From November through January, everyone wants to know how to avoid holiday weight gain. Personally, I never gain weight during that time. Most folks say to me, “That is because you don’t partake of these huge meals!” But that is not true. I always eat like a King and I will feast….
Now granted, I do not eat a lot of the “not so healthy foods” that most people eat. But I promise you, on Thanksgiving, I will definitely eat healthy pie and ice cream and I will indulge in many of the foods that most people would say, ”Oh my gosh, Dr. Pompa would never eat that!” But how do I get away with having a huge Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years meal without gaining? I am going to share with you my Top 10 Strategies, so you can maintain your weight this season.
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain: My Top 10 Strategies:
Strategy #1: Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a strategy to get your body to become a more efficient fat burner. The old adage of eating 6 small meals a day on the short term is ok, but if we continue to eat that way, we never give our body a chance to burn fat. Which is why I intermittent fast daily, which means I give myself 16-18 hours between dinner and lunch to BURN FAT.
Amazing things happens when we don’t eat for 16-18 hours. Growth hormones go up and anabolic hormones increase to encourage the body to burn fat for energy. In addition, the body goes into a “cleaning phase,” or autolytic phase, where our body starts eating up the bad cells that need to be cleared away.
Our glucose levels go down and our body compensates by raising ketones that heal the brain. Ketones also down-regulate inflammation (the cause of all disease) and turns on our SIRT1 longevity gene. And I have found in studies, when people intermittent fast, they live longer. I have also found references to the Hunza’s who live for 120 years; they look twice as young and haven’t been sick for one day. They practiced “diet variation,” which I will detail later in Strategy #8 below.
In regards to intermittent fasting before the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, I wake up and have organic coffee or tea with cold-pressed, virgin coconut oil. Then I don’t eat anything until the big meal is ready. I save my calories and I enjoy every bite.
After the big holiday meal, it is important to WAIT AT LEAST 12 HOURS until you eat again, to give your body a rest. If you don’t eat after that big Thanksgiving meal, and wait it out, your body will start to normalize glucose levels and you will avoid elevation. You will burn the fat and get rid of the carbs that could be stored as glucose. If you eat too soon, your body won’t have a chance to burn the fat. That is how you avoid gaining weight.
If you have never done intermittent fasting before, can you still get benefit if you only do it before and after holiday meals? Sure, you can offset the weight gain with this simple step. If you do intermittent fasting as a regular practice, your body becomes more efficient at burning fat and clearing the debris. As we know, there is a reward for consistent effort.
Strategy #2: Burst Training (on an empty stomach)
I did an article and video on burst training, check it out here. In this particular video, my wife and I took synthetic skins (in the past real animal skins would have been used), adhere them to our skies and trek up the mountain. We did this in a fasted state. There is a difference between burst training in the morning on an empty stomach or doing it later in the day after you have eaten. This video demonstrates burst training on an empty stomach (best done in the morning, before eating). When you burst this way, you get a major growth hormone rise and it kicks you into a fat burning phase like crazy. In addition, when I do my morning mountain bike rides in the summer on an empty stomach, I am noticeably leaner the next day.
So after eating that holiday meal, wake up the next morning and work out on a fasted stomach and this will help shift you back into a fat burning mode.
Strategy #3: Eat Fat First
There is a science behind eating fat first. When one eats healthy fats first, you get full faster and you produce “cholecystokinin” that stimulates your vagal nerve (the vagus nerve is responsible for controlling digestion). Cholecystokinin tells us to EAT LESS. It also stimulates the digestion of fats and protein.
Remember, we can never caloric restrict by saying, “I am done eating. I am going to lose weight by not eating,” and walk away from a meal hungry. That will last for a week or so, and then you will go crazy with food. The point is that you HAVE TO EAT LESS. But it is eating less when you are NOT hungry that does the trick, because you’re satisfied from eating plenty of good fats.
If you find yourself craving in between meals, eat foods high in healthy fat such as raw organic cheese, organic nuts, olives and raw, organic coconut oil with a little sea salt and cinnamon to regular blood sugar.
At meals, cover your salad in cold pressed olive oil and eat the fatty parts of your meat (as long as it is from grass-fed animals). Don’t shy away from fat, because it will not only nourish your brain, it will keep you satiated so you don’t crave the wrong kinds of foods during the day.
My father really mastered eating less. He loved butter and he didn’t shy away from eating it. So don’t be afraid to have a tablespoon of butter or ghee before a meal. Again, these saturated fats will stimulate the release of cholecystokinin and you will eat less naturally.
Just a reminder: metabolic adaptation with intermittent fasting doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process called fat adaptation, or “keto adaptation,” and it does take the body time to adapt. Be patient with yourself, see more on troubleshooting keto-adaptation here.
Strategy #4: Take a Walk or Do Some Movement After the Holiday Meal
If you take your blood sugar before any meal, most people will register in the 90’s. But for those of us who follow my diet suggestions, our blood sugar registers between 60-70. After you eat, it will register around 120, if you are healthy. If you are pre-diabetic, you will see something higher than that, which can be dangerous. In any case, after you eat, glucose rises. But some folks go up so high and then drop very low after the holiday meal and they end up sleeping in front of the football game. Sound familiar?
But if you do some kind of movement after the big meal, a walk perhaps, or playing outside with the kids, your body will utilize the glucose so you don’t get a massive spike and then drop in blood sugar later. And as you move, you will use up that glucose so your body is not looking for places to store it as fat.
Strategy #5: Eat a Similar Breakfast and Lunch to Gage Calories
In the morning, you can have organic green tea or organic coffee with coconut oil and/or organic butter, and can still be considered intermittent fasting.
But some people like to have breakfast in the morning, such as a smoothie. And for lunch, they may have a salad with healthy fat. By having the same breakfast and lunch most days, you can gage your calories easier. That way, when you do have different dinners, you will have a better idea of extra calories consumed from the splurge.
Or if you are looking at your carbohydrate count during the day, this makes it much easier to track. I usually eat the same thing for that 2pm lunch meal so I know my carb total. Then I never worry about dinner, because my small daytime meal is regulated. So if you have a smoothie for breakfast and a smoothie for lunch, or eggs for breakfast and a smoothie for lunch, you won’t get yourself into trouble with food indiscretions.
For smoothie ideas, we have a FREE, DOWNLOADABLE SMOOTHIE eBOOK which includes 25 delicious and good-fat packed smoothie recipes great for all ages.
Strategy #6: Save Carbs for the Evening Meal
Eat protein and fat during the day and save carbohydrates for the dinner meal. I already talked about the fact that if you do intermittent fasting and then have a bigger carbohydrate meal, your glucose will start to drop, your ketones will rise and your body will burn fat for energy.
But if you eat a small amount of carbs at breakfast and lunch (even if it wasn’t that much) and then a big evening carb meal, you will not get lower glucose numbers and elevated ketones. Again, you will not burn fat but store fat, and that is not what we want to take place.
From a historical standpoint, it is evident that we are nocturnal eaters. Consider the Roman, Greek and most European cultures. Their eating was and is centered around a big dinner, and thus the miniscule continental breakfast the next morning. (if breakfast is eaten at all) And generally they eat a small lunch, or simply siesta, and eat a huge 2-hour dinner.
The science behind a big meal at night is this: it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which drops our cortisol levels which relaxes us and puts us into a nice sleep mode. When we are not eating, the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated. That means we have more energy and we burn more fat.
Here is a caution: if you do intermittent fasting but don’t eat a big meal at night, your body will think it is starving and you will not be able to keep your weight stabilized. So make sure you are eating plenty of healthy food at your evening meal and enjoy every bite.
Strategy #7: Choose the Healthiest Ingredients
Buying healthy ingredients for your holiday meals is vitally important. Ideally, chose local and sustainable ingredients, grass-fed animal products, fermented dairy products and avoid GMOs (genetically modified foods). For more on the dangers of GMOs and gluten, read my article, “It's Not Just Gluten – The Glyphosate Threat.”
Yes, you may spend more. But let’s face it. Often times, it is not the food that makes you fat, but the chemicals. Avoid chemical ingredients as best you can and read labels. For more ideas on maintaining a healthy pantry, read my article, “Do You Have a Healthy Pantry?”
My family gets all the best ingredients. We never skimp when it comes to food. For instance, use a natural stevia sweetener for making desserts. In fact, my son just made an apple pie using stevia to sweeten and it was absolutely delicious.
So if you are searching for a healthy pie recipe, try our Classic Pumpkin Pie recipe that is Cellular Healing Diet approved and truly delectable.
Strategy #8: Rapid Weight Loss After the Holidays – Using the Ketogenic Diet and Diet Variation
When you eat a lot of carbs during the holidays, and then shift into the ketogenic diet it is possible to drop weight really fast. This diet will encourage a growth hormone rise, your body will utilize fat for energy, cravings will diminish and your appetite will go way down because you are eating a higher healthy fat diet. In fact, it is amazing how not hungry you are on a ketogenic diet.
How long do you stay on the ketogenic diet? It is very individual. But every 2-3 months, it is wise to practice what I call “diet variation”: meaning that you change up your diet so your metabolism is stimulated to lose even more weight.
As for me, I practice what I teach. In the summer, I go into ketosis: my carbohydrates are below 50 grams daily and I am a very efficient fat burner. During the summer months I feel absolutely amazing. When fall/winter comes, I purposely raise my carbohydrates between 100-150 daily, which is still considered a lower carb diet. But again, it is easy for me to hit those carbohydrate numbers because I don’t eat breakfast. I eat a small meal around 2pm and a huge meal at dinner. In fact, I am grazing on healthy foods from 5-7 pm.
Then once a week, I practice diet variation, where I eat a high carbohydrate meal, enjoying wheat (ancient wheat) pasta for example. The next morning I don’t eat, but I do test my glucose. And through the day, my glucose numbers get lower and lower as my ketones elevate. Even after my huge, extended evening meal, my body still shifts into a fat burning mode and I go into ketosis. After years of following these practices, my body shifts gears and easily adapts to these adjustments.
Remember the Hunza’s that live to be 120 years old. How is this possible? They practice diet variation. Here are their simple secrets:
During the summer, they eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruit. When winter comes, they consume apricots, sheep’s milk and cheese. Then there is a time when the Hunza’s practice fasting, a period known as “starving spring.” It is said they go a week with no food, have a little food, and then repeat this pattern throughout the spring months. That is indeed diet variation, and what I believe is their key to longevity.
Strategy #9: In January, Do a Block Fast
The best way to start a diet shift in January is a block fast, or a fast for at least 3-4 consecutive days consuming only water, bone broth, or whey water.
Thomas Seyfried is one of the modern leading researchers on cancer and he wrote a book called “Cancer as a Metabolic Disease”. His book revealed that elevated glucose is a problem in regards to cancer. He also states that even one 7-10 day water fast per year decreases your chances of getting cancer up to 99%. Why? Because during the autolytic phase brought about by fasting, the body eats those toxic cells that should have already died. It clears out your system from all the junk.
You can do bone broth fasting in place of a water fast because it still targets lower glucose levels. Seyfried looks for glucose levels between 55-65 with ketones rising between 2-7. He calls this the “target zone”. And as long as you are in that zone, you will get a positive affect. He also notes that during these fasts, you go into ketosis with “restriction” which he calls KD-R (keto diet restriction), meaning your body is utilizing ketosis with block fasting and you are simply eating less.
Side note: Why is it that some folks don’t lose weight during ketosis? I have several theories. According to the studies I have read, they do not have enough caloric restriction occurring. When I go into ketosis, I get a release in cholecystokinin and I automatically eat less. But that doesn’t happen with everybody. If they don’t get that release, chances are they are NOT eating less. And, according to Seyfried’s work and other studies, that is a problem. It is not unhealthy, but they don’t get the benefit of ketosis. And in mouse studies he reviewed, none of the mice lost weight unless they were fully into ketosis with caloric restriction.
Therefore, to give yourself a post-holiday reboot and help shift the body into fat burning mode, start with a 4 day fast using either whey water or grass-fed bone broth.
Strategy #10: Focus on People and the Reason for the Season
Of course, it is very important that we focus on the pleasant things during the holidays. Emphasize enjoying family and friends. This is also a time for prayer and perhaps some gentle yoga: anything you can do to “de-stress” your body and mind. Take time for yourself, and remember the reason why we celebrate these holidays. Gather together and give thanks, focus on the spiritual aspects of these holidays.
During the season, it is easy to allow yourself to get stressed out, but with stress comes cortisol increases. When that happens, it lends itself to weight gain. As cortisol levels rise, your body starts packing on weight and storing fat.
It is important to be proactive about reducing stress. I want to inspire you to spend 10-15 minutes every day in prayer, and I promise you will have a different and joyful holiday experience. That prayer time will remind you what the holiday season is all about. In fact, I try to start every day with prayer and thanksgiving to my Lord and Savior and when I do it makes a huge difference in my day.
We wish you an amazing holiday season full of laughter, love, gratitude and good health.