For most of us the holidays are over, we’re back at work and life has resumed its regular routine. Most things are back to normal, except it’s quite likely that most of us are carrying an additional few pounds we didn’t have before Christmas.
There’s nothing wrong with relaxing your diet and exercise regime during the Christmas and New Year break. But in the cold light of January, after the festivities have faded, people often beat themselves up for consuming sugar and alcohol or for regaining the weight they had worked so hard at losing.
If this describes you, try not to be too hard on yourself, life is for living and there’s plenty of time to get back to healthy eating and exercise and lose weight again. What makes it difficult is that sugar and high carbohydrate processed foods unbalance blood sugar which leads to cravings so it can sometimes feel impossible to stop . If you’re suffering intense sugar and carbohydrate cravings and feel like you can’t get back on track here are a few tips:
- Have a plan in place for battling cravings: You will get cravings. Expect them. You need to have a plan in place for what you’ll do when one hits. One of the best ways to reduce the risk is to stabilise your blood sugar. Chromium and bitter melon are all excellent for achieving this. Try a Glycaemic Complex which will help normalise glucose metabolism. They work best if you take one capsule with each meal. If cravings are severe, L-Glutamine powder stops cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. Take capsules on empty stomach or sprinkle it under the tongue for immediate relief, 5g or more may be necessary.
- Eat clean: You don’t need to count calories, weigh or measure your foods. Just eat natural, unprocessed foods and trust your appetite. No animal in the wild has the ability to count calories; they just eat when they are hungry and stop when they’re satisfied and are able to maintain a healthy weight. Factory foods such as crisps, biscuits, bread, cakes and sweets are specifically engineered to make you eat in an ‘out of control’ manner, it’s no wonder most of us feel like we can’t stop once we’ve started. If you are prone to binge eating or have a food addiction, staying away from those foods is far easier than trying to fight your biochemistry once you have eaten them. By cooking your own meals from simple, healthy ingredients, you are far more likely to achieve natural appetite control without the struggle.
- Eat adequate protein: http://www.healthcalculators.org/calculators/protein.asp, fibre http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthtool-fiber-meter and healthy fats and aim for a daily target of 45 GL a meal. This will keep you feeling full and make it less likely you’ll over eat or binge on junk food between meals. Healthy sources of fat include coconut oil, avocados, olive oil, macadamia nut oil, pastured butter or ghee, cacao butter, oily fish and raw nuts and seeds. Healthy sources of protein include poultry, eggs, seafood and red meat (preferably pastured). Some people sip water with some fresh lemon juice squeezed into it, to help overcome cravings. Consuming a sour tasting drink can also reduce sugar cravings.
- Cut back a bit, but not too much: Don’t try to make up for the extra calories by skipping meals the next day. That just leaves you hungry.Instead, cut back throughout the day with a series of small meals packed with high fibre vegetables to help you feel full. Meal suggestions include
- A light breakfast such as a bowl of low-fat yogurt and berries.
- Mid-morning snack: a piece of fruit and an ounce of low-fat cheese
- Lunch: a big salad with lean protein such as fish or chicken, or a whole wheat pita pocket with lettuce and tuna or turkey
- Afternoon snack: a cup of vegetable soup and an orange
- Dinner: a piece of fish and plenty of vegetables
- Drink water: Drinking water after a binge will help flush out excess fluids and waste from the body. Feeling heavy and bloated after a binge typically results from fluid retention and slowed digestion from a high volume of food in the stomach. Drink at least 4 litres of water per day after your binge to release excess fluids from the body, decreasing bloat and feelings of puffiness. Water also helps move food wastes through the body for elimination, preventing constipation and a higher number on the scale.
- Prioritise sleep: This is actually the most important strategy in getting hunger and cravings under control. If you don’t sleep well or get adequate sleep, you are far more prone to make emotional rather than rational decisions when it comes to eating. Lack of sleep also raises the hunger hormones in your body, so you will genuinely feel hungrier. So rather than getting out of bed at 6am to exercise, you are better off staying in bed and getting more sleep. Exercise is important, but not at the expense of good quality sleep. If your sleep quality is not good enough, you may want to try a magnesium supplement. It can help you achieve a deeper sleep. People who have difficulties falling asleep usually improve with a melatonin supplement, but watch out as this can cause nightmares in some, making the situation worse.
- Move: It doesn’t have to be structured or lengthy exercise, just as long as you aren’t sitting down all day. Find some kind of movement that you enjoy and that doesn’t feel like hard work. Exercise isn’t only about burning calories. It promotes your brain to produce feel-good chemicals called endorphins. People who exercise regularly are more likely to handle stress better, feel calmer and more optimistic. Those characteristics make it easier to stick to a healthy diet.
Shani Shaker BA (hons), dipION, mBANT, CNHC, is a registered nutritional therapist with a focus on regenerative and functional nutrition, disordered eating, addiction and mental health. Based in London her services include one-to-one coaching, group classes and Skype sessions. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: The information provided is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. Supplementation should only be temporary. If you’re eating a nutrient-rich diet, extra supplementation should only last for a month or two, just long enough to resolve the deficiency.