Can you feel it? That little tug every time you try to zip up your pants? Or have you just resorted to sweats and yoga pants at this point? We all indulge a little during the holidays. And why not? They only come once a year. But with all those plates of fudge, high calorie coffee drinks, oodles of iced cookies, and sugary cocktails, you’re bound to put on a few pounds. It’s inevitable with all that excess salt, fat, sugar, and processed junk in your system. But aside from a little scale disappointment, you probably feel sluggish and blah from the lack of good nutrition. Here’s how you can help yourself feel better in the new year.
- Acknowledge your shortcomings. This is the first step to any successful change. Yeah, you ate that cheesecake. Three pieces. And an extra large helping of prime rib. And you washed it down with a gallon of soda. Probably not your proudest dietary moment. But so what? It’s done. Now take a minute to think about how it made you feel. Chances are, your stomach hurts, you’ve got a headache, you’re a little dehydrated, and you are longing to hibernate. By associating those feelings with unhealthy foods, you’re less likely to overindulge the next time. It’s fine to have those things in moderation, but keep in mind the reasons why you don’t have them every day.
- Drink some water. Your body needs this now more than ever. Flush out toxins and rehydrate with 6 to 8 glasses of water each day. Add a slice of lemon or orange, or a few mint leaves to give it some extra flavor if you find plain water too boring.
- Switch from coffee to green tea to start your day. Coffee is part of most people’s morning routine, but it also sets us up to crave excess carbs and sugar throughout the day. While it’s a good idea to limit caffeine, green tea contains antioxidants that coffee doesn’t. You’ll feel energized, without the crash later on. Or, look for a decaf variety.
- Up your fiber intake. At times like this, you need to get your digestive system, well, moving again. So pay attention to the amount of fiber in your foods. Choose whole grains like whole wheat toast with an apple or a fruit smoothie with added spinach to start your day, and you’ll be regular again soon.
- Stick to mild flavors. Hot, spicy foods are not your friend right now. Although they do have health benefits, you don’t want to risk upsetting your stomach any further. You may also want to avoid acidic foods like tomatoes, and oranges. Instead, choose foods that have “neutral” flavors, such as oatmeal. Boring? Maybe. But your system has had plenty of excitement lately. Time to repent. The one exception is ginger, which has been known to soothe upset tummies for generations.
- Load up on antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. Not only do these provide fiber, but they’ll give you antioxidant protection as well. Crucifers, like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, and leafy greens like spinach and kale, are great choices. Or try some red grapes when you’re craving something sweet.
- Limit your sugar. This is easier said than done, but it’s well worth it. The fact is, excess sugar in our diets increases inflammation. Ironically, we often reach for sugary treats when we feel yucky, but it just perpetuates a vicious cycle. More sugar makes us feel worse, so we wind up eating more sugar. Don’t do that.
- Avoid processed foods. Like sugar, all those chemicals and preservatives in processed foods mess with your body’s chemistry. This is the time to go for whole, fresh, clean foods. If it comes out of a box or can, you probably should avoid it for now.
- Get some exercise. No, that doesn’t mean you need to go out and run a marathon or do two hours of weight training. Hardcore fitness can come later. A gentle walk around the block is sufficient to get your blood circulating and keep you from lazing on the couch. Don’t forget to stretch before and after.
- Pamper yourself. Yep, you read that correctly. Make some time just for you. Turn off the TV, and your phone, and settle in with a book or a stack of magazines. Light a candle. Take a bubble bath. Do some yoga. Meditate. Write in a journal. Whatever it is that helps you enjoy the feeling of solitude, do that. And don’t feel guilty about it. You need this time to help your system rebound.
Now, don’t you feel better already?