A client emailed me yesterday to express their dismay at working in an office full of people drinking nothing but green juice, and another just said how one of their colleagues was ‘going alkaline’ and only eating fruit, vegetables and nuts for a month. It makes me want to tear my hair out. The only guarantee that comes with a diet based on that sort of ridiculous deprivation and exclusion of entire food groups is that it will fail.
What am I telling my clients instead, then? January is absolutely not the time of year to live off raw vegetables in a bid to lose body fat. It’s cold, wet and we want to hibernate until spring. Who is going to get out of bed in the morning with the promise of blended vegetables to haul them out from under the duvet? Not me! I’m also not a fan of ‘punishing’ Christmas excesses by denying myself food in the aftermath of a Quality Street binge, or whatever does it for you (mine was lemon cake) and hitting the gym crazy hard until your body gives up and you decide getting healthy was all a stupid mistake, beating a hasty retreat to the couch.
Do yourself a favour and ditch the deprivation. You don’t need to detox; you need to eat in a balanced way and get back in tune with your natural hunger, eating according to your energy needs. Made it out for a run or to Cross Fit? Enjoy those mashed potatoes with your dinner. Having a duvet day? Stick to meals made from lean proteins, healthy fats and vegetables you enjoy – my dinner tonight is homemade sausage and bean stew with a heap of steaming broccoli. No deprivation there.
The Scandinavians have a tradition of cossetting themselves at this dark and dreary time of year and I completely agree with them. Neither your body nor your mind needs salad in January, but you will feel cheered by a nourishing and hearty bowl of homemade vegetable and bean soup and a piece of decent bread.
Here are my suggestions for staying healthy and sane this January:
- start with a plate made up half of vegetables of several kinds. This will immediately improve your nutritional profile and is the easiest way to make your overall diet closer to healthy.
- Remember that vegetables can be the basis for soups, stews and stir fries, all of which are more comforting options than salads and juices at this time of the year.
- Eat for your needs. You don’t need to cut out starchy carbohydrates like pasta and bread. Just save them for the meal you eat after you have been active and you will start to lose body fat, as you will only be putting glucose back into your body when it needs replenishing. Eat lean proteins and healthy fats like oily fish, avocado and nuts at your other meals to keep you feeling full – oh yeah, and all the vegetables…
- Plan a weekly treat meal with a friend or partner so that you have something to really look forward to that you will enjoy in good company. This can be a meal out or something you like preparing together.
- Don’t be overambitious with the exercise. If you’re restarting after a long break from activity, sore muscles and exhaustion won’t motivate you to stay with it for the long haul.
So, get active, have fun and, please, ditch the deprivation this new year! If you need help with your eating or fitness, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to tailor a plan to your needs. Have a happy and healthy 2016!