Tis the time of year when even the best of eating habits face challenges. More sweets, fats, and overindulgence lead to weight gain. The average weight gain for Americans is around five pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. It leads to millions of us making weight loss a New Year’s resolution. Taking off five pounds is a lot of work, and most of us don’t accomplish it-as a result, those extra couple of pounds add up over the years. As of 2011, 40+ pounds for me, even though I exercise four to five times a week. In April of 2011, I resolved to put a stop to it. My epiphany was two-fold. First, my wife was cleaning out the closet and came across a couple pair of old Levi’s of mine with a 34 inch waist. She said “Honey, why don’t you donate these to Goodwill-you’re getting older and your belly is probably not going to go away. I think it’s just a normal part of aging.” I scoffed and replied “my belly’s not that big, and no, it’s not a normal part of aging.” Secondly, to prove I wasn’t fat I had her take a picture of me in a pair of shorts from 3 different directions: Front, side, and rear. Wow! I was fat! Then and there I┬ápromised myself that I would get into those 34 inch Levi’s AND look better in that picture. I wasn’t going to go on some crazy diet, because I know most of them don’t work. I was going to do some research into what to eat and what not to eat to create a sustainable eating regimen I could maintain permanently (I guess that is some form of diet). I found out that carbs from grains and sugars were two things I needed to minimize (they’re difficult to totally eliminate). I started eating half-sized portions and ate most of my foods in the morning and early afternoon-very little at night and never ate after 6:30 p.m. The reason for smaller portions and eating earlier is this: The body needs eight hours to totally process a meal. Our digestion is so efficient, it will work hard to metabolize every calorie consumed-part of the ancestral hunter-gatherer thing. Once the digestive work is completed, the body starts in detox mode, and needs at least four hours to do this. If it doesn’t have the time, it encapsulates toxins with a mucus to protect us, and this mucus circulates and ends up attaching to fat cells. This mucus makes it extremely difficult to free up the energy in our fat cells for use, which is what we want-we don’t want to store it. Unless eating habits are changed, this process recurs over and over and over again. End result? A big belly like I had. Remember the 34 inch waist Levi’s? They are now way too big for me. I have lost 45 pounds and now have a 31 inch waist! I share clothes with my 16 year-old son. And eating correctly now is easy. Sure, I still like a burger, a slice of pizza, or a potato chip here and then, but it’s the exception, not the rule. A couple of strategies I’ll share with you. Cut way back on carbs from grains and sugars. Lots of vegetables, go easier on fruits. Nuts and seeds are super. Eat white meat and fish, go easier on red meat. I basically eliminated processed foods and meats. Sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes. Lots of leafy greens. Friends think that I eat a Spartan-type diet, but I’m perfectly fine with it. Something interesting I found out along the way: You aren’t what you eat, but you eat what you are. This means that if you eat sugary, fatty foods as a rule, you crave those types of foods. I discovered that by changing to a diet high in veges, nuts, seeds, and lean proteins, I actually crave those types of foods. I know it’s the holiday season and all that comes with it food-wise is tough to turn away, but drink more water and if possible, go for a short 10-15 minute walk after your meal. The walk might not seem like much, but it will help clear sugar from the blood and normalize insulin levels. Insulin not only drives blood sugar into cells but also drives blood fats into storage. Good luck and Happy Holidays.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.