoying over the holidays. Plus, they are bursting with fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants. Raw, roasted, or steamed they have their benefits. All that matters is the more veggies you eat, the better off you’ll be.
5. Get Daily Exercise.
While sugar binges can release your happy hormones, just 20 minutes of exercise a day does the same thing. Nip your cravings in the bud and take a power walk! If exercise isn’t ‘your thing’, try some new activities that you find fun. Whether it’s tennis, swimming, yoga, hiking, or biking, pursuing fun sports with friends is a surefire, enjoyable way to get your body moving.
6. Don’t Nix All the Fat.
Many people try to stick to low fat diets after the holidays, but that is just setting yourself up for disaster. Your body needs fat. Without it, your brain doesn’t function as well, you get strong cravings, and your willpower becomes feeble. Healthy fats — both saturated and unsaturated — are nothing to be afraid of. A little bit of grass-fed butter on those steamed carrots is infinitely more nutritious than a chocolate donut, right?
7. Accept That Your Are Human.
Stop feeling guilty about beheading at least 100 gingerbread men and guzzling gallons of eggnog over the holidays. You celebrated, it was fun, now it’s over. Life goes on. Don’t waste your time wallowing about not having exercised for the past 2 weeks. Eat well now. Exercise now. Live in the now and be the best you can be.
Your healthy eating habits may have gone out the window over the holidays, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get them back. Realign your priorities and your retrain tastebuds to revel in the flavors of natural foods and you’ll be rewarded with long-term benefits. Don’t be tempted by fast weight loss schemes or detoxifying treatments. All good things take effort and time.