by Barbara Berkeley, MD
It's December 8th. How are you doing so far holiday maintainers??? Don't forget, I'm with you and there are thousands of us trying to do the same thing: avoid regain between now and January 2.
The biggest threat to our best intentions in December is Food Creep. This is the tendency for small amounts of trigger foods to wind up in our mouths almost without our knowing it ... and certainly without our explicit permission.
December is the most important month to remember that it's all about insulin. Insulin sends the body's strongest signal to prevent fat breakdown. If you are making insulin, you are in storage mode AND you can't be losing fat. You are making insulin if you are eating little bites of cookie dough, a few of those festively wrapped Hershey kisses, or if you are drinking a caramel brulee latte. In addition, trigger foods which are so ubiquitous at this time of year set off the body's addiction pathways. Sugar gets into your system and it stages a take over. Before you know it, there's been a coup and you are no longer in control of your eating, sugar is.
You know how drill sergants handle behavior that's out of line. They have the offender drop and give them fifty pushups. If your eating plan has gone AWOL it's time for you to take the drill sergeant role.
Your insulin levels will plummet if you bring your carb consumption down to 50 grams per day for a brief period of correction (a day or two). To do this, you need to be aware of which foods are carbs. For the purposes of this exercise, you do NOT need to count:
1. Any animal product except milk (milk does have carbs). 2. Any green vegetable. 3. Any lettuce and any raw vegetable (but remember that legumes like peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils which are often found on salad bars are starches and do need to be counted).
To drop to fifty, you will have to avoid cereals, grains, baked goods, added sugars, dried fruit, pasta, and any sweets that have found their way back in. You should also be aware of the carb counts in fruit, especially the sweet fruits like banana and pineapple.
Buy yourself a small carbohydrate counter book, or use the internet to check out the amount of carbs in the other foods you are eating. Create a day's worth of food that keeps carbs below 50g. I often advocate the use of protein shakes or low carb bars as meal replacements on days like this. I realize that these foods are not "natural" foods, but they have a place because they limit food stimulation and take away choice.
Try dropping to fifty as a way to get yourself back on track or to shake the carb controllers out of your brain.
Keep the faith! You can have fun over the holidays without kicking yourself in January. Enjoy the smells, the lights, the presents and the excitement. They have no carbs.