Suffering from the Holiday Hangover?

And just like that, the holidays are done and over.  Life this week has been about getting back into the usual grind and routine for most of us.  Kids have gone back to school.  We’ve gone back to work.  Workouts have resumed.  Eating has normalized.  However, most of us feel the “let down” of the holidays.  Everyone I’ve chatted with this week has just been worn out.  People’s workouts, including my own, have been tough even for those of us who didn’t take a break from our usual workout regimen.  My patients have all complained of more stiffness and soreness this week too.  Why is this?  Quite simply, it’s a result of the major influxes of sugars into our diets- sweets and treats, alcohol and extra simple carbohydrates of all forms are to blame.  No one indulged in these substances over the holidays right?!  Ha! If you’ve known me for any period of time, you’ve probably heard me refer to sugar as the “white devil.”  Honestly, nothing good comes from it.  Sugar is the most addictive substance known to man.  It’s 8 times more addictive than cocaine!  So, if you’ve been trying to get back to your “normal” eating routine only to find yourself with a hankering for something sweet (simple carbohydrate) in nature, this could be why.  Sugars are one of the best ingredients in foods that cause inflammation in the body.  When you suddenly increase inflammation in the body, soreness will be one of the many symptoms you may experience.  The stiffness can also be a result from the overindulgence of sugars.  It has been said for every gram of sugar you ingest, it requires 3 grams worth of water to process that sugar.  In other words, sugars are dehydrating in nature.  One of the most common complaints linked to being dehydrated is stiffness.  I have also had patients complain to me about muscle cramping this past week or even during the holidays.  Again, this influx of sugars could be one of the main culprits.  My patients this week, just like the week after Thanksgiving, have been more tender to the touch, more sensitive in nature, more misaligned, etc. When we get back on track with eating healthier and minimize or eliminate the ingestion of these sugars – alcohols, sweets and treats and extra simple carbohydrates – we may begin experiencing some of the “withdrawal” symptoms.  These may include the following:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Appetite changes
  • Brain fog
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Cravings
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Immune system weakness, more prone to getting sick
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Shakes
  • Short-term memory problems
  • Sleep changes
  • Weight gains

Any of these sound familiar?  Does this paint the picture of what you’ve been experiencing this week post-holidays?  You can thank how our diets change dramatically during the holidays.  The good news, assuming you’ve cleaned up your diet and plan on keeping all forms of these sugars at a minimum, these symptoms will be short-lived.  The severity and duration of the symptoms vary between person to person.  Worse case scenario, most of you will be done with the withdrawal symptoms within about a week, 2 weeks tops. A common question of the week has been: “Is there anything I can do to speed up the process?”  Unfortunately, there is no real way to speed up the detox process.  However, the following are suggestions to help you through the process:

  1. Commit to detoxing sugar out of your diet – And get a support system.  It’s always easier to have people on your same page.  The family may not like it, but everyone should detox from the sugar.  You’ll all be happier and healthier in a short period of time.
  2. Go cold turkey – Sugar creates a physiologic addiction.  The only real way to break the addiction is to go cold turkey.
  3. Don’t drink your calories – Stay away from sugary drinks – pops, Gatorade, juices, etc.  These are all ridiculously high in sugars.  Their diet counterparts are even worse for you.  You can consume clean protein or meal replacement shakes or green smoothies and be fine.
  4. Fuel up your day with protein – Protein helps to curb your sugar cravings and maintain blood sugar and insulin levels.  Eat protein at EVERY meal, especially breakfast!  No more cereals!  Eat eggs, bacon, and sausage instead (preferably all from clean sources).
  5. Eat unlimited GOOD carbohydrates – I’m talking primarily about veggies and more specifically, the ones that grow above the ground.  Minimize your consumption of potatoes and the rest of the veggies that grow beneath the ground.  The fruits you can enjoy daily would include avocados, tomatoes, bell peppers, squash, lemons and limes and berries.  All other fruits, keep at a minimum as well due to their higher sugar content.  If you really want to supercharge your detox, avoid grains and beans for a couple of weeks.  I prefer the Paleo and modified Mediterranean eating lifestyles.
  6. Fight sugar with fat – Fat does NOT make you fat, sugar does!!  Fat helps make you feel full, regulates blood sugar and insulin levels and cuts cravings.  Enjoy these good fats at every meal – coconut oil, grass-fed butter, avocado oil, ghee and olive oil (never heat).
  7. Be ready for emergencies – Make sure you have your house stocked.  Always have “appropriate/safe” snacks with you to ward off any drop in blood sugar.  Do not go to the grocery store hungry!  Keep nuts and nut butters (avoid peanuts), Epic bars, clean jerky’s, pumpkin seeds, blueberries, etc on hand.
  8. De-stress – Stress really whacks out your hormones.  In fact, stress really increases cortisol, which increases your cravings for sugars.  Try to implement stress-reducing techniques DAILY!  This can be running, meditating, reading a good book, enjoying a bubble bath, etc.  Research has shown that simply taking in deep breaths will switch your body out of stress mode and swap you out of fat storage to fat burning mode.  It doesn’t get much easier than this!  Sign me up for some deep breathing!
  9. Sleep!! – Lack of sleep increases cortisol levels as well.  Aim for 7 hours of uninterrupted quality sleep to help balance hormones, decrease cravings, balance blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.

You can do it.  Hang in there, the worst should be over soon.

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