just 22 days before Christmas?
What am I thinking
…going on a strict diet, just before the holidays? If anything, this is the time to hit the gym hard and put on some muscle, using surplus holiday food to my advantage!
On the other hand, I’m entering the holiday season a little less lean than would be ideal for a “bulk.” I’m not fat by a long shot, but I’m not rippled and ripped and showing my six pack, either. If history serves, I’m pretty confident that I’d add plenty of fat along with my muscle, and since I’ve already got “plenty of fat,” now’s not the time to add more.
Also, I’ve been feeling run down a bit. Between the stress of the book edits, a quick, emergency fix to the book cover, food poisoning, a couple of nasty colds, moving my dad and selling his house, and various other stressors, I feel too close to my own personal tipping point to add in the stress of more time in the gym and more time under the bar[bell], both of which would be necessary to effectively put on muscle.
No, now is not the time.
Holiday food challenges
On the other hand, I’m heading into a season where unhealthy foods abound, so an excuse to abstain can be welcome. Strangely, it’s often easier to tell someone that you are on a 14, 21, or 30 day detox or cleanse than it is to explain that “I don’t eat grains,” or “I’m on a diet.” Try telling someone someone that you don’t believe grains are all that healthy, and they’ll whip out a box of cereal proudly displaying the USDA’s My Plate, where “healthy whole grains” are shown as essential! …and the “I’m on a diet” line? The response is often something clever, like “come on, live a little.”
Yet, for some reason, many people see some sort of value in a detox, where there’s actually little evidence to prove its value, than there is to a diet that eliminates or minimizes sugar, grains, legumes, or dairy, even when there is more evidence that those are bad. What can you do? People believe what they want to believe.
Why 21 days?
It’s short, sweet, and doable, and in this case, I timed it so I still get to enjoy my meals on Christmas Eve and Christmas. …in moderation of course.
If you’re going strict, you’re bound to fail, unless the time period is short enough to tough your way through. I like 14 days, 21 days, and 30 days for this type of thing. Manageable.
Cleanse, detox, or just a reality check?
One paragraph up, I said there’s little evidence to the value of a detox or cleanse, and it’s true; our bodies rarely need our help, they are detoxing all day long, as evidenced by our many disgusting and smelly bodily functions. So why do it at all? Because, detoxing or cleansing aside, the value comes from gaining insight into your potential issues with food; be they mental, emotional, or physiological.
There are many foods that don’t do our body good, either because we have an allergy, intolerance, or our body is already somewhat sick or stressed to the point where it can’t handle that particular food.
There are many foods that don’t do us any good, either because they make us fat, sick, sad, depressed, or lead to binges, purges, guilt, anger, and more.
There are many foods that fall into both categories. In fact, look hard enough and I’ll bet most troublesome foods overlap categories quite a big. Sugar, anyone? Booze? Chocolate?
Addiction, habit, or just routine?
I’m a firm believer in food addiction, despite the general disbelief in the dieting and nutrition communities. But, think about it; we know alcohol and many naturally occurring drugs are addictive, so why is it a stretch that certain foods are also addictive? Coffee and tobacco are two prime examples of natural things that are addictive.
Somehow, food addictions get the rolled eye treatment. I think it’s likely because foods like sugar, chocolate, coffee, and certain grains, have been such a big part of our eating culture for millennia. Still, these foods are big problems for many, and no problem for others; just like drugs and alcohol, whose addictive qualities few dispute.
After a period without the foods that you eliminate, you’ll have a much better understanding of just what these foods mean to you and what they might be doing to you. Are you addicted? Are they a habit? Are they just a part of your daily ritual?
No matter what part they play, the only real way to find out if they are negatively effecting your mental, emotional, or physical health is to do without them for a while. Unless you already know. Do you?
My own detox
These foods are, at best, optional to our diet, and at worst, detrimental.
- dairy (a small amount of grass fed butter excepted)
- starchy carbs
- bad vegetable fats (soybean, corn, ‘vegetable oil,’ and most seed and nut oils)
- faux foods (protein pancakes, and gluten free muffins)
These foods fall into the necessary and/or healthy categories. We don’t need them ALL, but we need what they all have.
- raw veggies
- cooked veggies
- good vegetable fats (coconut and coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, palm oil)
- fish oil
- animal fat
I’d like to point out that this is my own list, based on my needs, and it’s not the be all, end all of healthy foods. Many of the “out” foods are fine in moderation, but for 21 days, I wish to be better than moderate.
How strict am I going to be for these 21 days? Pretty strict; it’s only 21 days.
But then what? Without a logical follow up to a strict diet, you’re right back where you started, and all of these days will have been wasted!