[This is a guest post by Evelyn DeDominicis of Nourished Path]
I'm so guilty. I fully intended to launch a big nutrition challenge at the beginning of 2016 like I've done for a few years now.
You know the ones – like the Whole30 (but mine was cleverly called the Clean & Lean Challenge –well maybe it's not so clever after all) – where there's a whole list of foods you can and can't eat and you either get really into it or overwhelmed and give up.
Then there's the Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, Ideal Protein, [Insert Diet here] programs. They're all kind of the same thing, but pitched as more of a long-term lifestyle change – but not really.
These programs all work if you work them FOREVER. But the reality is, only a small percentage of participants adopt the new way of eating and make the lifelong changes that are required to maintain the results. Most people boomerang back with a vengeance as soon as the month or membership is over, or they eventually fall back into old patterns over time.
Why? These programs don't go deep enough into why you eat the way you do in the first place. They are designed to deprive you of your natural, biological impulses, so you can't help but compensate. Plus they ignore functional issues with the gut, nervous system, brain, hormones, etc..
These challenges and programs are great at dictating the 'rules' using willpower, the surface, the physical while ignoring the functional and mental/emotional aspects of behavior change.
I'm not saying that we should never do a food challenge or program. They can be very useful to heal and break some not-so-deep-seeded patterns – like my wine and cheese habit I developed over the holidays that I couldn't seem to stop without a little reset. These 2-week resets work well for me now, but I needed to do much deeper inner work to finally find my own food flow, and I still get off track here and there.
When looking into an eating program or plan, consider these three signs that are red flags you're in for a rebound afterward:
1. You don't trust yourself to socialize or go out anywhere.
That's a bright red flag if ever there was one. At one point in my dieting journey, I decided to try HCG 2.0 – this involved homeopathic HCG drops (that reportedly suppress appetite and use fat for fuel) and an 800 calorie diet with exercise (regular HCG is 500 calories with no exercise). I didn't go anywhere socially for six weeks. I lost 20 pounds, but guess what happened over time? It all came back plus some. It was not a sustainable way of eating. I should have known better.
Instead, do this: I don't recommend severe restriction like HCG, but if you're participating in a balanced eating program or challenge, get creative socially. Bring your own healthy dish to a gathering – something that you love – and fill up on good stuff before you go out. I also bring a bottle of one of my favorite probiotic drinks with me (Kevita Lemon Cayenne) to hang onto and sip when I want to have a glass of wine or cocktail.
2. You're starving and miserable, and your loved ones have to tip toe around you.
Like, “Stay away from Mom!” That HANGRY state is a biological response to hunger that propels you to find food. It's a legit survival mechanism. These hormonal signals are telling you that you need to eat more.
What to do: Eat more "allowed" healthy foods preemptively – earlier in the day. Instead of one egg for breakfast, have two. Add some extra protein or nuts to a salad. Have a healthy snack in between healthy meals. Just slightly increase the amount of protein or fat at each meal or snack to keep the HANGRY beast at bay.
3. You're completely drained and foggy.
This is a sign of a blood sugar imbalance. When we're using glucose (carbs) as fuel and not refilling the tank properly, we start to sputter.
The solution: Eat more fat. It’s not only needed for blood sugar balance and hormones, but it's also very satiating. Have a little bit of fat with each meal to avoid the crash. Healthy fats include avocado, coconut, olive, nuts and seeds and even some animal fat. Depending on your genetics and metabolic state, you need to mindfully gauge your fat threshold, because this can be an area that's easily overdone.
In 2016, I revamped my Clean & Lean program to a "create your own" clean eating plan format. It has general whole-food guidelines, but members make your own food rules. This is a big step for me as a practitioner, and I'm eager to see in time how everyone does.
I wish for you to find your unique food flow: that natural rhythm where you mindfully check in with your body, nourish it with real food and take pleasure in eating and all aspects of life. It sounds very la-la and woo-woo, but it also seems very freeing and peaceful, no? We have the choice all day, every day to practice eating better, so give it a go and let me know how you do.