By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Surviving the holidays with your health intact can be difficult, and maintaining your Paleo lifestyle adds an extra level of challenge. However, there are a number of things you can do to stay focused on your Paleo diet during the season of indulgence.
We’ll cover why it’s important stabilize blood sugar and decrease cravings and exercise to control the extra sugar we consume. Is alcohol part of your holiday celebrations? We’ll discuss how to bypass some of alcohol’s negative effects, and suggest supplements to add for the holidays.
Come January, when the eggnog and pumpkin pie is just a memory, knowing you followed these principles will result in praises for your holiday-diet successes rather than scoldings for your holiday-diet failures.
The Paleo Diet
Paleo is just a trendy term that means healthy. By eating Paleo, or healthy, we consume foods that are more adaptable to the body, cutting out grains, legumes, and maybe dairy with the exception of butter. The goal is to optimize health through foods that are nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory, and low in toxins.
Stabilize Blood Sugar and Decrease Cravings
When our blood sugar is in the healthy zone, cravings are controlled, and we’re not relying on our blood-sugar handling system (adrenals and pancreas) to stabilize our blood sugar.
When our blood sugar starts to fluctuate because we’re eating too much sugar or carbohydrates, our blood sugar will rely on our adrenals and pancreas to attempt to stabilize it. This puts stress on our on our body and can compromise our immune system.
During the holiday season, vitamin D is less abundant, and there are more opportunities for the spreading of infections. Keeping your blood sugar in the healthy zone will keep your immune system strong and stave off cravings.
Exercise and Timing
Exercise helps you deplete glycogen, or stored sugar. Your abdominal muscles are big storage sites for sugar, carbohydrates, and glucose. The muscles will hold on average about 300 grams of carbs and sugars; your liver about 70 grams.
When we exercise, we’re depleting the stored carbohydrates and sugars out of those muscles, making room to store our next meal. If we don’t deplete the muscle, when the muscle and the liver start getting full, guess where that holiday meal starts going? It goes into our fat cells, and our fat cells start growing to accommodate the extra storage. This is why the average person gains 10 to 15 pounds during the holidays. Keep the muscle depleted with the right kinds of exercise. High-intensity resistance training is a good option.
The Good, Better, Best Principle
Let’s say you have regular apple pie, a gluten-free apple pie, and a Paleo apple pie that uses pecans, coconut, and macadamia nuts as the crust. We have three different options: good, better, best. Choosing the best option in everything we eat will set us up for success.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. This is especially true of holiday celebrations. When going to visit friends or family, volunteer to bring a dish or two so you can prepare it following the good, better, best principle.
What to Do if You Drink Alcohol
Alcohol converts to sugar, so it stores in the muscle, liver, and fat cells and can throw the blood sugar off balance. To eliminate its effect, there are a few things you can do:
- Consume alcohol after a meal to lessen blood-sugar fluctuations.
- Choose healthier kinds of alcohol or make your own. Options include Ginger Kombucha, J’s Paleo Moscow Mule, and Nor-Cal Margarita. Recipes and more information can be found on Dr. Justin’s blog “Paleo Alcohol…How to Consume Alcohol Safely!”
- Choose a clean, dry champagne or Prosecco or Brut or Cava. These are all sparkling wines, and the drier, the better; that means less sugar.
- Avoid: red wines, beer and mixed drinks with added sugar.
Supplements for the Holidays
Just like you would decorate your house for the holidays, it’s a good idea to add extra supplements to your holiday routine. Here are a few you should consider:
- Activated Charcoal will bind up any toxins, especially in alcohol.
- Vitamin C in high doses can be very powerful immunity boosters.
- Sulfur amino acids and/or glutathione can be powerful because they can rev up your detox pathways, which will be stressed due to an increase in bad foods and sugar.
- HCl enzymes help break down the extra food you may be eating.
- Probiotics can help keep your gut healthy and feeling good.
- Vitamin D, 1,000 IU per 25 pounds of body weight for 1 month then have your 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D tested, 50-100 ng/ml is a good place to be on your blood test.
To maintain your Paleo, or healthy, diet throughout the holiday season, put an extra emphasis on blood-sugar balance, exercise, and healthier alcohol choices, and add in extra holiday-friendly supplements. When making food decisions, always consider the good, better, best principle, and make the best choice.