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Undo the Damage - Post Thanksgiving “Detox” Dos & Don’ts

If you feel like you overdid it Thanksgiving weekend, you may be tempted to either throw in the towel until New Year’s Day or go to extreme measures to make up for getting off track, but actually, neither one is the best strategy for dealing with a weekend long eating spree. These dos and don’ts can help you reboot your body by this weekend: 

Don’t panic. Over the years I’ve received many worried calls from clients or friends who’ve said, “Help! I gained 3 pounds this weekend!” You’ve probably heard the phrase, “The scale doesn’t lie,” but in reality, it kinda does. When you step on a scale, it measures seven distinct things: muscle, bone, organs (like your lungs, heart and liver), fluids (including blood), body fat, the waste inside your digestive tract you haven’t yet eliminated and glycogen (the form of carbohydrate you sock away in your liver and muscles as a back up fuel). Fat is responsible for a very small percentage of the change you see on the scale from day to day or within a single weekend. That’s because in order to gain 3 pounds of actual body fat between Thursday and Monday, you’d have to eat an excess 10,500 calories – that means 10,500 calories above an beyond what you burned off. That equates to eating over 4,000 calories every day for 4 days. Even if you really pigged out, it would be pretty hard to rack up that much excess. The truth is most of that bump on the scale is probably from water retention (from excess sodium), a higher volume of glycogen (from a higher than usual carb intake) and waste that hasn’t worked its way through your system yet (which can take up to 3 days). Fortunately, by getting back on track, you can bring your body back into balance pretty quickly.

Do drink more water. Water will help flush out any excess sodium you’re hanging on to and help your digestive system keep things moving to prevent constipation. Aim for 2-2.5 liters a day (about 8-10 cups).

Don’t rebound undereat. Starving yourself will completely backfire. Not eating enough forces your body to do two things. First, it switches into conservation mode and burns fewer calories, which means you’re more likely to hang onto any body fat you did gain. Second, you dip into your fuel reserves, which include muscle mass. This also causes a metabolic slow down, because muscle burns calories by just being on your body. Losing muscle instead of fat is faster, but it can also cause you to look “thinner but flabbier” instead of toned and healthy.

Do restructure your meals. Don’t cut out carbs completely – that’ll force your body to burn protein for fuel instead of using it to support calorie burning muscle. But I do recommend emphasizing veggies and lean protein at meals and including smaller amounts of whole grains and healthy fat. A slight meal redesign can help you burn more calories, feel more satiated and readjust your digestive system fast. Aim for about 2 cups of raw, steamed, grilled or lightly sautéed veggies (about 2 baseballs worth), 3 oz (deck of cards) or a half cup (half a baseball) of a lean protein like tofu, beans, fish or poultry, a half cup of a high fiber whole grain like whole wheat pasta, barley or wild rice and a little bit of healthy fat like extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), chopped avocado or sliced almonds. Here’s a great example: sauté veggies like spinach, onions, peppers and mushrooms in a Tbsp of EVOO with garlic and herbs, toss with a half cup cooked whole wheat pasta and top with 3 oz diced chicken breast or ½ cup diced or crumbled tofu. And don’t forget a tall glass of ice water.

It may seem counterintuitive to “eat away” the effects of overeating, but it really is the smartest way to fix and move forward. By Friday, you should be feeling great in your jeans again and today’s post-Thanksgiving bloat will seem like a distant memory!


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