It is the season of sweets, heavy meals and overeating. Obviously my patients want me to get fat for something special because this is a pretty close representation of what my reception area looks like:

It’s that time of year when even the guys with the strictest eating habits break down and eat a cookie or 3. I even served myself a good cheat meal last week. I went out with my fiance to the Royal Palm Beach Commons Park for one of their monthly food truck invasions.

He had served me a large portion of barbecue brisket (fat and all) and was feeling quite satisfied. My fiance and his friend decided to separate a nice dessert from the French Crepe food truck. A ridiculous concoction of Nutella and marshmallow that looked and smelled like type II diabetes.

The funny thing about eating right most of the time is that you will feel like garbage when you fill your body with sugar. Sure enough, he started feeling pretty bad in about 10 minutes. It was then that she said this little gem:

“I can’t wait until New Years to start eating better again.”

Of course, being the loving, caring, and sometimes sarcastic couple that I am, I challenged her and replied:

“Is there something magical about the New Year? Why wait until then?”

It’s probably not the best approach I’ve ever had, but it gave me something great to write about this week.

Go crazy at Christmas, it’s just one day

People are often worried that their diet will be derailed by the holidays. There have been many bloggers who have tackled the topic of creating healthy, paleo-friendly meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Now if you are someone with a condition that depends on your diet (celiac, diabetic, autoimmunity), then of course you need to look for alternatives. However, if you are otherwise healthy and only dieting for weight or health reasons, then I tell you to eat whatever you like. Here is the question of Christmas and Thanksgiving that nobody talks about.

It’s only ONE day.

Changing your diet for a day won’t kill your eating habits if you don’t allow it. In fact, I find that you reinforce your good eating habits when you do it right. Why? Because when you’re feeling like crap after gorging on cookies, soda, alcohol, and candy for a day, you’ll probably feel pretty bad halfway through, and certainly for most of the next day.

When you do things right, your body alerts you when you are doing things wrong. The problem is, this plan doesn’t work if you choose to let the entire Christmas season derail your plans.

One day may not derail you from your goals, but that 35-day window between Thanksgiving and New Years Day can sabotage you physically and psychologically.

Thanksgiving Day puts people in the Christmas mindset to eat. While Thanksgiving is partly responsible, it’s the days after that that get out of hand. It’s the leftover pecan pie. It’s the work party for your office and then the work party for your spouse. When people repeatedly start to make poor food choices, maintaining healthy habits becomes psychologically deflating. Is that you only say:

Well I’ve eaten like shit the last few days, I guess one more won’t hurt

“I’ll get back on track in the new year”

What’s so magical about January that says you have to wait until then to start doing things right again?

Nothing. There is nothing special about January 2nd. The planets are not aligned to make you weightless. The moon is not going to change your hormone production. It’s just another lap around the sun

Sometimes we have to change the way we think about our habits and routines to create a significant change in our health. That includes changing the idea that the New Year is when you are supposed to recover. Here are some tips:

  • Celebrate Christmas, fast the next day– It may not be a true fast, but consider reducing your calorie intake immediately after Christmas. Calorie restriction and fasting have been shown to have rapid changes in endocrine function and metabolism. If you’re feeling up to it, there is promising research supporting 15-24 hour fasting and the effect it has on growth hormone, Alzheimer’s disease, longevity, cancer prevention, and immunity.
  • Say no to those who remain – Christmas meals are usually designed to have a lot of leftovers. Everyone leaves with doggy bags of pecan pie and roasts. It can be a very liberating feeling to say no to these leftovers. When it’s not in your refrigerator, you have a nearly 100% chance of not eating it the next day. Yes, there are starving children all over the world who would love to eat their leftover pumpkin pie. Running it through their digestive system does nothing for them, but it does sabotage their metabolic health. Pass on the leftovers, donate some money to Feeding America, and get a better night’s sleep.
  • Make a challenge with friends – Don’t wait until New Years to start a challenge. Ask a few friends, family, or coworkers to do a healthy eating challenge. There is no shortage of effective programs, so find one that suits your needs. Most of the time, the program is not what makes you lose weight, it is the dedication to a prescribed eating plan that delivers the results. If you’re motivated it’s great, do it on your own, but there’s really nothing like having a team go to the trenches with you and hold you accountable.

In conclusion

Don’t worry about celebrating at Christmas. Take your time and really enjoy the food on this day. But don’t let that day delay you by weeks or months of progress. There is no magic day to eat, but there is a lot of magic in showing indomitable will.

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