Alright, you just had a long break from the norm… after the holidays or a vacation we often feel tired, achey, bloated, and maybe a few pounds heavier. We just spent a week or so eating and drinking, stressing out, staying up too late, traveling far, spending too much money, and who know what else! So how do we get back to our healthy routines?
To “detox” means to get rid of harmful things front the body – and I think that this can mean both physically and mentally. Let’s look at some tools we can use to “cleanse”, “detox”, feel refreshed, and get back to our healthy selves!
Sleep is one of the most important things for us humans.
Used For: Improving mood, learning and memory skills, losing weight, improving overall health and performance, lowering risk of disease
“A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that poor sleep can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Disruption of cortisol has proven to be a large factor in weight gain, particularly around the midsection. (It also increases blood pressure levels.)” (source)
My Take: After a week of shoveling in food and sitting on our butts, it’s easy to think that the first thing we should do is get back to the gym. While this is a great thought, I put “going to the gym” on the bottom of the list. First thing? Sleep. Before you try to change your diet, before you try to change your workout routine… first ask yourself “are you getting enough sleep? are you tired? cranky, groggy, feeling weak?”. Getting more sleep will help all of this. If you try to stress out your body by working out while not getting enough sleep, this can be doing more harm than good. You might even get more tired, weaken your immune system and get sick!
Controlling your levels of stress. “Find your happy!”
Used For: Lowering risk of disease, limiting headaches, losing weight, sleeping, avoiding depression, improving immune function, improving gut function
My Take: The first step is your own realization that you are stressed out or something is causing you stress at the moment. It could be something that is constantly bothering you or a milder case that will go away sooner. Either way, take a long pause for yourself. Realize what is happening, take a deep breath, and try to calmly work through the issue.
Do you ever have to do something you are terrified of and instantly feel nauseous? Worry, anger, sadness and other negative emotions can actually effect you physically! If you don’t tackle these emotions, you can actually cause some harm to your body. But there are plenty of ways to manage stress such as clearing the mind, focusing on things that make you happy, combating the issue, meditation, or therapy. If you feel you are in need of some help, please reach out: to a friend or loved-one, do an online search for tips or professional help.
Avoiding processed foods that contain chemicals and additives, and instead eating foods where you can recognize all the ingredients as whole, real foods.
Used For: Improving health, lowering risk for diseases, gaining energy, clearing skin, losing weight,
While eating less is a great strategy for losing weight, the KEY to optimal health is to Eat Real Food. Focus your meals on good quality healthy fats, meat, vegetables and you won’t have as much room left for those pesky treats. Basically, if you fill up on the GOOD, there won’t be room for the BAD.
Remember to HYDRATE! Drink lots of water. Water is your best friend when trying to recover after a night (or week) or partying. Things like alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate you.
My Take: After the holidays, the first step you can take is to make your next meal a GOOD one. When your stomach starts to growl, start with something filled with nutrient-dense foods. My recommendation? Pick a protein, some veggies, and a healthy fat. You can make spaghetti squash, blackened tilapia, eggplant roll-ups, a stew, a salad, or an omelette. Pick from the thousands of recipes online (maybe something on my site? wink wink). If your past week was filled with treats, alcohol, and other high-sugar, high-carb foods… you may want to really cut back on things with lots of carbs and sugar. This will help your cravings get back to normal. (yes, that means limit your fruit, alcohol, potatoes, rice). Need a treat for your sweet tooth? Grab some berries or dark chocolate!
What about juicing (or smoothies)? I like it once in awhile. I think a freshly made juice or smoothie (even better) can be a great way to consume lots of nutrients. However, be careful with your ingredients! While these drinks can be full of healthy things, they are not great for weight loss if they have lots of calories, carbs, and sugars. If you are trying to lose weight, focus on low-carb veggies and minimal amounts of fruit and make a thick smoothie instead of juice, which removes fiber. Avoid store-bought juices, they are high in sugar and sometimes contain additives to preserve them on the shelf.
Intermittent Fasting is a form of dietary restriction where a person cycles between periods of time eating and fasting. There are even different methods and approaches you can take, experts you can read into, etc.
Used For: Eating less, controlling hunger and cravings, burning fat/weight loss
My take: After the holidays, why eat if you don’t have to? When it comes down to it, I personally think you need to really listen to your own hunger signals. Usually a “fast” will be easiest to begin after your last meal of the day, throughout the night and into the next day because you are sleeping through most of it. I will typically eat dinner around 8pm (I have a late schedule), go to sleep around 11pm, then won’t eat a meal until 12pm or 1pm the next day. I may have coffee with cream or a light snack like nuts or veggies if needed, but not much food at all until the afternoon. This would be a 14-15 hour fast. I am not strict about doing this exact number everyday, in fact some days I am more hungry so I will eat earlier, while other days I’m not hungry until 3pm! I have found this method to be really helpful in managing my hunger, eating less, and learning how to really listen to when my body actually needs food versus just eating because “it’s time to eat”.
I.F. can be a great “tool”, but should not be forced. If your body needs energy/food, you feel tired, etc… you may not feel so well by denying it for too long. Remember to keep drinking water, this is not a fast from water!
“A scientific study of intermittent fasting in rats conducted in 1943 found that fasting rats one day out of two, three or four days prolonged the life span of rats (by 15-20% in the case of one day out of three), compared to rats that were allowed to eat whenever they wish. None of the intermittent fasting in the study had detrimental effects on growth. (1)
In one study, intermittent fasting has been shown to extend lifespan and increase resistance to age-related diseases in rodents and monkeys, and improve the health of overweight humans. The study suggests that intermittent fasting may have benefits that are similar to the effects of caloric restriction (CR). Specifically, it has been proposed that intermittent fasting improves the cardiovascular and neurological systems(2)” (source)
“In 1956, psychologist & social philosopher Erich Fromm proposed that loving oneself is different from being arrogant, conceited oregocentric. He proposed that loving oneself means caring about oneself, taking responsibility for oneself, respecting oneself, and knowing oneself (e.g. being realistic and honest about one’s strengths and weaknesses). He proposed, further, that in order to be able to truly love another person, a person needs first to love oneself in this way.” (3)
Used For: self-confidence, self-esteem, energy, passion, drive, motivation, lowering risk for depression and destructive behaviors
My Take: This somewhat goes along with stress management, but I think it needs it’s own section. While it is always great to want to change for the better, or to make improvements on your life, to have goals, etc. … it’s easy to lose sight of oneself in the process. Remember to be in the present and realize how far you have come, for all you do have now, and that the only body, mind, spirit you have is your own. Listen to your own physical and emotional needs – are you hungry, tired, sad, lonely, etc.?
Taking yourself for granted can be one of the most harmful mindsets to be in. It can lead to depression or self-destructive behavior like eating disorders, alcoholism, drugs and other vices. After a stressful holiday or event, take some time for yourself!
(1) Carlson, AJ; Hoelzel, F (1946). “Apparent prolongation of the life span of rats by intermittent fasting”. The Journal of nutrition 31: 363–75. PMID 21021020.
(2) Jump up ^ Beneficial effects of intermittent fasting and caloric restriction on the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems by Mark Mattson and Ruigian Wan