Christmas is not a diet killer and January 1 is not a magical diet fixer

It is the season of sweets, heavy meals and excesses. Obviously my patients want me to fatten up for something special because this is a pretty close representation of what my receiving area looks like:

It’s that time of year when even the guys with the strictest eating habits break down and have a cookie or 3. I even served myself a nice cheat meal last week. I went out with my fiancé to the Royal Palm Beach Commons Park for one of their monthly food truck invasions.

I had been served a large portion of barbecued brisket (fat and all) and was feeling quite satisfied. My fiancé and her friend decided to split a nice dessert from the French Crepe food truck. A ridiculous Nutella and marshmallow concoction that looked and smelled like Type II diabetes.

The fun thing about eating right most of the time is that you’ll feel like crap when you load your body up with sugar. Sure enough, she started feeling pretty bad within about 10 minutes. That’s when she said this little gem:

“I can’t wait for the New Year to come so I can eat better again”

Of course, being the loving, caring, and sometimes sarcastic partner that I am, I challenged her and responded:

“Is there something magical about the New Year? Why wait until then?”

It’s probably not the best approach I’ve ever had, but it gave me something great to write about this week.

Go crazy on Christmas, it’s just one day

People often worry that their diet will be thrown off track by the holidays. There have been many bloggers who have tackled the topic of creating healthy and paleo-friendly meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Now, if you’re someone with a condition that depends on your diet (celiac, diabetic, autoimmune), then of course you need to find alternatives. However, if you are otherwise healthy and only dieting for weight or health reasons, then I tell you to eat what you want. Here’s the thing about Christmas and Thanksgiving that nobody talks about.

It’s only ONE day.

Changing your diet for a day won’t kill your eating habits if you don’t allow it. In fact, I find that it reinforces your good eating habits when you do it right. Why? Because when you feel like shit after gorging yourself on cookies, soda, booze, and candy for one day, you’ll probably feel pretty lousy halfway through, and certainly for most of the next day.

When you do things right, your body tells you when you’re doing things wrong. The problem is that this plan doesn’t work if you decide to let the entire holiday season derail your plans.

One day may not throw you off track, but that 35-day window between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day can sabotage you physically and psychologically.

Thanksgiving Day puts people in the holiday mindset to eat. While Thanksgiving is partly to blame, it’s the days after that get out of control. It’s the leftover pecan pie. It’s the work holiday party for your office, and then the work holiday party for your spouse. When people start repeatedly making poor food choices, maintaining healthy habits becomes psychologically daunting. You say:

Well I’ve been eating like shit the last few days, I guess one more won’t hurt.

“I’ll be back on track in the New Year”

What’s so magical about January that says you have to wait until then to start doing things right again?

Any. There is nothing special about January 2nd. The planets are not aligned to make you weightless. The moon is not going to change your hormone production. It’s just another lap around the sun

Sometimes we have to change the way we think about our habits and routines to create a meaningful change in our health. That includes changing the idea that the New Year is when you’re supposed to be healthy. Here are some tips:

  • Party at Christmas, fast the next day– It may not be a true fast, but consider reducing your calorie intake immediately after Christmas. Calorie restriction and fasting have been shown to have rapid changes in endocrine function and metabolism. If you’re feeling up to it, there’s promising research supporting fasting for 15 to 24 hours and the effect it has on growth hormone, Alzheimer’s disease, longevity, cancer prevention, and immunity.
  • say no to leftovers – Holiday meals are usually designed to have lots of leftovers. Everyone leaves with little bags full of pecan pie and roast beef. It can be a very liberating feeling to say no to these leftovers. When it’s not in your fridge, you have almost a 100% chance of not eating it the next day. Yes, there are hungry kids all over the world who would love to eat that leftover pumpkin pie. Putting it through their digestive system does nothing for them, but it does sabotage their metabolic health. Pass out the leftovers, donate some money to Feeding America, and get a better night’s sleep.
  • Do a challenge with friends – Don’t wait until the New Year to start a challenge. Ask a few friends, family members, or co-workers to do a healthy eating challenge. There is no shortage of effective programs, so find one that suits your needs. Most of the time, it’s not the program that makes you lose weight, it’s the dedication to a prescribed eating plan that delivers the results. If you’re motivated, great, do it on your own, but there’s really nothing like having a team that goes into the trenches with you and holds you accountable.

In conclusion

Don’t worry about celebrating at Christmas. Take some time and really enjoy the food on this day. But don’t let that day take you back from weeks or months of progress. There is no magic day to eat, but there is a lot of magic in showing an indomitable will.

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