1. First of all, you don’t really need special juices or potions to ~cleanse~ yourself.
Seriously — even if you went HAM over the holidays. It’s really not necessary to do anything extra to remove toxins after eating and drinking more than usual. “Your body does enough of a cleanse by itself, using your organs,” Abby Langer, Toronto-based registered dietitian, tells BuzzFeed Life.
2. And you shouldn’t overcompensate by seriously cutting calories.
After a week of overeating, you might think there’s a logic in “making up for it” by basically surviving on leaves. But this will not help you manage weight or lead to meaningful weight loss, says Langer. First of all, even if you ate and drank a ton over vacation, you probably didn’t gain more than a pound or two. More important though, says Langer, “if you starve yourself, you’ll make yourself hungry in the end, and you’re going to just end up overeating.”
3. In fact, your best bet is to just get back to (or start) eating a healthy, balanced diet.
This basically means eating reasonable portions of a variety of foods, vegetables and fruit a couple times per day, lean protein at every meal, and minimally processed foods. With a healthy, balanced diet, “your body will naturally lose the weight that you gained; you don’t have to do anything fancy,” says Langer.
4. Here’s what a day’s worth of healthy, balanced meals might look like:
We consulted Langer and Holly Lofton, MD, director of the Medical Weight Management Program at NYU Langone Medical Center, for some easy examples.
Breakfast: 2% Greek yogurt with a handful of homemade granola OR with a cup and a quarter of berries
Lunch: Big salad with lots of vegetables and tuna fish, a piece of fruit, a few whole grain crackers OR a turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato and serving of a broth-based soup
Afternoon snack: Almonds with Medjool dates OR a hard-boiled egg OR cottage cheese with fruit
Dinner: Grilled salmon or chicken, lots of vegetables, baked potato
Dessert: A small frozen dessert (about 150 calories or so) OR a few squares of dark chocolate
If you’re trying to figure out how to start making healthy, balanced meals on your own, check out BuzzFeed Life’s 7-Day Clean Eating Challenge.
5. Next step: Cut down on added sugar.
Yeah, added sugar has been linked to all kinds of crappy health outcomes and we tend to sort of overdo it dessert-wise over the holidays, so now’s a great time to maybe have less of it. For starters, Lofton recommends doing everything you can to reduce the sugary drinks you’re having. Sodas, flavored waters, bottled juices, and flavored coffees are full of sugar and calories but don’t really make you feel full. Also beware of low-fat products, which tend to make up for the loss of flavor by adding sugar. And here are a bunch of ways to eat less sugar every day (without hating life).
Important caveat: All that said, sweet stuff also tastes really good and when it’s a (small) part of a healthy diet; there’s no reason you can’t enjoy it in modest amounts, says Langer. Her go-to sweet desserts are a couple squares of dark chocolate or a snack-size frozen dessert that’s about 150 calories.
6. And also try to seriously let go of ultra-processed foods.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to give up everything you didn’t forage. Some processing is fine — peanut butter is processed, same with milk, hummus, and canned beans. But foods that are super refined are less nutritious while having more sugar, sodium, and calories, says Langer.
Sugary cereals, processed cheese, flavored coffee creamers, and fat-free products are all mega-processed foods that should probably not be a staple of your diet. Learn more about processed foods here.
7. And make sure you’re not totally depriving yourself.
Cutting yourself from not-so-healthy stuff you love is not a good antidote to having overdone it during the holidays. First of all, depriving yourself leads to binging later on so it’s totally counterproductive to your goals. But also, doing something that makes you feel terrible should never be part of your long-term healthy-living lifestyle. Getting back to a healthier baseline “shouldn’t feel like punishment,” says Langer.
8. Start exercising.
Win-win-win: Working out can make you feel stronger, fitter, and more energetic. And it can make you feel pretty good about yourself and your effort to get back to baseline after the holidays. (Plus it’ll help you reach any goals you have for weight loss or your body.)
If you’re new to exercise (or you’ve been on a long break from it) working out in a packed gym can be kind of daunting. Consider working out at home ‘til you feel more confident.
9. But don’t reward yourself with food.
So, you’re cutting down on sugar, eating fewer processed foods, AND you worked out three times this week and that’s why you deserve a treat right now, damnit. Langer says that associating food with something you have to earn is not a good strategy for weight loss (people tend to over-reward themselves, she says) nor for having a good relationship with food. Have that cookie, she says, but never think you can have it only if you’ve earned it.
10. And if you’ve resolved to be more healthy in the new year, make changes sloooowly.
Maybe you’re not just trying to feel better after your glorious two-week holiday bender. Maybe now you’re inspired to start eating a bit more healthily for the long term. Langer says that the best way to make lifestyle change that’s actually sustainable is to do it incrementally. Identify a few changes that feel doable and making them one at a time. For example, if you get takeout for lunch everyday, try bringing lunch from home once or twice per week. Or if you drink, say, 10 sodas per week, try going down to seven or eight.
You got this!
Social image via Bravo. Thumbnail via Instagram.
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