Confession time. I actually hit the reset button the day after Christmas. After doing fairly well the weeks following Thanksgiving, the wheels fell off about 10 days before Christmas and I had a lead up to Christmas that was pretty full of debauchery. This isn’t(for me) necessarily a bad thing. I’m very good about diet year around so a 10 day splurge isn’t going to put ten pounds of fat on me- though water retention can possibly do it. By the time Christmas was done, I was ready for a reset because my achy joints unhappy stomach told me to back off.
So what does a reset look like for me?
1. A significant amount of protein in my first meal. This can be accomplished several ways. For me, it’s ranged from a half pound of ground beef with a couple scrambled eggs and some cheese; a large cup of Fage greek yogurt(plain); several scrambled eggs with sausage/bacon/ham. There’s a lot of ways to get there. The reason it’s good to get a good whack of protein down first thing in the morning is because research has shown that it is beneficial in many important ways. But the one that helps the most during a reset phase is that it reduces appetite during the day- which will keep you from mindlessly snacking between meals. Though not as apparent as making you less hungry, a hit of protein in the morning does good things for the hormonal profile which is the most underrated aspect of weight loss and other body functions. You should aim for at least 30g of protein in the morning- more if you’re still hungry after that. You can measure how much is enough by seeing if you can keep from being hungry again at least 4 hours after eating your first meal.
2. I cycle carbohydrates during this period. There is a lot of back and forth about the wisdom of using a low carbohydrate approach to losing weight. The benefits of it are real and really helpful for those who are in the beginning phases of weight loss. I tell most people to go low carb for at least the first 2 weeks. This helps to repair glucose regulation(sugar) and teaches the body how to run on fat- dietary and stored fat. This means you are eating meat and vegetables with a piece of fruit thrown in during the day. Make sure you are getting enough fat in during these days. If you are eating fatty cuts of meat, you should be fine. If you are eating chicken breasts, tuna or other low fat meat, make sure you slather your vegetables in butter.
After those two weeks, if an individual feels good in the low carbohydrate phase, they can continue on that path until they reach their desired weight loss or begin to cycle carbs. I recommend the latter for a few reasons. Going low carb for a long period of time can induce skeletal muscle insulin resistance(this is different from pathological insulin resistance that leads to metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes) and is not good for those who plan on doing a good amount of working out. Cycling carbohydrates negates this by giving you the benefits of low carb but by periodically eating starchy carbohydrates to keep insulin sensitivity high. It also helps your body understand how to deal with carbohydrates once you are at a place you want to be and want eat in a way to maintain that. Paul Jaminet has written extensively on how glucose(from starchy food) is essential for many body functions.(I highly recommend his new book, “The Perfect Health Diet”)
The best way to cycle carbohydrates is to eat low carb for 3 days and on the third meal of the third day, eat a starchy carbohydrate such as white rice, potato or sweet potato. During weight loss, if you find yourself having to eat out at anytime, try to schedule it during one of these “carb up” days to make it beneficial. (Speaking of eating out, when having your food cooked in restaurants, tell them to cook it in butter and put all sauces on the side. Simplicity is your friend).
3. Space your meals 4-6 hours apart with no snacking in between. The reason that you will be trying to eat a good amount of protein in the morning is so that you won’t be hungry during the day. This may take a few days to get adjusted to. If you get hungry between meals, throw down a piece of fruit but the goal is not to snack between meals.
If weight loss or a general reset of the “blah” following the holidays is your goal, these 3 steps will go a long way to curing it.