5 Tricks to Keep the Pounds Off Over the Holidays
It's inevitable that over the next few weeks most of America will put on a pound or two, or ten, from gorging on holiday foods. Here are 5 tricks to keep the kids from confusing you with Santa this holiday season.
#1 - The 80/20 Rule
Plan on eating extremely healthy throughout the week and allowing only one day each week to kick off your heels and go crazy.
Plan the days you will celebrate with family and friends, so that they land on your designated "day off" from eating well. On this day, eat whatever you want and enjoy it. Then, get right back to eating healthy. If you do this correctly you could even walk away from the holidays loosing weight.
My definition of eating healthy might be more strict then what you are used to hearing. We're talking generally low carb, and avoiding ALL processed foods and anything that is white or was once white. Avoid bread, pasta, grains (yes even whole grains), dairy, high fructose corn syrup, corn, rice, sugar and alcohol. I know this seems crazy to most people, but it really makes a difference.
Focus on quality cuts of meats and seafood, tons of veggies, some tubers or root vegetables, and some fruit in it's whole form. This is essentially what is called a paleo diet and is very effective at allowing the body to access fat as a fuel source instead of storing it.
To understand why this works, you have to understand how your body processes these white foods. When sugar enters your blood stream at the end of the carbohydrate digestion process, your body treats it as a poison, much like it does with alcohol. It wants to remove it from the blood as quickly as possible so it releases the hormone insulin to bind with the sugar molecules which the body can then use as either a fuel source or store as fat for a later date. The more insulin released, the more the body shifts towards fat storage mode.
Eliminating white foods essentially halts the production of insulin because there is very little sugar entering your bloodstream. Once insulin levels are low, it's like unlocking a door and the body can finally release stored body fat to be burned as energy and thus creates weight loss.
Stacking all your bad food into one day per week will help in two ways. One, It will limit the amount of insulin produced and thus, the number of calories stored as fat over the holidays. And two, it helps to prevent getting into that holiday eating rut where one bad choice leads to a cascading effect of more and more bad choices.
#2 - Cold Exposure
What do cold showers, drinking 20 oz of ice water first thing every morning, sleeping without covers, walking in the winter weather, or resting an ice pack on your upper back all have in common? They are all valid ways to slightly lower your body temperature and jump-start fat loss. Adding at least one of these routines to your day can help keep the gravy on the turkey, and off of your abs.
Before you get out your pitchforks, I know exposing your body to cold is not fun, but there is actually some science to why this helps burn fat.
When your body temperature lowers, it releases something called 'Brown Adipose Tissue' or BAT for short. The brown fat can take free fatty acids from your stored fat and very efficiently produce heat to raise your body's temperature. In addition to the increased calorie burning effect, your body, when exposed to cold, will produce more BAT by converting regular white fat to calorie burning brown fat.
It turns out it's a great thing that the holiday season in NJ is usually a cold one, more chances to burn some brown fat.
#3 - Cinnamon
Studies show that cinnamon can actually increase your insulin sensitivity. What exactly is insulin sensitivity? It's your body's ability to recognize insulin that is bound to sugar molecules and then in turn, utilize it as fuel.
Every cell in your body has an insulin receptor which acts as a gate keeper to letting sugar molecules in. The interesting thing to take away here, is that your fat cells will never turn off their insulin receptors, so they can always store sugar as fat.
However, other cells in your body which make up muscles and organs can turn off these receptors, and you guessed it, that means you will burn less carbohydrates for energy and instead pack on weight.
Choose sweets that have cinnamon already in them, or do what I do, and put a few sprinkles into your coffee.
#4 - Citrus
Similar to cinnamon, consuming citrus juices can also help your body resist the storage of fat. Citrus from say a lemon squeezed into an iced tea, or over some seafood can help decrease the amount of insulin released while helping decrease insulin resistance.
Grapefruit or lime juice will work too, but avoid orange juice as it has too much sugar and may be counterproductive.
#5 - Exercise
Finally, a cool trick to help your body decide how to use those calories you just ate. Exercising right before, or shortly after a big meal can help to activate a protein called Glut4 which lies deep inside muscle cells. Glut4 is a glucose transporter protein which rises to the surface of the cell to help pull glucose (aka your gigantic Christmas dinner) into the cells to be used.
Doing some quick muscle contractions, like say push ups or air squats just before a huge meal, can redirect where the calories from the meal will go. Instead of going directly into fat storage, the excess calories you consume will have a better chance of being utilized to grow new muscle or get used as fuel.
Likewise, going for a quick walk an hour after dinner can have the same effect at activating your Glut4 proteins and help to keep you from packing on the holiday pounds.
As always, check with your doctor before changing your diet or exercise, especially if you are on medication or have a pre-existing health condition.