Let’s face it: December could very well be the toughest time of year for anyone who’s trying to shed extra pounds. While following an ultra-restrictive diet is no walk in the park, the one thing that adds an extra level of complexity is that we all want to enjoy the holiday festivities without going overboard and later regretting it.
Half of Americans want to lose weight, according to Gallup, which isn’t quite the same as the number of people now classified as being overweight (2 of 3 adults). How many of these people are fighting a battle day in and day out by doing the diet tango—constantly going back and forth between an eating approach that’s very low in calories, too low in fat, too high in refined carbohydrates and generally unsustainable and throwing in the towel after yet another eating spree that occurred due to a huge dip in blood sugar levels?
It’s easy to see the rationale of putting off weight loss until the New Year. We tend to procrastinate when it comes to doing things we don’t want to do, and who wants to diet? Is there an easy answer? What if all it took was a little common sense and the ability to filter through the poor information we’ve received on what is best way to eat?
The Paleo diet solution
If we eat more veggies, enough fat (most clients who I see eat far too little) and a balanced variety of proteins, we set ourselves up for higher energy levels, increased mental focus, less chance of going overboard on high sugar choices and, you guessed it, fat loss.
If, on the other hand, we rely primarily on packaged, processed foods that are inherently high in salt and sugar in keeping with the notion that the number of calories is all that matters, we can plan to continue on the current trajectory we’re on now.
Remember the fat-free craze that began in the early 90’? Pre-diabetes and diabetes have nearly doubled since then. With the average American eating three pounds of white sugar per week, it’s not surprising that the concept of eating fresh, locally and seasonally seems far-fetched.
Whether you call the approach of eating in season, eating local food and eating a healthy balance of nutrients (including naturally occurring, low-sugar carbohydrates – mostly veggies and some fruit, wild proteins and a range of healthy fats) Paleo (that’s what a true Paleo diet is all about, after all), common sense or eating real food… it’s all the same idea.
How to make the Paleo diet work for you
Surely there must be some tricks to it, right? No! This is one of the main reasons it works so well. But there is one key element that is necessary to ensure success: patience. We want things now, and if the scale is tipping twenty pounds higher that you’d like, there becomes an urgent need to get the weight off, like yesterday. This makes a reasonable approach, like Paleo (which would allow for slow, steady — and permanent! — weight loss) feel like things are moving too slowly.
My best advice is to think about how long it took to put on the extra weight, and work backwards to determine what an attainable rate of fat loss would be. Even though you may want to fit easily into your skinny jeans for the holidays, wouldn’t you rather be a permanent five to seven pounds slimmer when you ring in 2016 instead of on the rebound from another restrictive cycle of eating too stringently?
Now comes the toughest part of all: how can we handle the holidays without feeling we’re being deprived? Below are my top five tips to successful holiday eating.
Eat more fat
When you consume more healthy fats, you’ll feel more satiated, your blood sugar will stabilize and when you’re hungry for your next meal, you’ll make better choices because you haven’t gotten yourself into a blood sugar low.
Recondition yourself to eat and enjoy the protein-y, good fat, seasonal vegetables (and therefore, delicious, health-promoting and energy boosting) foods and focus on what all you stand to gain from that, instead of focusing on the fact that you’re choosing not to eat sugar cookies. The mere thought of how you’ll feel afterward can be a deterrent all on its own!
Smell your way down memory lane
More powerful than taste, olfactory has a strong input into the amygdala, which process emotions. The kind of memories that it evokes are good and they are more powerful. So inhale all the aromas from the kitchen as much as you want to without any negative health effects!
Focus on flavor
Go with the traditional tastes of each and every dish in its traditional form and take those with you as you recreate your own healthier versions. Take all the herbs and spices from a standard stuffing recipe and sauté up a dish of wild mushrooms with sage, onion, rosemary, minced onion and celery, add some chicken broth and a bit of red wine and reduce it. Nix the heavy, starchy mashed potatoes with roux-based pan gravy and swap it out for cauliflower mash doused in pan jus from the grass-fed standing rib roast you’ve served.
Choose splurges wisely
No need to indulge at all the parties and cocktail hours you’ve been invited to. Pick the ones that are most important, and then narrow down what you’ll indulge in before you arrive, so you have a plan. Skip the wine, and don’t fill your plate with bread, cake or truffles. Choose the one item you enjoy most, then enjoy it, and your mind will be at ease that you’re not ‘cheating’ or being bad. This makes it all the easier to hop right back on track instead of feeling you’ve done yourself in.
Be reasonable with your goals, kind to yourself with your planning and get ready for a healthy, holiday season that may well be the first one many experience without that dreadful feeling that you’ll pay for it later on.