Well it’s almost here. We are near the peak of the holiday season (if you happen to be celebrating, which you might not). Thanksgiving is over and Santa-time is just ramping up. Whatever your beliefs and/or traditions are, it’s times like these that can really wreak havoc on your diet and exercise routines. Travel, business, extra obligations, holiday goodies, family meals, parties, a tight budget, and stress can all have a negative affect on your health.
Usually during this time of the year I see magazines and the internet flooded with articles pedaling holiday “diet plans”. They often have titles like, How to Survive the Holidays Without Gaining Weight or 10 Quick and Easy Substitutes for Unhealthy Holiday Favorites. Some articles say it’s ok to eat a big meal here and there but try to avoid alcohol and extra snacks. Some might say that you can go crazy on desserts if you keep your regular meals in check. Others maybe say that as long as you do everything in moderation and up your cardio you won’t gain a pound.
Personally, I can’t get with all that nonsense. It all seems pretty clear to me. Here’s my take on “holiday eating”:
Go ahead and binge if that’s what you want to do. Yup, seriously. BUT, if you do, you’re going to have to but on your big girl (or boy!) pants and just accept the fact that you’re going to feel awful and guilty. If you DO feel awful and guilty, you can use all that anger and disappointment to push yourself harder than you ever have before in the new year. You can make a fresh start and turn all those negative feelings into motivation.
If you DON’T want to feel awful and guilty, then stick to your regular diet and exercise routines.
It’s that simple!
Here’s Why You Feel BAD
When you overeat you feel awful afterwards for a variety of reasons. First, psychologically, like I mentioned above, you might feel guilty or regretful or disappointed in yourself. A high level of fitness is not something that is gotten without a good amount of sacrifice and very hard work. It takes time, money, energy, focus, drive, and, sometimes, even pain to complete difficult workouts daily and prepare and eat a healthful foods. When you binge on processed carbs and sugar it can make you feel like you’ve thrown all those hours and hours of hard work away on something that was enjoyable for about 10 minutes.
Physically, a binge on junk can actually throw your whole body chemistry way off track. Bingeing on sugar can cause your insulin levels to spike to help control your blood sugar levels. Once the insulin helps absorb the excess sugar, your blood sugar levels drop dramatically and you crash. A blood sugar crash will leave you exhausted and miserable. And cyclical binges and crashes can lead to chronic fatigue, liver problems, and even diabetes. Sugar’s bad for you skin, too. It causes wrinkles and acne. (I wrote an article about it, you can read it here.)
We all know what happens when you drink too much. A hangover can feel bad but it actually really messes with your body. Over drinking can cause inflammation of the lining of your stomach, dehydration, sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, and electrolyte imbalances. Too much alcohol can also disturb chemicals in your brain causing broken sleep patterns and mood disturbances. (I wrote an a article all about drinking, too. You can read it here.)
And let’s talk about the real villain, highly processed carbs. They look so small and innocent sitting out there on the appetizer table, those little salmon puffs or pepperoni roll-ups. First and foremost, highly processed carbs cause inflammation in your body. Chronic inflammation can lead to illnesses, fatigue, even heart attacks and strokes.
Researchers have even discovered that eating a bunch of processed food can cause your gut bacteria to get all out of whack. A 2016 study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research conducted a rat study to determine what happens to gut bacteria when processed foods are introduced. Researchers divided the rats into three groups. The first group ate healthy rat chow only. The second group cycled between processed junky human food and rat chow. The third group ate only the junk. Both groups that ate the junk had totally different kinds of gut bacteria than the rat chow group. When your gut bacteria is thrown off it can lead to a whole host of problems, including problems with digestion, allergies, metabolism, depression, and anxiety.
And guess what? The rats that cycled between the junk and rat chow? They totally binged on the junk every time. They weren’t able to practice their “holiday moderation”, haha.
So, like I said, it all seems pretty simple to me. Do it and feel yuck or don’t and feel good. If you end up feeling bad and regretful, make it your warrior fuel come January 1st, 2017.