Eating healthy is usually pretty easy, but when Halloween or the holidays or birthdays or anniversaries or Saturday nights roll around, all bets are off. Maybe I didn't mention stress, sugar addiction, or going to the store hungry - because those three can pack one heck of a punch in the weight gain department. The truth is, most, if not all of us, need to get our diet back on track every now and then - regardless of the reason - including me.
Don't think for one second that you're the only person who lets their diet get out of control too often. A lot of us do. But when you're diet goes off track, there are a few things you can do to get it back on again.
Get Your Diet Back On Track Fast!
Before I jump into the tips, you need to figure out what it is your body is trying to tell you.
- Are you gaining weight or losing muscle?
- Are you run down and lacking energy?
- Did you gain weight or inches rapidly?
- Have the pounds been creeping on slowly at a rate of one to five pounds a year, and you've reached your limit?
- Are you having a problem with digestion, and simply fed up with not feeling great?
Any and all of these are a good reason to focus on the types of foods you're eating, but the cause of how you're feeling might not be the same.
Nonetheless, getting your diet back on track isn't always about losing weight, but more often than not, your body weight or body composition shifts, opening the door for chronic inflammation. One very important thing to remember about inflammation is that once you have it, losing weight can be an uphill battle.
Let's move onto what you can to do today to start reeling your diet in to regain control.
1 - You ate bad for a couple days...now what?
The instant reaction most people have to correct a day or two of unhealthy food choices is to cut back on food altogether. Let me tell you right now, that's not going to help you! When you eat too much food or indulge in something that much more sugary than your body is used to, your blood sugar levels are going to go up. To help stop your blood sugar levels from floating away to high, insulin comes to the rescue to bring them back to normal.
If you ate an excessive amount of food, or too many carbohydrates, especially sugary carbs, your insulin may pull your blood sugar levels down too low too quickly, which makes you feel hungry again!
And no, sleep can't erase this, so you could very well wake up the next morning ready to eat donuts only 12 hours after swearing them off.
You've got to get a grip on your blood sugar levels, and therefore your diet, quick.
Here's what you should do:
- Drink water. If you're waking up in the morning, drink water before you eat anything. Eight to 12 ounces is a good start.
- Protein + fat combo. You can still eat something with carbohydrates, like vegetables, but make sure you're getting a healthy protein and fat in whatever it is that you're eating. Fat and protein take longer to breakdown and digest, and do a great job leveling out your blood sugar levels.
- Eat every 3 hours. This isn't a typical recommendation from me, but if you're dealing with frequent hunger, eat small, regular meals every few hours. Five healthy snacks a day are a lot better than three oversized meals. Think of your snacks as mini-meals.
2 - Your sugar (or carb) addiction is out of control
Sugar addicts don't always know they're sugar addicts. In fact, some people might not be a full-blown sugar addict, rather super sensitive to sugar and react poorly. If you feel you fall into one of those buckets, you've got to do the work to get over the hump. As hard as it might be to get from one end of the day to the next without having an ice-cold soda, candy bar, pastry, or super sugary coffee drink, you can absolutely do it!
Sugar addicts need to get their diet back on track purely because excess sugar or refined carbohydrate is the single greatest cause of creeping obesity or that extra few pounds that seem to creep on the scale every few years that never go away.
Did you know that one can of soda a day added to your diet is the equivalent of 15.5 pounds? Sorry, diet sodas are not the answer! The point is not to make you feel guilty about drinking a soda once every blue moon, but if you're drinking a soda every single day, it could be an easy path to lose a few pounds without having to put in much effort!
Is the problem carbs, and not just super sweet food?
Not all sugar addicts are reaching for Twizzlers, cans of Coke or ice cream. Refined carbohydrates convert to sugar quickly in your body, spiking blood sugar levels. Try to minimize, or entirely eliminate any of the following foods.
- pretzels and chips
- sugar-sweetened yogurts
- store-bought fruit juices
- white bread, white pasta, and instant rice
Here are a few things you can do to try to kick your sugar/carb cravings to the curb:
- Drink lots of water before you eat.
- Eat high-quality fats with every meal, or even a few minutes before your main meal (olive oil, avocados, nuts, eggs, etc.)
- If a craving kicks in, have a sliced apple, berries, or sparkling water on-hand to help you out.
- Journal your food. Sometimes we reach for things, like a few pieces of candy, without realizing it. Write everything down for at least a few days to stay accountable to yourself.
If cravings are constantly out of control and you don't know why, your body could be trying to tell you something. Bacteria in your gut could be telling your brain to eat more sugar. As crazy as it sounds, it's true. You can read more about the effects of sugar and carb addictions here.
If you want to be more informed about the bacteria in your gut and how it can affect cravings, mood, etc., I highly recommend the Mind-Gut Connection by Emeran Mayer, MD.
3 - The weight is slowly creeping on! Help!
It could very well be that you're eating pretty healthy, your cravings are under control and you've pretty much got things dialed in but need to lose a few pounds that have crept on likely because of small habits that add up to additional weight.
In this case, hormones play a big role in why our body not just gains weight, but why our body stores fat in certain parts of our body, like the belly area or hips/thighs.
Regardless of how much weight you've gained or where your body is storing fat, there are a few things you can do right now.
- As usual, drink 8 to 12 ounces of room temp water before every meal.
- Combine healthy fat and protein with every meal.
- Add high-fiber veggies to every meal, including breakfast.
- Don't go long periods of time without eating in an effort to minimize calories. This could come back and bite you by increasing body weight.
- Limit starchy carbs to one meal a day.
- Take a look at your diet and pull out one unhealthy bad habit (snacking after dinner, sugar coffee drinks, over-sized servings for lunch, etc.) and give it a rest. You'd be amazed at how fast things change by eliminating your worst unhealthy food-related habit.
4 - You've got some serious weight to lose and need help now
If you've got 10 or more pounds to lose, I have some great news for you - you can absolutely lose the weight. Longterm excess body weight is likely a combination of inflammation and body fat. To get to the body fat, you have to shed some of the inflammation. Fortunately, inflammation can move on out pretty fast by eating the right foods. The thing that's different is you need to address some habits that have probably crept their way into your life.
Here are a few tips for you that will help with both your diet and weight loss:
- Aim for 1/2 pounds to 2 pounds of weight loss a week. Anything more will likely come back on.
- Absolutely shift your diet to mostly anti-inflammatory foods. It's one of the most important things you can do. I know it can be hard to put all the pieces of a good diet together, so pick up a copy of my book if you need an extra hand!
- Drink half your weight in ounces. I know this can be hard, especially if you don't think of yourself as a water drinker, but it can make all the difference.
- Don't drink water with your meals or snacks, rather 15 minutes before them to help with digestion.
- Load half your plate up with steamed, roasted, or fresh veggies.
- Choose snacks that are lower in sugar and higher in nutrients (this article is all about great snacks for you).
- Move your body. You don't need to do anything overly strenuous, but get out and walk for at least 30 minutes a day.