By Sara Angle, SELF
Hey guys, remember me, the Nutrition Newbie? Well, I've been working hard at maintaining my new, healthy eating plan, which is high protein, low carb, low sugar and high in good-for-you fats. My program allows for a lot of flexibility and there is no calorie counting (score!), just lots of clean, fresh meals. But I confess, I fell off the boat last week -- and wow could my body feel it.
It all started with an unexpectedly insane workday -- one that I didn't plan in advance for with homemade, healthy meals. (That was my first mistake!) I had a 5 a.m. wake-up call -- earlier than I usually start my day -- so I went right for a giant coffee with milk and sugar. I managed a healthy breakfast later: a banana, almond butter and chia seeds, but I was out and about during lunch, so I ended up just picking at random things all afternoon instead of eating a nice square meal. Then, it was dinnertime. Where even more of the trouble started.
The SELF team ordered takeout to the office for dinner (we were all staying late to finish up the March issue for you guys) and I originally only ordered a healthy salad. But since I was SO hungry after my day of eating crappy that I tacked on an order of sweet potato croquettes -- and totally downed all of them when they arrived. And while yes, sweet potatoes are a superfood, the way these were prepared took any of the "super" out of 'em: These are mixed with cheese. And then fried. I knew they were bad for me. But they were SO good. And I was SO hungry.
And guess what? I felt like crap after I ate them. And I felt like crap the entire next day.
So how do you reset after a bad day of eating, without going all "OMG, Juice Cleanse!" on your colon? I tapped Michelle Davenport, a nutritionist based in San Francisco, to share the best way to get back on track and feel good -- fast!
"Research shows that junk food can be addictive, which can lead to a vicious cycle of cravings, more junk food, and so on," says Davenport, so resetting your food cravings can be the best way to get back on track. Try these tips if you have a bad day. (And don't worry, we all do!)
* Cut out all sugar, and eat "clean" = less sugar, salt and fat.
* Include good sources of protein and fiber (whole foods) with every meal, which slow digestion and keep insulin happy. Happy insulin = no cravings.
* Exercise! Exercise calms us down, and suppresses the stress hormones that cause our cravings for junk food to go awry.
* Get good sleep, at least seven or eight hours per night. Adequate sleep ensures our leptin (the hormone that tells us we're full) and ghrelin (the hormone that tells us we're hungry) levels are maintained, which keeps our cravings for junk food in check.
What doesn't work? Fasting, says Davenport. "Starving yourself does just that -- puts your body into starvation mode, which activates stress hormones, puts us in a state of inflammation, and disrupts your normal metabolism to minimize caloric spending. In other words, minimizing calories spent equals more fat stored, which is a bad idea," she adds.
You can also skip the juice cleanse. "While juices can be chock full of vitamins and minerals that are great for us, there's no such thing as a quick fix. There's also no such thing as "cleansing" our bodies, since the liver does most of the detoxification work for us. However, juices are a great way to mentally adjust ourselves to a healthy mindset," Davenport says. If you want to incorporate a juice into your day, opt for a green juice with minimal fruit or any other low-sugar pick.
What do you guys do to get back on track when you're eating habits get out of whack? Share below or tweet me @SaraAngle22 and @SELFMagazine using #NutritionNewbie!