You may be thinking that the holidays are the worst time to start improving your diet. But think again! It is possible to manage your weight even with nonstop holiday buffets and heavy meals seeming to sabotage your efforts.
Try what I call “flirting with keto” – a form of keto cycling – to start making small positive changes now. Yes, during the holidays. With those successes under your belt, by the time January rolls around, you’ll be more than ready to make bigger changes and keep those New Year’s resolutions.
First, let’s review some keto basics
The body basically has two fuels it can use to power what you need to do: fats (fatty acids) and carbs (sugar/glucose). The trick is to use as much fat as you can and leave the sugar for emergencies. But that’s not exactly how it works in real life.
Your body can store a maximum of 1800 to 2000 calories worth of carbs. But you can store an infinite amount of calories as fat. Many people are sugar burners: they’re much better at burning sugar than they are fat. The body gets used to using what you primarily feed it, so it gets real good at using sugar and real bad at using fat. So, you’ve got all this fat on your body, waiting to be burned for fuel, but your body just can’t get to it. It’s like a big “access denied” sign. It’s as if you had a fortune of fat in the bank that you’d like to liquidate but you don’t have the ATM code! Being a sugar burner doesn’t help with weight loss, and sugar is not a sustainable source of energy. Sugar is also one of the most inflammatory “foods” on earth.
You want to be a better butter burner. You want to be really good at accessing and using what’s in your fat calorie ATM. When you stop eating sugar completely, eventually you’ll use up those 2000 calories you have stored. When there’s no glucose around, your body has no choice but to switch fuel sources and begin using fat calories for fuel. And this is the real promise of the keto diet.
What we’re talking about here is known as nutritional ketosis. (This is not, repeat NOT, the same thing as diabetic ketoacidosis, although many doctors get them confused!) As your body metabolizes fat, it produces ketones which are a great source of energy for your heart, brain and muscles.
The official ketogenic diet is extremely low in carbs. If you want to know what to eat on the keto diet click here. It is a way to force your body to use fat as its predominant fuel. There are two big caveats to following a keto diet:
- Be discriminating about which fats you eat. Your body doesn’t care if you’re eating corn oil that’s been refried 25 times or the highest quality Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil. Either one will raise your ketones. But one’s a junk food and one’s a health food. Junky, unhealthy fats will just wreck your health in other ways. Stay away from corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil and yes, soybean oil too!
- Track your dietary fiber intake. The main drawback to a keto diet is that it is low in dietary fiber. This can be a problem since most Americans are already fiber deficient. Consider supplementing with a high-quality fiber supplement, such as Sunfiber, that helps keep you regular and won’t cause extra gas or bloating.
How to “do” keto during the holidays
Staying on the keto diet full time can be demanding, especially around the holidays. Here are a couple tricks to use over the next few months.
Keto by day: Follow a ketogenic diet as much as possible during the day. Then enjoy your special meals with family and friends at night.
Keto cycling/flirting with keto: A lot of keto advocates are into this. They follow a ketogenic diet for three to four weeks, a few times a year. It can be very therapeutic. Think of keto cycling as hitting the reset button on your metabolism. It helps jumpstart your weight loss. And here’s a way to adapt this idea: Try the diet 10 days before the holiday meal. Or it doesn’t have to be 10 days. It can be five days. Then you’ll be able to enjoy your holiday meals pretty much guilt-free.
By using one of these tactics, you’ll start training your metabolism to become more flexible and get your toes wet on the keto diet without completely giving up your favorite holiday foods.
Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, (aka “The Nutrition Myth Buster”) is a nationally known expert on weight loss, nutrition and health, and the best-selling author of 15 books on health.