Heading into the holidays so many patients at Parsley Health asked me the same question: Is it ok to cheat on my diet?
I often hear the same thing: “If I’ve been focused on cutting out gluten or dairy sugar, or am in the middle of a booze-free month, and am finally seeing progress when it comes to my weight or my sleep or my energy, will it ruin everything if I throw it all out the window on Thanksgiving?
The answer in short is no. It’s OK. It won’t ruin everything.
If you are doing an elimination diet to discover how food sensitivities affect you, close to perfect should be your goal. That’s because antibodies to foods take as long as three weeks to go away after you stop eating them, so if you’re trying to gauge how a food affects you, truly stay away from it as close to 100% as you can for one month. Seeing how how your body feels and operates in the total absence of that food for the last week is essential.
But I know the holidays are hard. And I tell my patients just to do your best. If you accidentally have some soy in your veggies or there was butter and cream in a sauce you didn’t know about, stressing over it isn’t helping. Start your elimination again immediately and keep going! You will still most likely still see great progress, even with one or two slip ups.
If you’re not eliminating, but know that you don’t do well when you let the guardrails down around your eating habits, that’s OK too. Not all is lost if you have a “bad day.” But I find that the people who recover the most quickly from the holidays are the ones who go in with a plan.
Here is how I recommend limiting and cleaning up the damage from the holidays.
First, pick one day, for instance Thanksgiving Day, that you allow yourself to indulge in whatever that thing is that you just can’t say no to, the pie or the wine or the stuffing. A big mistake I see is that people let Thanksgiving’s indulgences start on Wednesday and continue through Sunday, leaving them feeling foggy bloated and irritable Monday morning.
Two, plan your detox ahead. Black Friday is a great day to reverse the temptation to go on a regrettable online shopping binge and to instead detox your mind and body from the week before.
Starting on Black Friday and continuing through Cyber Monday Parsley Health will be offering 20% off our 7-Day Detox with the code CyberDetox.
I recommend following Thanksgiving with one week, Sunday to Saturday, where you cut out alcohol, gluten, dairy, sugar and processed foods, have a protein-rich Rebuild cinnamon smoothie for breakfast and dinner, and chase a clean lunch of greens, protein and healthy fats with a digestive enzyme and probiotic that will help support healthy digestion. Check out this delicious green salad.
A one week detox after Thanksgiving will leave you feeling clear refreshed and fit going into a three week period of what is inevitably a cookie-and-booze heavy month of December.
Three, commit to one indulgence over the rest. If the thing you miss the most is bread, eat that. Or sugar, go for that. Or wine, up to you, in moderation. But having all of them on the same day can test your limits. Remember all of these foods spike blood sugar which spikes insulin which causes weight gain and cause oxidative stress on the body. Oxidants are free radicals that make it harder for cells to make energy, leading to fatigue and DNA damage.
Plan your January detox ahead too. If you know that you will likely wake up New Year’s day feeling depleted and a little soggy, plan to detox starting Monday January 2nd for one week as well. Why? Because building in times when you restore your nutrients, especially precious B vitamins that get depleted with heavy eating and drinking is essential to your well-being. Focus on nurturing yourself after constant socializing, and recommit to balance in your life after being a little extreme. This is how we maintain optimal health.
To live the 80/20 rule you usually have to go to 100% for a little while to remind your mind and body how clean, fresh and real feel. It’s developing muscle memory—a visceral sense of what balance really feels like. Don’t wait until you’re bloated and crabby and hungover to rebound. Plan your detox now.
Dr. Robin Berzin is the Founder and CEO of Parsley Health. A Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Robin went to medical school at Columbia University -where she co-founded the physician communication app Cureatr – and later trained in Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. She is a certified yoga instructor and a meditation teacher, writes for a number of leading wellness sites, and speaks regularly for organizations including Stanford Medicine X, The Clinton Foundation, Health 2.0, Summit at Sea, and Further Future, on how we can reinvent health care.
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