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When Holiday Meals Go Sideways: 5 Strategies

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Saturday, December 14, 2019


I really liked this blog from Dr. Jason Fung and Megan Ramos. They are the "intermittent fasting" people and offer an excellent free website and email service.

Dr. Fung is a Toronto nephrologist who began to explore fasting in the context of his kidney patients, many of whom had kidney failure because of diabetes -- linked in turn to obesity. He sees intermittent fasting as something deeply compatible with our evolutionary history -- feasting when we successfully chased the mammoth over the cliff, fasting when we didn't.

So before it gets into the actual 5 strategies, the blog preamble is very useful. And comforting.

Holiday feasting is normal. It is to be expected. It's what we are designed to do. Biologically. Socially, too -- after all, it took a whole group of us to chase that mammoth!!

The difference presently?

Our ancestors stopped feasting when the food ran out. Profoundly different from our ancestors' situation, a superabundance of cheap food is ALWAYS available to us now.

And so we have to think about how to call a halt to the feasting. Here are the five strategies:

1. Don't let the feasting drag on after the indulgence!! Duh. But understanding that the indulgence is normal can help with that . . . we're not moral failures because we indulged, we're not moral failures because cheap hyperpalatable food continues to tempt us. Setting aside the very unkind self flagellation can really help with stopping the feast!!

2. Drink water. Too much sugar and simple carbs and salt makes us thirsty -- we aren't designed for that. And we may not recognize we're thirsty. Plain or sparkling water are best. Lots of water. I've only got into drinking water since we acquired that new through the door ice and water dispensing fridge . . . what a difference in my water consumption!!

3. Eat fibre. Really helps with satiety. Most modern feast "foods" . . . I use that term loosely!! -- are light on fibre. Pretty much all the fibre's been stripped out of potato chips. Cinnamon buns. Cookies. I love the idea -- new to me -- of sprinkling some apple cider vinegar on steamed or roasted veggies such as brussels sprouts . . . to reduce appetite and help stabilize blood sugar. Will do that for sure!!

4. Get moving. Outside preferably, for me . . . with Henry leaping joyously through the snow. So my body gets into fat burning mode . . . ketosis. It's when I'm moving (fasting, not eating) that my body can burn fat. I can't eat and burn fat at the same time . . . . no no no. When I'm eating I'm providing my body with "present fuel" like a hybrid car running on the battery charge -- so that I never switch over to the fuel "in the tank". But: movement doesn't have to be self-punitive: what I see at the gym on the treadmill and the elliptical and the step machine and the rowing machine after every feasting occasion. Gentle movement's good enough . . . gentle movement is better, in fact.

5. Fat fast. This is my fave techinique of these five and I think it's really a winner. Eating excessive sugar and simple carbs triggers MORE carb cravings. And fat fasting addresses carb cravings. A little IE -- with a keto-type focus. After all, the woolly mammoth feasts would have been pretty fatty . . . . and if there was also some gathering going on, the berries and leaves would have been pretty high fibre!!

So, after a feast:

•Eat when you’re hungry or craving again. (No no no: don't tell yourself you've been "so bad" that you can't eat at all . . . . intermittent fasting when you're NOT hungry is absolutely OK, but self-punitive calorie "hunger is not an emergency" restriction doesn't work for anybody says Dr. Fung)
•Limit your food variety down to very few food types for a monotonous diet, which will reduce hunger. (I do eat the same things over and over again . . . soups and salads, egg white omelettes and Greek yogourt . . . )
•We recommend eating meals constructed of bacon, can substitute with sardines, salmon or another fatty protein, eggs and olives (OK then -- I'm not doing bacon but absolutely can sub in with the olives and salmon . . . )
•Avoid nuts and nut butters unless you’re a vegetarian, dairy and natural sweeteners of any kind. (I've been eating daily portions of nuts . . . maybe because I'm pretty close to a vegetarian . . . and probably more cheese than is optimal for fat fasting but good for my calcium requirements . . . )
•Use healthy fats, such as coconut oil, olive oil and grass-fed butter for cooking. (Yes yes yes -- I'm all about butter!!)
•You can include leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables. (Yup. Mainstay for me . . . the bigger the variety of bright crunchy veggies the better . . . in my daily salads and in my omelettes and soups too.)
•Bone broth, tea and coffee are permitted (Yay coffee!!!! Happy to comply with this recommendation!!))

Biggest take-away? Stop berating ourselves for feasting. Feasting is deeply intertwined with what it means to be human, both biologically and socially. Too many of us -- yes, including those of us here at Spark People!! -- engage in endless anxiety before feasting occasions, endless self-recrimination after feasting occasions.

We require ourselves to plan the festive meals and shop for the ingredients and cook the meals and serve the meals and then deny ourselves any enjoyment of the meals . . .

Making ourselves and, I suspect, those around us unnecessarily miserable!!

Instead: let's be human. Let's eat, drink and be merry.

For tomorrow we may . . . . try some intermittent fasting until we're actually hungry; drink water; move, and when we're hungry again,return to our normal intuitive eating patterns, but maybe including more fibre while addressing any lingering carb cravings with more fat!!

Makes all kinds of sense.

And all kinds of kindness too . . . .

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