We have all been there: eaten too much, drank too much & done practically no exercise over the holidays. It's something a lot of us do, so much so that in the coming weeks you will see numerous articles about "detoxing your body" & how to "cleanse" your system to repair the damage of the holiday madness. But all of these "Detox" & "juice diets" that seem to becoming more & more common, with their lists of suggested benefits are exaggerated & not supported by science.
For example, the rapid weight loss often reported as one of the main benefits occurs largely from a loss of water weight & carbohydrate stores, but importantly, almost no body fat is lost. The reality is that this new "weight loss" is usually replaced within a couple of days of returning to regular eating.
However, despite the benefits of detox diets being exaggerated, a short-term detox is unlikely to do you any harm, so, if you feel better for doing it, there is no reason to stop. The reality is that "detox" and "cleanse" diets are just that: short-term approaches.
When setting new targets this January aim to do something that is sustainable for you. We have all heard the statistics about how people fall off their "diet" & are back to bad habits by the end of January, & that is exactly what you want to avoid.
Instead of starting another 'diet', think about making different lifestyle choices. Let's look at a sensible & sustainable approach to your health goals this new year.
WHERE TO START -- YOUR MINDSET!
Good nutrition can only be accomplished by consistently applying the right dietary habits. The two most important aspects in your dietary "reset" is that you are doing it for the right reasons & that you are consistent.
Doing something as a token gesture as a short-term attempt of being healthy will offer little benefit to you in the long-term. Make a plan to make the process of eating healthy easier & set some realistic targets.
Simple targets like drinking two liters of water & eating three portions of green vegetables per day, & not eating late in the evening. You could also set some weekly exercise targets, & stick to them.
RESETTING YOUR DIETARY HABITS
What should you do to "fix" or "reset" your diet anytime you feel like you have gone off track? Below are some basic principles you can use to get back on:
CUTTING BACK ON YOUR CARBS
Over the past weeks, you are likely to have consumed huge amounts of carbohydrate foods, both good & bad. In the absence of regular exercise, this will mean that your carbohydrate stores (glycogen) will be saturated, which is partly responsible for a state of insulin resistance that predisposes you to then store energy as fat.
In order to restore insulin sensitivity by reducing these energy stores, you can deplete them by a combination of moderate-to-high intensity exercise & a reduction in your intake of carbohydrates.
Aim to consume more foods with lower carbohydrate content such as fresh berries, leafy green vegetables, nuts & seeds.
Once you are happy with your progress & feel you are achieving your body composition & fitness goals, you can re-introduce some slow-digesting carbohydrate foods on training days.
TAKING A HOLISTIC APPROACH
If you are looking to really get back on track then devise a clear plan based around your personal nutritional needs. Base your food choices around minimally processed, whole & natural foods to making you feel and look better.
Be kind to your mind: Do you eat oily fish? It has repeatedly been shown to benefit the brain in terms of mood & function, so aim to consume some oily fish & few times a week.
Love your gut: With the increasing evidence regarding the health benefits of probiotics including better immune function & reduced incidence of respiratory illness & gastrointestinal infections, a course of probiotics may be a worthwhile strategy for two weeks in order to re-establish the healthy bacteria population in your gut.
Think about your health in general: Every time that you put something in your mouth, it has the potential to have a positive or negative impact on your body. Aim for these responses to be predominantly positive by eating the right foods.
Get your beauty sleep: Get back into a regular sleep pattern, ie start going to bed & getting up at the same time each day. More & more research is showing the benefits of sufficient sleep like improved immune function, reduced stress hormones, better mood & better appetite control.
Make a training plan & stick to it: Plan for a minimum of 4 workout sessions per week & stick to them! Turn up & get them done. Supplement your workout plan with incidental exercise such as, walking the dog, taking the stairs, walking to the local shops & playing with the kids.
Your approach & mindset to your post-holiday nutrition is as important as the foods you decide to eat. Set realistic goals that you can stick to in the long-term rather than trying to do extreme short-term fads that offer limited healthy benefits.
Eating foods that are nutrient- and fibre-rich like fresh vegetables & fruits must always be at the core of each of your meals. If you make predominantly good food choices, you never need to try the short-term approach because your body will be in a constant state of healthy repair. Given the nutrients we need, our bodies are extremely capable of removing toxins, fighting off infections & sustaining good health, so what we need to do is limit the amount of damage we do by eating processed foods & support it by eating the right foods that provide benefits in the long-term.