By: Noel Le, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
The dust has finally settled, the gifts have been given, the food has been
eaten, and you may or may not have put on a few “holiday”
pounds. Breaking your stride on a few days doesn’t mean you have
to lose the whole race. The important thing is to set a path for success
and to get you back on track after the celebrations have passed. Here
are a few recommendations to help you find your way for the new year:
- Adequate hydration
In the midst of celebrating and being surrounded with good food and alcoholic
beverages, it’s easy to forget about water. Our bodies rely on fluid
balance for many systems to properly function, and alcohol increases water
loss, which can alter the functions of these systems, including digestion.
Oftentimes, a lack of hydration can be perceived as hunger. So before
you reach for that snack, start with drinking a glass of water and see
how you feel afterwards. Additionally, try drinking a glass of water before
a meal to control your hunger and prevent you from overindulging during the meal.
- Avoid extreme measures and skip the detox
One common trend that is often used to “jump start” getting
back to proper eating habits is to “cleanse” your body with
a short-term detox diet. While these types of diets can sound intriguing
and promise rapid weight loss, the results are often as short-lived as
the diet itself. Furthermore, the weight that’s lost is mostly water
weight as opposed to fat loss, and as a result, this loss is often regained
once you go back to your normal diet. The better solution is to adopt
long-term dietary changes, which will result in more sustainable weight loss.
- Out of sight, out of mind
We tend to eat whatever is available. It can be difficult to resist this
urge. The easiest way to control this impulse is to control the types
of food you have around. Rather than having high calorie food items on
hand, stock your fridge and pantry with better, healthier options. Sometimes
it’s inevitable that you’ll have types of food around that
are less healthy. In these cases, out of sight, out of mind could turn
out to be a surprisingly effective strategy.
- Go for a walk
The idea of the “food coma” is common after a big meal, especially
one that was overindulgent. While it can be tempting to sit back and relax
or even take a nap, research shows that going for a 15 minute walk after
a meal can actually be much more beneficial. This simple, light exercise
can help reduce indigestion and help your body manage its blood sugar.
Additionally, there has been research to support that short walks can
also help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk for depression.
- Don’t skip meals
It’s easy to think you can simply counterbalance an overconsumption
of calories by skipping meals, but this often only leads to further overeating.
When you allow your body to reach high levels of hunger, it can be very
easy to lose control and overeat once you reach that next meal. Aim to
build smaller, well-balanced meals containing high-fiber starches and
grains, vegetables, and lean protein. By doing this, you'll allow
your body to manage your hunger and have better self-control when it comes
to the amounts you consume. Even if you know you’ll be eating a
larger meal later on in the day, having a smaller meal a few hours before
can help prevent you from overindulging.
- Examine the why
If you find yourself overindulging, take a step back and find the reason
for it. There are numerous reasons that lead us to eat besides hunger,
such as stress, social pressures, or even just out of boredom to name
a few. If there is something in your life that is constantly giving you
so much stress that it pushes you to eat in order to release that tension,
then it’s important that you address this factor. Evaluate whether
it’s something that can be changed or find healthier ways to ease
the stress. Try exercising or talking to a therapist. There are countless
reasons, just as there are countless solutions, the key is finding what
works for you.
- Banish the guilt
The path to healthy eating habits is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes
a lot of time and work to make the proper changes and stick to them, and
there will inevitably be stumbles along the way. Even when you fall, as
discouraging as it may feel, the important thing is to acknowledge it
and learn from it. It may be a challenge at first, but by allowing yourself
to feel your discouraging thoughts rather than trying to ignore or repress
them, you will slowly be able to recognize them and more easily keep moving,
without them holding you back.
As you get back on track, remember that your regular eating habits and
what you do day-to-day, are going to have the most lasting impact on your
health. It’s okay to have that slice of pie during Christmas or
a drink to celebrate New Year’s Eve. What’s going to be more
impactful is what you do before and after those days. It can be easy to
fixate on goals and milestones as they are measurable results, but our
lives and bodies are not constant, and progress is not always linear.
So remember to reflect on what you’ve learned, and on all of the
big and small accomplishments you’ve made, to help drive you to
keep moving forward!
Noel Le, RDN • Registered Dietitian Nutritionist • (310) 891-6707