The guests are gone, the table and counters are cleared, with dishes and leftovers put away. All the decorations are packed away and put back in storage. Your schedule now has a little more free time, and you have a chance to look it over and take a breath.
While taking that deep breath to relax, you notice your belly seems to protrude more than it did before the festivities. As you look back, you admit that maybe you did overindulge a bit at some of those gatherings. You begin to see the pattern of gather, eat, repeat.
According to the Calorie Control Council, many Americans eat around 4,500 calories at the Thanksgiving feast. They postulate that just your holiday dinner could amount to 3,000 calories. If you get to the party early and have time for appetizers and drinks, you'll be adding in another 1,500 calories.
So if about 3,500 calories equals one pound of body weight, that means that each time you eat one of these holiday meals, you're sure to gain at least one pound of body weight.
As you do the math while closing out the last year and make time for the new year, it's a good time to take stock of your values and priorities, and put pen to paper with ideas for a fresh start.
Water – Drink Your Way to Better Health
During the holidays, you may drink more alcohol than you usually would. Soft drinks might also possibly be consumed, as well as other beverages, such as eggnog or hot chocolate. Water consumption could very well be at its lowest.
However, as you eat heavier foods that are also probably sugar-laden, this may clog up your system, making it harder for your body systems to function. Water helps to flush these foods through your system, as well as bringing much needed oxygen to your cells and tissues.
Your cells are made of water and live in a watery medium. Your blood is mostly water and helps to dissolve, process, and transport nutrients and eliminate waste materials. When you become dehydrated, your blood becomes thick and saturated with toxins, and it then becomes unable to freely flow throughout your body.
The excess of these toxins must then be stored within the space surrounding the cells, waiting to be eliminated. If you remain dehydrated, your body begins to resemble a toxic waste site, becoming acidic. Since the cells aren't getting the proper amount of oxygen and nutrition they need, they will change so that they can live.
Drinking water will help remove these toxins through your kidneys, while also helping you to absorb your water- soluble vitamins like the B vitamins, as well as maintaining your sodium and potassium ratio. Since lots of greens aren't usually a big part of the holiday fare, chances are this ratio is off-balance. Water can help with that.
Sweating is another way to move these toxins out and eliminate them from your body, so the next component of a good detox is movement.
Get Active – Let's Move!
Exercise can make you sweat and breathe hard. Toxins are then released through your sweat as well as your exhalations. And the more you include an aerobic exercise, the more quickly this release will happen.
But let's say you're just a bit out-of-shape from not doing much exercise over the holidays. Here are some ideas to gradually get you in a fitness routine while you recuperate:
- Yoga – A yoga session that includes postures and flow to all parts of the body will help the detoxification process. This practice will see you stretching and compressing every part of your body to aid in the removal of the waste products that may have built up deep within your muscle tissues, such as carbon dioxide, lactic acid, and lymphatic fluid. The meditation involved will also help detox your mind from stress while bringing focus and clarity to why you're doing this detox in the first place.
- Walking – A brisk 30-minute walk can increase your circulation, ease tension, and reduce your blood pressure. The deep breathing that occurs as your body opens up and takes in more air continues to aid in the process of the flow of lymph, another area that is the body’s collector of toxic waste. Without its own organ to pump it, the lymphatic system relies on oxygenated blood to carry the toxins it collects to the body’s main detoxification organs, the liver and kidneys.
- High Intensity Exercise – Not only will high intensity exercise help you sweat and breathe hard, it will also help with the repair process during your detox. Much of this happens while you sleep. How can exercise help you sleep? These exercises stimulate the release of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. This is often recognized as the ‘runner’s high’, but it can be experienced after any physical activity. One of these neurotransmitters is serotonin, which is involved in regulating your sleep cycle. And sleep is where you recover and rejuvenate.
Keep Calm and Sleep On
A good night’s sleep is necessary to good health because your cells repair themselves more quickly at night. During your hours of deep sleep, your body produces higher levels of human growth hormone (HGH), which promotes cellular renewal. Also, since you're not eating during the six to eight hours that you sleep, your digestive system gets a break and your elimination processes can catch up.
You also want to try and go to bed about 10:00 PM. This helps to make sure your body gets in its first 3 sleep cycles between the hours of 10:00 PM and about 2:00 AM. Most of your body's healing and rejuvenation takes place during this period.
Be sure to get up early as well. It's these morning hours when your body naturally wants to purge itself of waste. Letting your bowel movement stay in your intestines too long, or holding off urination until later in the morning, can lead to it being reabsorbed by the body.
And Finally, the Food
Most detoxes focus first on the foods to include or avoid. But I wanted to point out the other factors that play a large role, yet often get put aside as not as important, and time is not made for them.
But the food you put into your mouth will also contribute to your success as you wind down from the holiday indulgences.
Here are some guidelines:
- Protein – Next to water, protein is the next most abundant substance in your body. Protein is termed the building block of the body. It is called this because protein is vital in the maintenance of body tissue, including development and repair. Hair, skin, eyes, muscles, and organs are all made from protein. During your detox, you will want to repair and rebuild.Good sources of protein are spirulina, chia seeds, hemp seeds, quinoa, leafy greens, broccoli, Brazil nuts, and sesame seeds.
- Iron-Rich Foods – Iron is essential for the proper growth and development of your body. It helps metabolize proteins and plays a role in the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells. I've shared the role of oxygen and its importance during a detox. The main health benefit of a diet high in iron is the formation of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the principal carrier of oxygen throughout the body. Iron helps transfer oxygen from one body cell to another. This is a critical function of iron as oxygen is required by each and every body part to perform routine body functions.Natural sources of iron are spinach, swiss chard, cumin, parsley, and turmeric.
- Zinc-Rich Foods – Zinc is one of the best minerals for flushing out toxins from your cells during a detox. It is a strong anti-oxidant that works to destroy free radicals in your body. It also helps in removing heavy metals from your body. Zinc is needed in more than 100 enzymes and is involved in almost more body functions than any other mineral. It is important in normal growth and development, the maintenance of body tissues and the immune system. Carbohydrate metabolism is influenced by zinc, and zinc is needed in the synthesis of DNA, which aids our body's healing process.Some of the foods with the greatest levels of zinc are spinach, asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, crimini mushrooms, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
Those huge holiday dinners and parties with their snacking foods may have left you feeling heavy, tired, and bloated, but incorporating these steps can get you on the right track.
Looking for more structure and recipes to help with this post-holiday detox? You may be interested in my GREEN Cleanse. It has a menu planner and recipe collection that includes all these foods, plus strategies and tips to include movement, sleep, water, and much more.