If there are two things that always seem to go along with holidays, they are:
- Weight gain
- Ads for miracle weight loss plans
If you’ve been in the checkout line at your favorite grocery store lately, you’ve probably seen the ads. First, they shame you for your body shape, then they hold the carrot of weight loss out in front of you. It’s vicious.
Change Your Thinking
If you really want to look like the models on the covers of these magazines, the first thing you must do is ask yourself why. I don’t think it’s an industry secret anymore that all the models are digitally edited in Photoshop. If this is the first you are hearing about it, I’m sorry to burst your bubble. The models you see in most fashion magazines are not humans; they are caricatures of humans, doctored up to look perfect.
The second thing you must do is forgive yourself for rejecting your body instead of loving yourself as your Creator loves you. It may seem like a small thing, but body shaming is a form of rejection – whether it’s you or someone else. It is healthy to want to be healthy, but it is unhealthy to compare yourself to an idealized body image and choose the image over your body.
So, instead of judging yourself for how you don’t look, let’s talk about a simple plan for shaping your body into its best shape after the holidays.
Not The Diet You Think It Is
Now, I may be a doctor and a wellness coach, but I’m not stupid. I can encourage you to eat healthy during the holidays, but I’m practical enough to realize that some holiday treats are too much a part of our culture for most people to resist. If you have the character required to stick to your diet at the company Christmas party, I applaud you. But most of us don’t, and then we spend the holidays shaming ourselves for a less-than-perfect eating choice.
But let’s go pragmatic this week, in the hopes that having a simple, workable plan will make it easier to be consistent.
A Different Strategy
The frustrating part of many popular diets is that they promote a short-term change in eating habits at the expense of forming a sustainable lifestyle that will yield long-term results. I think it’s a function of our fast-food, microwave culture that we want results today without giving any thought to tomorrow.
So, millions of people will start a binge diet on January 1 (or even December 26) and lose some weight really fast. That’s all fine and good, but unless you change the habits that put the weight on you in the first place, you will put all that weight back on — plus some. If you start another binge diet to lose that weight, you will enter a cycle called “yo-yo dieting,” losing and gaining weight, until your metabolism slows down permanently and you find that you can’t lose the weight anymore.
I am familiar with a young woman who would go on short-term, cabbage soup-only diets the days before her husband would come home from active duty, in an effort to suddenly lose the weight she had put on from snacking and bingeing while he was away. It always got her the desired results…until it didn’t. Of course, this was part of a larger pattern of unhealthy lifestyle choices that eventually contributed to a variety of health problems, including dehydration, migraine headaches, bloating, problems with sleep cycle, and others.
I have since lost touch with this couple, but I would suspect that, unless she made some significant lifestyle changes, this pattern progressed to diabetes, digestive problems, and heart disease.
Think Long-term Life
Instead of thinking in terms of short-term calorie reduction, I want to encourage you to think in terms of long-term lifestyle adjustments. You will lose the weight you want, but without the serious side effects that often accompany binge dieting.
Here are a couple of lifestyle adjustments to consider:
Easier said than done, I know. Sugar is hidden in most pre-packaged foods, from cookies to ketchup and pasta sauce. Plus, it is highly addictive. If you’ve ever tried to go cold turkey on sugar, you know what a shock it is to your system. Sugar addiction is similar to cocaine addiction, and the withdrawal symptoms are just as severe, if not worse.
Talking about abandoning sugar during the holidays is like talking about fasting in the buffet line. Good luck with that.
So start with portion control. If you have a favorite sugary treat that only comes around at Christmas, have half of what you would normally have had. Now, that doesn’t mean eat half the pie and state that you were planning to eat the whole thing. Come on, now.
Enjoy the holiday treats, but rather than planning a short-term cleansing binge in January, let’s take a new approach. I want you to envision a life without aches and pains, without energy spikes and drops, and without brain fog and cognitive difficulties. Sugar steals all of that from you.
An Enemy, Not A Friend
Stop thinking of it as giving up a close friend. Instead, think about cutting off an enemy that has quietly been poisoning you. People talk about dieting like they are punishing themselves. Sugar is not your friend. Sure, it makes food taste more intense, but at what cost?
My patients who wean themselves off sugar almost always report that they feel so much better (after about four days of withdrawal agony). Their joint pain subsides. They can think more clearly. Their headaches all but vanish. They have more energy when they wake up, and more consistent energy all day. When they realize that sugar was causing the overwhelming majority of their physical pain, they recognize it for the enemy it is. Instead of feeling for it, they bid it good riddance.
Then one day, they’ll be at a luncheon somewhere, grab a handful of cut vegetables off the snack table, and discover a new love of cold, crisp green pepper.
Remove The Bad Program From The System
What happened? Their sugar-based programming in their brains faded away and their taste buds became free to enjoy the amazing flavors available to them in nature. Sugar does to your taste buds what pornography does to your thought life: it distorts what is natural and good into something twisted and unnatural. Your body was designed to take nourishment (and your brain was supposed to derive pleasure) from fruit, vegetables, spices, and some animal products. Sugar hijacks your taste buds and cultivates an addiction in your brain.
Actually, I suspect that your love of sugary things has less to do with the taste of sugar as it crosses your tongue and more to do with the ways sugar triggers the pleasure centers of your brain. Monosodium glutamate is similar in this regard. It intensifies the flavor of things partially by overstimulating the pleasure centers of the brain. Over time, it can destroy brain cells.
The Emotional Component
All that said, sugar addiction has another insidious component: your brain associates it with pleasure and forms an emotional attachment. Link that to the fact that the holidays are already more emotionally intense than other parts of the year, and you can see how the brain can learn to associate the holidays with a sugar rush.
What do we typically do for birthday? Cake and ice cream – more pleasurable emotional associations with sugar.
What is in most comfort food? Sugar or other complex starches like pasta. Complex carbohydrates (breads and pastas) convert to sugar in the bloodstream, giving you a similar rush of glucose.
That doesn’t make it any easier to let go of these foods. But if your health depended on leaving sugars and carbs behind, you now have some information for the logical/rational side of your brain to argue its case against the emotional side of your brain.
It’s important to have a vision for your life without sugar that is more appealing than the cravings for sugar. It’s like a married man whose vision for a good marriage with his wife is so strong and compelling that he can withstand the temptation to have an affair.
Food for thought.
Yes, I said it. Your body was designed to use fat for fuel, not sugar. Sadly, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is sugar-heavy, so our bodies have learned to use sugar for fuel. Sugar gives you intense bursts of energy but then drops you like a stone. It also leaves you with cravings that are never satisfied. We feel “snacky” because sugar is stimulating but not really satisfying. We always feel empty.
Fat, on the other hand, leaves you feeling satiated longer after a meal, in part because it burns more slowly than sugar.
Plus, your body was designed to handle certain kinds of fat, so it handles them very efficiently. Animal-based fats and certain vegetable-based fats are extremely good for your heart. Olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, sesame oil, and animal fats are safe and healthy. Meanwhile, vegetable oil, corn oil, soybean oil, and canola oil are the worst. You can learn more by reading my oil scorecard here.
Unravel The Big Fat Lie
I know you’ve heard your whole life that fat is toxic. That’s a lie that has been carried on by academic circles for decades. It goes all the way up to the government health agencies. Many of us in the healthcare world suspect that the sugar industry is behind all this manipulation and distortion. Your body needs fat to function; it doesn’t need sugar.
Now, I’m not talking about obesity. Obesity is actually caused by the body’s inability to keep up with processing the sugar intake efficiently. What the body doesn’t use of the glucose is stored in fat cells around your midsection (the spare tire) and crowding your vital organs. When I work with a patient who is obese, we work to get them off sugar, not fat. And when we do that, it melts right off. I may even increase their intake of healthy fats because of how they keep the patients feeling satisfied longer.
Know Where You Are So You Can Plan Accurately
You may have recognized that your eating is out of control and it is affecting your weight and wellness. It might be tempting to go on a cabbage-only diet or something like it. I want to urge you not to do that. A three-day fast can be a powerful reset for your health (I’ve been seeing more research about how three-day fasts can reset your immunity and metabolism), but it has to be done with wisdom. It can’t be a situation where you eat whatever you want for months at a time and then do a three-day fast to try to fix it all. That doesn’t work with balancing your checkbook, managing your relationships, or protecting your health.
I want to encourage you to start with a visit with your doctor. Find out where you are now and what is causing your weight situation. It might not be just the food you’re eating. If you are living under constant high stress, you’re going to have a difficult time losing weight, no matter what program you follow. If you’re not getting enough quality sleep or drinking enough water, you’re going to struggle with weight issues.
All these things are related.
Find out where you are, including your age, your height, your body mass index. Do you have a history of heart disease in your family? You might even want to get some blood work done. It might be that your cholesterol is balanced and something else is amiss. You might be eating the right amount of calories, but the wrong kind of food for your metabolism. Some people can handle potatoes, while others can’t. You get the idea.
Know where you are so you can choose the right way to where you want to go.
Several of my patients have followed a 28-day cleanse that I have personally walked them through. We meet regularly and talk about how they are feeling as they go through the different stages of it. There is a fast in the middle of it, but it is strategically placed after they have had a couple of weeks to gradually remove certain foods from their diets. The first thing we do is remove the foods that cause inflammation in their bodies – usually white foods like sugar, dairy, white flour, and rice.
Many of my patients experience remarkable healing right away, simply because we removed the food that was attacking them from the inside. Once you end the battle inside, your body can rest and repair itself. I’ve seen people lose 30 pounds in a matter of a couple of weeks because of this. They also felt relief from joint pain, headaches, gastrointestinal discomfort, breathing problems, and more.
If you’d like to know more about my 28-day cleanse, stop by my office. We’re located behind the YMCA on Pine Ridge Road.
As we approach Christmas and New Year’s Day, I hope you are enjoying the holidays. I believe you will enjoy them more when your body is healthy and not in chronic pain. We can do something about that.
Tomorrow night, I’d like to invite you to our Fundamental Foods and Friends Dinner at 6:15 pm. My special guest is Denise Petersen, and I know you’re going to enjoy what she has to share. She’ll be talking about your cells, energy, and age-related diseases. It’s going to be a powerful night. I believe you’re going to walk away with knowledge to help you enjoy your best health and long life. Bring $10 cash or a dish to share. It’s going to be a fun evening and we would love to meet you. Be sure to RSVP here so we can make sure you have a seat.
And if you can think of even one person who might enjoy this article, take a few seconds right now to help me get the word out about healthy living during the holidays.
“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas