How to Celebrate without Falling off the Wagon, Backed by Research

Is it really possible to enjoy the Holidays around food and yet stay on track without feeling deprived?

It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

But the only reason I can answer “Yes” to that question is because I have.

Although I didn’t always know how.

It took me years of trial and error to figure out how to celebrate without feeling deprived.

So now I’m going to share with you a 2-step strategy that’s worked for me.

It can work for you too, even if you think it may not be possible for you. 

Here’s how, a 2-step strategy
Step 1. 

Be mindful of the phenomenon behavioral psychologists call the What-the-hell-effect, it goes something like this:

"Well since I’ve already blown it with a bite of this apple pie, I might as well have the whole slice. Oh what-the-hell … i’ll have a beer – and that gingersnap cookie!”

We (I say we, because I’ve been there) think that just because we slip up then we’ve ruined it all.

You haven’t.

Because building healthy eating habits don’t require you to be perfect, it requires you to be consistent.

So indulge, but be mindful of the portal to the downward spiral that’s just opened.

How do you close that portal?

Researchers say it’s self compassion, not self-blame.

Self flagellation and self criticism won’t help you stop an occasional indulgence from turning into an off-the-rails pattern, but self-forgiveness will. 

Step 2. 

Indulge the smart way.

But it’s the Holidays!” you say.

And I agree. If there’s a definition of occasional indulgence that undoubtedly fits the bill, it’s this: it happens once a year.

That’s where step 2 comes in.

You deploy research-backed strategies that promote reduced insulin (a fat- storing hormone) by creating a plan using some of these strategies to reduce the consequences. 

9 research-backed strategies for your plan
1. The counterbalance

Fasting is the counterbalance to a feast.

It’s a powerful tool to empty your stored sugar and keep insulin low. Low to empty sugar stores and low insulin means your body burns fat for energy which results in fat loss.

But fat loss isn’t your goal today. You want to reduce sugar stores. You want to compensate for indulging in a feast, so you fast.

And you don’t have to be a fasting pro to do that.

Here are some options:

  • Skip breakfast (or lunch) (or both) on Thanksgiving or Christmas day.
  • Skip breakfast (or lunch) (or both) the day after.
  • Skip the second dinner… you know, the 2nd wind? Have one big feast instead of two.

Most of us aren’t hungry in the morning so skipping early daytime meals is easier to do.

2. Make it your version

Added sugars and refined, processed carbs stimulate insulin the most.

But today I wouldn’t worry too much about the pineapple or brown sugar glaze on the turkey or ham.

Use protein to keep you full longer so you can escape that 2nd wind.

Place your effort on what gives you the best insulin bang for your cooking buck: the side dish, and the dessert.

Make your version of:

3. Friendly carbs

Two words: Soluble fiber.

They form a viscous gel that keeps you full and slows down digestion which results in reduced insulin after eating.

Why not use them in your low carb side dish or low carb dessert?

4. Go slow

You want to enjoy the feast, but not feel sick afterwards.

Slow eating allows you to enjoy the food without overeating.

It gives your body the time it needs to send the “you’re full” signal to your brain – before it’s too late.

Slow eating tips:

  • Chew your food a few more times before you swallow.
  • Put your utensils down in between a few bites.
  • Savor the food: Pay attention to the different textures and flavors. 
5. Vinum acetum

I call mine Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar: raw, organic, unfiltered, “With the Mother”.

Take 2 to 4 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar right before or with your meal (especially a starchy one) to reduce your insulin response by up to 34%.

  • Use it in your salad dressing.
  • Use it in your pickled side vegetable dish.
  • I put 3 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in a mason jar of cold sparkling water rimmed with pink Himalayan salt. (I’m one of the weird ones who finds this refreshingly good.) 
6. Spice it up

It’s cinnamon season!

Add just over 1 teaspoon (3 g) of cinnamon to your meal to reduce your insulin response after eating.

  • Cinnamon with your coffee, tea.
  • Cinnamon with your favorite low carb dessert.
  • Cinnamon with {your creative juices here}. 
7. Move

You don’t even need to do a 5k. Just don’t sit too long. Stay away from the couch. Mingle.

Breaking up prolonged sitting every 20 minutes with just 2 minutes of light to moderate walking lowers insulin response after a meal.

Feel like doing a 5k run or walk? Moderate-intensity exercise is good timing on feast day. A single bout of exercise improves insulin sensitivity for at least 16 hours after you exercise.

Want an additional fat burning boost? Drinking green tea or exercising before eating breakfast can make you burn more fat during moderate exercise. 

8. Reds and spirits

Daily intake of up to 2 glasses of red wine (6 oz each) (360 ml total) has been shown to improve insulin resistance.

Even the hard stuff (i.e. vodka) can improve your insulin response after eating.

Please feast responsibly. 

9. Hit snooze

Just one night of sleep deprivation induces insulin resistance.

Going to bed early on Thanksgiving or Christmas is probably not going to happen. But you can sleep in the following day.

Don’t forget to turn off your alarm and let everyone know you plan to get your Zs. 

How to create a plan that works for you

Remember your 2 goals:

  1. To be consistent with practicing healthy eating habits, not perfection.
  2. To allow yourself to indulge, without falling into unhealthy eating patterns.

So you don’t have to do them all.

Just pick one, the easiest one. For example: Sleep in. If that’s all you can do, that’s okay.

If you’re feeling pumped, pick no more than 3 (but still easy ones). For example:

  • Just have coffee for breakfast
  • Avoid the couch after eating
  • Add vinegar to your meal

If you try to do more, or try to do things that are hard for you…  you start battling with inertia: You get stuck and do nothing.

Imagine how it would feel to celebrate a Holiday dinner with your loved ones without feeling deprived.

| Have an achievable plan. That’s the key.

But a plan that doesn’t get executed won’t work.

So what’s the easiest and most doable plan for you?


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