For many of us, the holiday season is synonymous with food. Big dinners with loved ones; Christmas brunches; holiday cookies and cakes; warm, wintery drinks—they all are part of the reason we love this time of year so much.
But getting off track during the holidays can put a dent in your health and fitness routine and erode any improvements made during the year. And the more overindulging you do during the holidays, as Thanksgiving rolls into Christmas, and New Year’s Eve beckons with champagne toasts, the harder it can be to get back on track.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to avoid all the holiday festivities or beat yourself up every time you have a glass of spiked egg nog. Instead, can use the following tools for periodic resets during the season—even 3 or 5 days can reduce bloating, soothe digestion, and have you feeling like yourself again. No need to wait until January 1.
Try a bone broth fast
Bone broth is simply a broth made from parts of an animal we traditionally discard, like the marrow or skin. The slow cooking releases all those nutrients that have been stored up, including collagen. I love bone broth year-round, but it’s especially perfect when the weather’s cooler and you need to give your digestive system a rest.
The collagen in bone broth is a key ingredient in the lining of the GI tract, which is why bone both is one of my favorite foods to recommend for people suffering from digestive disorders like IBS or leaky gut. Bone broth also helps give your skin a youthful glow, and it can help boost immunity—goodbye, winter cold!
During a bone broth fast, you drink about 3 to 4 quarts of bone broth a day, supplementing it with fresh fruits, veggies, healthy fats like avocados and clean proteins like grass-fed beef. You’ll cut out sugary, processed foods, added sugars and dairy, which are all inflammatory foods.
Introduce intermittent fasting
If you’ve woken up after a party or celebration still full from the night before, intermittent fasting could be the right solution for you. Instead of restricting what or how much you eat, intermittent fasting limits the amount of time you can eat during the day. This can take several forms: Some people choose alternate day fasting during which you restrict total intake to about 500 calories every other day. Others will opt for the 16/8 plan, which involves completely fasting for 16 hours and eat only during the remaining 8 hours of the day (this typically involves not snacking after dinner and skipping breakfast, so that the 16-hour fasting period including sleep time).
Intermittent fasting is becoming more popular because it works. It gives the digestive system a break (especially after indulgences) and helps promote weight loss without forcing you to track every food you eat. It’s also helpful for regulating blood sugar and lowering the risk of heart disease.
Give up sugar and grains
Initially, this might be the most difficult tactic, but it’s usually the one that gives the best results. Added sugars are everywhere—often hidden under names that sound innocuous, like “rice syrup,” or in foods that we wouldn’t think have heaping teaspoons of extra sugar in them, like yogurt and pasta sauce—and they’re wreaking havoc on our bodies.
Excess sugar in our diet leads to weight gain, and an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, fatty liver, and metabolic diseases. Making a concerted effort to follow a sugar-free diet is one of the best things you can do for your health. In the short term, too much sugar consumption can also impact sleep, mood, skin, and digestion. As a result, eliminating it from the diet is the perfect way to bounce back if you’ve been less and less like yourself.
Many people will find that giving up grains has a similar effect. For starters, many of the grains Americans consume on a regular basis are highly processed and made from refined flours with no nutritional value. So cutting out grains automatically means you’re giving up those refined carbohydrates and probably shedding pounds.
You may also find that tummy troubles are lessened, as many people have trouble digesting gluten and wheat. Giving up grains might even help your mental health. Researchers have found that a grain-free diet can help reduce symptoms in people with epilepsy, depression and ADD.
Exercise is crucial for resetting after an indulgent period and also for keeping energy high and moods stable on an ongoing basis. Exercise is associated with so many health gains, it’s not surprising that doctors are starting to prescribe workouts instead of medicine.
From improving your cardiovascular health to strengthening your muscles and lifting your moods, exercise is the closest thing to a wonder pill we have. And exercise doesn’t have to mean hours at the gym, either. Short burst-training workouts, yoga, brisk walks with the dog, or laps in the pool all count. If it gets you moving and you enjoy it, it’s exercise!
Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. He recently authored ‘Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and Five Surprising Steps to Cure It’ and he operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites at http://www.DrAxe.com. Follow him on Twitter @DRJoshAxe.