Friday, January 12, 2024

How To Get Back On Track With Your Diet After The Holidays

The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s day presents some real challenges for those trying to eat healthy and lose weight. The holidays are great and it is a lot of fun to eat and drink a bit more during this time. Just about everyone puts on a few pounds by New Year’s Day.

However, for many of us, the unhealthy eating continues well into January and even February. This is mostly due to swings in blood sugar that result in increased hunger and cravings for refined carbohydrates, which were likely consumed in large amounts over the last several weeks. The more we eat bread, pasta, white rice and sugar, the more we want these foods.

A couple of extra cheat meals and a few pounds gained during the holiday season are not much of a problem. But if the disordered eating lasts for months, you will put on some serious weight. Even my most successful and dedicated clients will struggle during and after the holidays. Here are a few strategies that help them get back on track:

1) If you have eaten more refined carbohydrates during the holiday season, you will have an increase in cravings for them. You will also be more hungry in general. Step one is to mentally realize this. Tell yourself that you will be hungry for the wrong foods, but will not give into them. Getting your head right and understanding the origin of the cravings is very helpful.

2) Write down your food for 2 weeks. It adds a layer of accountability that gets you back on the right track. A great free app to help you do this is MyFitness Pal.

3) Go to the grocery store and load up on all of the right foods. Make it easy to eat healthy. Similarly, get all of the unhealthy foods out of your house. 

4) Plan your meals ahead of time. Think about what you will eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next few days or even a week.

5) Try to limit eating out at restaurants for the first week or two. Restaurant meals usually have a lot more calories, fat, salt and sugar.

After a week or two of eating right, you will find that your blood sugar has stabilized and the hunger and cravings for the wrong foods will start to calm down.


Mediterranean Diet And PTSD

The Study

The association between diet and mental health has been an area of increasing interest in the research literature. In this interesting study, 191 women who had traumatic exposure and PTSD symptoms had their diet evaluated.

The researchers found that higher PTSD symptoms were associated with less adherence to a Mediterranean diet.

Nature Mental Health 2023; 1:900

Take Home Message

Diets that are easy on our blood sugar seem to have a positive impact on mood and mental health. A Mediterranean diet is a great example. This type of diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, olive oil, seafood and chicken. 

It limits refined grains, sugars, red meat and saturated fat. It is a great way to eat for both your physical and mental health.

Protein Timing After A Workout

The Study

It has long been theorized that consuming protein just after a resistance training session will maximize gains in muscular strength and growth. The thought here is that there is an anabolic “window of opportunity” for protein uptake and muscle synthesis that can be taken advantage of with supplementation. What does the research say?  

A review published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition examined this question. After summarizing the 6 most influential studies on this subject, the researchers concluded that there was no definitive evidence that supplementing protein after a workout improves results.

Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2013; 10:5

Take Home Message

As long as you are getting adequate protein at all 3 meals, there is no reason to load up on protein after a workout.

Is Organic Produce Worth The Extra Expense?

At first glance, the idea that organically grown produce is healthier than conventionally grown makes a lot of sense. If organic products cost the same amount of money as conventionally grown, it would be a pretty easy decision for most of us. However, this is not the case. Organic produce can cost twice as much as conventionally grown. This begs the question: Is it worth the extra money? Let’s look at what the research says:

Study #1

Stanford University conducted a review of the research literature that included 240 studies on organically grown foods (Reference 1). The Authors concluded that there was no convincing evidence that organic produce was more nutritious or would result in significantly improved health outcomes.

Study #2

A research group from a British medical school conducted a similar investigation (Reference 2). This review included a variety of outcomes and 12 separate influential studies. The researchers concluded that evidence was lacking for any nutrition related health effects of organically grown food.

Study #3

In 2021, the USDA conducted its annual testing of pesticide residues on foods available for sale in the U.S. (Reference 3). This included 2.7 million analyses.

-24% of foods tested had no detectable residues. 

-99% of foods were below the EPA’s tolerance levels. These levels are conservatively set at 1/100th of an exposure that caused no toxicity in laboratory animals.

Conclusions And Recommendations

These studies may be surprising to many and even a bit controversial. However, in the field of nutrition, many commonly held beliefs by the public are not supported by the research literature. 

Organic produce is much more expensive than conventionally grown, often two times as much money. Most buyers of organic foods spend this extra money for one of two reasons:

-They think there are more nutrients in organic foods.

-They believe that organic foods will have a more positive effect on their health than conventionally grown food.

Up to this point, the research indicates that neither are true. If you like to buy organic produce and can easily afford to do so, by all means continue. However, if you are buying organic produce because you think it is more nutritious or will result in improved health, there is very little evidence that this is true.


1) Smith-Spangler C, et al. Are organic foods safer or healthier than conventional alternative? A systematic review. Annals of Internal Medicine 2012; 157:348-66.

2) Dangour AD, et al. Nutrition related health effects of organic foods: A systematic review. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2010; 92:203-10.