The holidays are fast approaching, and for some, that means it’s the perfect excuse for an epic cheat day, as turkey slathered in gravy with multiple sides of carb-heavy comfort foods replace a carefully curated nutrition plan. It all sounds great at first, but the day after will be a different story—one that’s hard to stomach. It gets worse when that one holiday cheat leads to an entire season of calorie-busting dinners and parties, all designed to sabotage your normal diet and leave you a few pounds heavier when the festivities are all over.
While a little overeating around the holidays is to be expected, the key is to not let all that (admittedly delicious) food lead to poor dietary habits afterwards. With the right set of utensils, you can learn how to bounce back from going ham around the holidays. Your gut will appreciate the following diet reset tips.
1. Cut Out the Sugars and Simple Carbs
You’ve spent the past few hours consuming foods high in sugar and simple carbs, all of which get turned into fat when you become sedentary. Watch out for the added sugar on the nutrition panel; it’s made up of glucose and fructose, which play a role in inflammation. Glucose produces a pro-inflammatory response via cytokines, and fructose creates advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) in the blood, ultimately making it harder for the body to get rid of inflammatory markers. Gradually decreasing the amount of sugar and simple carbs will make the diet-reset process easier, so choose low-carb foods like riced cauliflower, leafy greens, and fresh fruit.
2. Drink More Water
Staple holiday dishes can contain a significant amount of sodium—it’s probably one of the reasons why you feel so bloated. When there’s not enough water in your system, the body can swell up from too much salt and cause dehydration. It’s recommended by the National Academy of Medicine for women to drink 11 cups of water and for men to drink 15 cups of water a day. Drinking more water throughout the day can help prevent boredom hunger and can lead to weight loss.
3. Get Up and Move
Throwing yourself back into your workout routine will help increase your motivation while getting rid of the holiday jiggle. To get the most out of a workout, start with a high-intensity routine combined with weight training. This workout combo will help to stimulate your muscles while providing an effective caloric burn.
4. Take a Probiotic
Eating foods high in fat, calories, and simple sugars can do damage to your gut microbiome. Sugar is fuel for bacteria, fungi, and yeast, all of which can reduce the levels of good gut bacteria. Restore the balance in your gut by taking a probiotic supplement or consuming probiotic-rich foods like Greek yogurt.
Note: Your stomach contains 70% of your immune system, so a damaged gut from a poor diet can decrease that number.
5. Increase the Protein
You’ve moved from the couch to the gym, so your muscles need to be fed with extra protein to keep growing. A high-protein diet will help curb hunger because it takes your stomach longer to break down protein-rich food, which can prevent more overeating. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8-1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight. However, packing on muscle will require more protein, closer to 1.0 grams.
When we’re tired, the hunger hormone, leptin, becomes reduced—leading to overeating and weight gain. Leptin is the hormone that decreases hunger, whereas ghrelin increases it. Not getting an adequate amount of sleep causes an imbalance of these hormones, so to help you get back on a proper rest schedule, put your phone down and create a sleep-friendly atmosphere in the room.
7. Meal Prep
Getting into the habit of meal prepping will help get you back on track for clean eating. In a study published by the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, meal prepping is associated with weight reduction and healthier eating patterns.
8. Eat Small Frequent Meals
Eating six small meals throughout the day helps stabilize blood sugar levels and prevents overeating, helping to fuel your body with the right nutrition for whatever the day may bring. Each meal and snack should contain a protein, complex carb, and healthy fat. Optimal meal choices are eggs with whole wheat toast, lean chicken breast with vegetables, and salmon with quinoa and sweet potatoes. Snack options can range from trail mix and a protein shake, to Greek yogurt with fruit.