The National Institute of Health states that the average weight gain for Americans during the six-week period between Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day is 1.5 pounds – a little more for men, a little less for women. Obese people tended to gain significantly more in that period; about 5 pounds. A pound or two doesn’t sound like much especially after all of that indulgence, but what research also found was that those couple of pounds remain, and are never lost. So, over a 10-year period, that seemingly inconsequential weight gain will have accumulated to 10 or 20 pounds of fat that shouldn’t be there. Moreover, if you extrapolate from the data of the extra weight gained by the fatter people, you could surmise that each year of added weight is going to increase the amount of weight you will gain in the following year. Get the picture? Not pretty.
Complicating the issue are the research findings that indicate that exercising alone will not prevent that weight gain. This is probably a function of the continual, massive over-indulgence that turns Thanksgiving Day into Thanksgiving week which then bleeds into the holiday party season. It’s just a fact of life in America and, full disclosure, I am not immune to the syndrome. The key to my ability to manage my weight and avoid the slow creep of obesity (and it works for my clients), is this simple 4-step plan.
- Detox Your Body – By eliminating the garbage that has built up in your body during the holidays, you will enable your system to restore its optimum capacity to properly metabolize fat, toxins and nutrients. Your body’s ability to absorb and use all of what it needs and clear out the junk is essential to maintaining a healthy weight. It is also the key to vibrant health and well-being. There are two parts to this step:
- Clear the fat out of your liver – All of that rich, fatty, sugary food and alcohol has congested your liver with fat deposits. A fatty liver cannot effectively metabolize hormones or fat. The hormonal imbalances that result can also contribute to continuing weight gain. In order to metabolize ingested fat or burn off stored fat the liver must be clean and clear. Lastly, the liver is your main detoxifying organ. If it is congested, those toxins will build up and complicate your ability to manage weight and damage your overall health and well-being. A well-designed liver support supplement containing milk thistle, antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatory substances is just right for this job.
- Cleanse your colon – Refined and processed foods are high in fat and sugar and low in fiber. The typical American diet results in sluggish and irregular bowel movements. This increased bowel transit time allows for toxins and waste to accumulate in the colon and possibly be reabsorbed into the blood. A gentle, herbal cleanse that soothes the digestive tract and supports regularity will help remove these toxins and restore healthy intestinal function.
My recommendation for a liver and colon cleanse is usually 14 days. This is long enough to effectively detoxify but not too long to stick with. Essential to the effectiveness of a cleansing program is to minimize or eliminate alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, sugar, wheat, dairy and all processed and fast foods. Plenty of fiber from fruits and vegetables will support the cleansing process.
- Repopulate Your Digestive Tract – A diet of refined and processed foods will feed the unfriendly bacteria in your bowels and promote overgrowth of these “bad bugs.” The cleansing process will kill off and remove many of them as well as some of the “friendlies.”A well-designed probiotic blend with at least 5 billion organisms per dosage will help restore a healthy population of helpful bacteria in the gut. A healthy internal “microbiome” will improve digestion, elimination, immune function, weight-management and overall health.
- Use a Meal Replacement Drink – A protein shake to replace at least one meal per day will help to reduce calories while supplying necessary amino acids, maintaining energy levels and satisfying hunger. The protein can be whey, spirulina, soy, egg or vegetable protein based. All are satisfactory, and good-quality protein powders are easily digestible and provide a good source of bioavailable nutrients. I commonly use Designer Whey as my meal replacement drink and I try to schedule that meal within one hour after my daily workout. Here’s a recipe I use regularly because it’s easy, fast and satisfying:
1 or 2 scoops of unflavored protein powder
8-12 ounces coconut milk (water, almond or real milk are fine too)
1 very ripe banana or 1 cup frozen fruit or berries
1 teaspoon organic raw honey if you need it a little sweeter
Place in blender and blend for a minute or so
- Exercise – There is no better detoxifier than exercise. When you work up a good sweat you:
- Push blood deep into all of your tissues, which flushes out accumulated toxins.
- Stimulate your lymphatic vessels (part of your body’s waste removal system).
- Increase bowel motility so you get rid of waste more efficiently.
- Open your pores to allow lots of toxins and waste products to flow out of your body with your perspiration.
Exercise works best when it is performed for 40 to 60 minutes per session, 3 to 5 times per week. For best results get roughly equal amounts of strength and cardiovascular training. During the 14- day cleanse, keep the intensity level a little lighter than you normally would, but still work up a good sweat.
So here’s a snapshot of my typical day during my 14-day cleanse and beyond:
- Early morning workout
- Breakfast – protein shake with fruit and liver support
- Mid-morning snack – protein bar or fruit & nuts (about 100 calories)
- Lunch – protein shake with fruit and liver support
- Mid-afternoon snack – same as above
- Dinner – a nice, home-cooked meal
- Bedtime – colon cleanse herbs with diluted cranberry juice (unsweetened)
- Early morning workout – increase intensity
- Drop to one meal replacement shake/day. Best if used right after workout.
- Use colon cleanse as needed (i.e. after heavy meals or parties)
- Probiotic supplement with food 1-2 times daily
The degree to which you can adhere to this regimen and continue it after the 14-day detox period will determine how successful your weight loss program will be. The unavoidable truth of health is that your body does not negotiate. Nor can it be convinced that alcohol, sugar and Dagwood sandwiches are healthy food. If you jump right back into the lifestyle that got you fat, the progress you made will be lost rather quickly. But, if you continue to exercise, eat fresh whole foods prepared at home and indulge yourself only occasionally and with moderation, you can get and stay healthy, and be happy too.
Editor’s Note: Consult your physician before beginning any new exercise or dietary program.