Let's face it, now that the holidays are over, most of us have some making up to do to get back on the healthy eating track. Indulging every now and then isn't a bad thing, but it seems like the holidays are one long indulgence with parties, dinners and the treats that are just too good to pass up. Whether you let things slide for a few select parties or completely threw your diet out in the cold for the last month and a half, chances are your body's feeling the negative effects of overindulgence both mentally and physically. So here's how to recover from all that holiday eating and drinking - both steps to take right away and also good practices to put in place for the whole new year.
1. Increase your water and fluid intake
We should all be drinking more water - eight 8oz glasses a day is recommended. When you're dehydrated, you're at an increased risk for headaches, muscle cramping and fatigue that mimics the feelings of hunger. Often we're just thirsty when those hunger pangs strike. So go have a glass right now, and keep it up. A good practice to get into is to have a glass of ice water right away in the morning even before your breakfast to help wake you up and set the tone for a hydrated day.
Water helps rid your body of chemicals and toxins that may inhibit your metabolism and lead to weight gain, and it also helps relieve bloating caused by excess salt, fat and sugar. If you're fluids other than plain water, be sure to watch the sugar and artificial sweeteners. Drinking a cup of green tea every day is another great way to stay hydrated, boost antioxidants and speed your metabolism.
Your motivation may be low, especially when it's so cold outside and so warm inside, but you'll feel better after going out and getting some exercise. Bundle up and take a walk around the block. Or, if you're feeling up to it, throw some workout clothes on and head in to the club. As much as you may think you need to kill it, don't overdo it, though. If you're like many, you took the holidays off from regular exercise, so you may not be able to perform at the same levels you did before. Doing too much too soon can make you feel worse than when you started and kill your motivation to get back to a regular routine. Give yourself a little bit of time to build back up to where you were and listen to your body. It will tell you when it's ready to push it in no time!
3. Curb sugar cravings healthily
After eating possibly more sugar in two months than you have all year, you might find it difficult to step away from the sweets. Instead, add some fresh fruit like berries, oranges and apples to your diet to satisfy your sugar cravings rather than giving in to leftover candy and cookies. Eat high-fiber snacks, heart-healthy fats and protein to feel satisfied longer. Some good snack ideas are cottage cheese, low-sodium soup or baby carrots with hummus.
4. Buy healthy foods
On your first trip to the grocery store post-holidays, stock up whole grains, fresh vegetables and fresh fruits such as kiwis, spinach, beets, broccoli, bananas, strawberries and papayas. These high-fiber and potassium-rich foods help reduce bloating naturally. Take it easy on the alcohol intake for a while, too. Don't forget - drink plenty of tea and water!
5. Get enough sleep
We can't say it enough - sleep is so important! Getting enough sleep will allow your body to get back into its usual routine and better balance the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which are responsible for triggering feelings of satiety. Moreover, sleep is crucial for certain body processes that have been working harder to compensate for the increase in your food and alcohol intake.
6. Eat breakfast in the morning
Even though you may be tempted to skip breakfast to try to reduce calories, a healthy breakfast is just what you need to jump-start and maintain your metabolism throughout the day. Some ideas for easy, healthy and light breakfasts are steel cut oatmeal with dried fruit and chopped nuts, plain Greek yogurt and fresh fruit and whole-wheat toast topped with an egg and sliced avocado. Making a good choice at breakfast each day will help you remember that you're on track to recovering from holiday eating, and you'll continue to make good food choices all day, all week and well into the new year!