Christmas is destroying my superfood diet
Since I can remember I have had a tendency to over-eat. I like binging. And there’s no better (or worse) season in Finland to gain pounds because of this than Christmas. It’s dark and cold outside, so you do less sports. You are free from work so you stay at home and watch bad Hollywood movies or read the latest and greatest holiday novels. The constant lying around is interrupted only by over-eating sessions filled with ham, smoked salmon, rice porridge, potatoes, carrots and basically anything really heavy. And after getting a massive food-baby you continue lying on the couch with a warm cup of mulled wine and milk chocolate.
Be it Christmas, Hannukah, Eid Al-Fitr, or Diwali one thing is certain: It’s crazy difficult to maintain a healthy diet during celebrations. You have parents who don’t understand why their little Mike no longer eats meat or why is our Sarah avoiding carbs. It’s the season to be merry and to relax from the hectic year. So what can you do if you still want to keep tight reigns on your diet during the holidays? Well, actually quit a lot. Here’s few pointers I try to follow.
Our body goes naturally through seasonal “fluctuation”. The amount of sun light, the temperature changes, and other factors make our body look and perform slightly differently in different times. Just like with professional athletes, we all have tougher seasons and recovery periods. So knowing this, don’t plan the toughest diet during the holidays, but rather just before it. This will mean that the holiday will serve as a well deserved rest period to re-build muscles and cells. Being conscious about this will reduce the stress and worry for the binging. Just like my grand-mom used to say: it’s not the celebration but the daily life.
Limit the over-eating to a fixed time period
My second tip for the planning phase is to make a conscious decision on when do you start and stop over-eating. Personally this is the toughest part. Getting back on-track requires will power, but making a decision in advance helps. I try to delay the start of the eating fest to as late as possible. I don’t change my normal healthy diet before December 24th. Then I also try to have a special activity for the 26th that will break my 24-48 hour nonstop eating spree. A pre-agreed sport activity with friends or family will often help to get back on track. I’m a tracking enthusiastic and a control-freak, but I have found that well planned break on a diet is mentally easier for almost all kinds of people.
Eat a proper breakfast
Start all your binge days with a high protein and fiber rich meal. An omelet from organic eggs and steamed veggies will do. Beans, guacamole, and a salad is also one of my favorites. This meal serves two purposes. First of all mentally having a good start to the day will naturally limit your worst need binge. Slowly digesting high protein meal will keep you content longer. Secondly the veggies are super important as the insoluable fibers in them will prevent making your stomach upset. You can eat a lot in the morning but keep it as protein and vegetable rich as possible.
Credit: kimtaro (flickr)
Add short exercises to the day
Holidays are meant for resting so unless you absolutely want to, you don’t need to do any major exercises during the period. But doing few very short, but quite intensive, full-body exercises will help a ton. Doing these exercises will bring more GLUT-4 (it’s a glucose transporter type 4) to the surface of the muscle cells, opening more the flow of calories to them. So instead of saving the extra food you eat to fat, you can use it create muscle. 1-2 minutes of squats, push-ups, and other similar simple exercise should do the trick.Credit: Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (flickr)
Now we’re going to a more specific nutritional tips. Insulin is a hormone central to regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body. Insulin stops the use of fat as an energy source by inhibiting the release of glucagon. That’s why all people who have have diabetes know this hormone very well. Basically if you can minimize insulin during the day, you can also minimize the damage of the binge. Easy way to accomplish this is through citric juices. Ideally 30min before your high protein breakfast you would drink around 0,6L ice cold water with lemon/citron squeezed into it. You can also have a glass of any fructose juice before the second meal of the day. This should flat-line the glucose levels for the rest of the day.
Drink plenty of water
Drink at least 1L more water than you would normally drink. Just like the breakfast, this serves two purposes; a mental and a physical one. Having your stomach (more) full from water will help your brain feel content. Other reasons is that it’s wise to combine excess carbs with excess water. The name carbohydrate actually means “watered carbon”. The more water you can put into your muscles, the more likely they are to grow. Carbs bind with water when they form muscle glycogen thus stretching the muscle cells and helping them to grow.
Minimize digestion – maximize poo
In a normal diet you want to digest as many of the valuable nutrients and calories you eat. But in the case of holiday binge you might want to do the opposite. You want to make your food exit your stomach as fast as possible. You can use any basic stimulant, like caffeine or theobromine (hint: a lot in chocolate), to speed the movement in your gastrointestinal track. Green tea (theophylline) and greens also help. So a cup of Joe and some spirulina raw chocolate should do the trick.
Don’t cave in under pressure
Lastly, do not let other people pressure you to do anything you don’t want to. I mean sometimes cultural traditions are good to respect, but that doesn’t mean you need to become a meat eater if you don’t otherwise feel like so. And you definitely don’t need to drink toxic produced milk, crappy table salt or alloxan filled white flour to please your parents. Respect others, but also remember to respect yourself
Ps. This article is based on my own experiences combined with the advise from 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferris. Highly recommend this controversial book from a self-experiment point-of-view. You might, or might not, agree with Tim, but he’s the undisputed king of self-experimenting.Credit: anasararojas (flickr)