It’s time to get back on track with your eating and exercise!
If you’re feeling a little heavier and more sluggish than you did a few weeks ago, don’t panic. And please, don’t sign up for juice fast, a “detox”, a program of meal replacement shakes or any of the other countless expensive gimmicks that we see floating around at this time of year.
Your body does not need to “detox”. It is constantly detoxifying itself and does not need any help in doing this.
What you CAN do after a period of overeating, indulgence and reduced activity is relieve the strain on your liver, and return to a more structured eating and exercise program.
A week of tightening up the reins really helps in returning to some healthier habits and stopping the less healthy habits from gaining momentum and trickling into your everyday life.
Here’s a few simple steps that you can implement today to get back on track. The sooner you do it, the better!
- Return to 3 square meals with an optional afternoon snack.
Holiday eating tends to be characterised by all day munching and wine o’clock from 11:59am (or is this just us?) In a balanced life, this is totally ok for a few days a year. But constant nibbling is no good for your metabolism and does not give your body a chance to deplete its glycogen stores. Ideally, we should be fuelling every four to five hours and burning this fuel in between meals.
Conventional wisdom a few years ago was to eat five to six meals a day, every two or three hours. But recent research has shown that your Grandmother was right and that we should be mostly sticking to our three squares for weight management, as more frequent eating causes more insulin responses, resulting in fat storage.
Also, sticking to three meals a day just takes a lot of the stress out of planning meals. It also removes the crippling decision-making that a lot of people experience around food, as you know that you will be eating at breakfast, lunch or dinner, and the kitchen is closed for the rest of the day.
You might feel a little hungry in between meals for the first few days, but you will soon adjust to this way of eating and really enjoy a decent, satisfying feed at mealtimes.
Some of us will need a mid-afternoon snack to tide us over until dinner if we eat a little later, which is totally fine as long as you are genuinely hungry and there are two hours or more until dinner. Aim for a protein-rich snack such as nuts, cheese on a couple of multigrain crackers or chopped veg with a dollop of hummus.
- Lay off the booze.
If the silly season has seen you drinking more than usual, it’s easy for this habit to creep into your ongoing routine. It’s also the quickest and easiest thing to cut out when you want to lose a couple of kilos. Try, for a week, avoiding alcohol altogether. If this seems too daunting, at least aim for four non-drinking days a week and no more than two standard drinks on the days you do imbibe.
- Cut out any processed food.
Just chuck out any junk you have in the house. There is really no reason to have it lying around. The easiest way to eat really healthily is to comprise your diets of foods with just one ingredient. So, this means eating mostly vegetables, plus fruit, fish and meat, legumes, nuts, seeds and milk plus things that come in a packet such as rice, quinoa and oats with the one ingredient listed. Greek yoghurt with no sugar added is the exception here as it will often list in its ingredients the lovely probiotic strains included.
If you just eat real food, you don’t need to count calories or stress about macronutrients as you will naturally be eating nutrient-dense fare without any of the junk. Common sense!
- Exercise daily
Take the guesswork out of working out by just committing to getting sweaty every day. What you choose to do is up to you, but I recommend at least walking briskly for half an hour or more a day, plus four more intense cardio sessions a week and three strength training sessions.
If you are feeling sluggish, daily exercise is guaranteed to make you feel better as you sweat out toxins, move blood around your body to improve all the body’s mechanisms and, of course, burn fat. Exercise is the gift that keeps on giving as it continues to stoke your metabolic fire all day so you are burning fuel even when you’re sitting on your bum.
- Prioritise sleep
If you are really keen to rejuvenate your body, you need to get serious about sleeping at least 7 hours a night. I’m still working on this one myself! Sleep is essential to weight management and mood. As you get back into the swing of a more routine life and out of holiday mode, try to have a set bed and wake-up time. For great tips on how to get better quality sleep and more of it, check out our post here.