One of the many advantages to joining the Cooking Light Diet is having access to our staff of professionals. In particular, members can tap into the expertise of our James Beard award-winning lead dietitian, Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD, who’s been an instrumental part of the team since we launched our service in 2014.
As part of an effort to provide members with even more serviceable content to assist their respective journeys to good health, Dr. Williams will be answering questions posted in our community Facebook group. We wanted to know: If you could ask a dietitian anything, what would you ask? This is part three of an ongoing series.
Happy 2018 to our Cooking Light Diet family, and welcome to our newest members!
For those that don’t know me, I’m Carolyn, lead Registered Dietitian for the Cooking Light Diet. I oversee new diet features and recipes, help our community care team answer your questions about nutrition, healthy eating, and weight loss, and I also write content for Cooking Light.
As we kick off 2018, it probably won’t come as much of a surprise that the hot topics for questions have been…
- How do I get back on track after the holidays, or after falling off the wagon in general?
- Is it possible to “undo” holiday sweets and splurges (sugar cookies, eggnog, Cadbury eggs, Halloween treats)?
- What’s the best way to get back on track?
The thought of “getting back on track” after a week or two of splurging or holiday eating can be overwhelming, and I’ve found this is usually true for everyone—even dietitians—after indulging and being out of your normal routine. But there are some key things that make the process easier—some based on the latest research on weight loss, metabolism, and food psychology, and some on lessons I’ve learned from personal trial-and-error. Here are my top eight tips for what really works to get back on track.
Step away from the scale.
Your body needs a few days of healthy eating, hydration, and activity to find its balance, so I recommend not weighing yourself those first few days. The scale isn’t the best indicator of health to begin with, but it’s usually even less accurate after indulging for a few days due to bloating and water retention. I’m not saying that you may not have gained any weight, but fixating on an inaccurate number isn’t helpful for most. Focus instead on re-establishing your routine rather than a number.
One of the best ways to hold yourself accountable when getting back on track is to keep a food and exercise log on your phone or in a journal. I know it can be tedious, so don’t feel you have to do it longterm. But I’ve found that journaling that first week really boosts my confidence and motivation.
Get over the guilt.
I can’t believe that I really ate cookies for breakfast…and an afternoon snack…and before bedtime…for a week. Whether it was cookies for breakfast or dessert after every meal, you’ve got to acknowledge and accept that you got off track. Then… let go of it, and move on. Wallowing in guilt will only delay your weight-loss efforts—and may actually derail your healthy eating efforts.
Detox and restock.
What treats or less healthy foods are still lingering in the kitchen? Toss, freeze, or donate those food items, and then restock with whole, unprocessed foods emphasizing vegetables, fruits, legumes, lean protein, and healthy fats. I like to set a date for when I will clean those less healthy foods out. This gives you time to think through what you need to discard and restock, as well as enjoy a few more bites if you can’t help but indulge one last time.
Find normal again.
Don’t wait for work and school to start back. Go ahead and resume your “normal” routine—or as close to that as possible. This not only helps when trying to eat healthier, but also when resuming regular activity and sleep.
Show up, but don’t burn out.
Many people’s gut response to get holiday weight gain off is to hit the gym with killer workouts, but this is an easy way to cause burnout and injury. Instead, I’ve found it more beneficial to focus that first week on just showing up and doing my workout—as opposed to focusing on upping the time and intensity. Once I’m back in my regular exercise groove each week, then I kick it up a few notches.
Hydrate. And then hydrate some more.
Hydration is key to warding off feelings of hunger and getting rid of post-holiday bloat, not to mention your body’s overall health. While the common rule of thumb is eight (8-ounce) cups of water daily, many may need a little more than that—closer to nine cups for women and 13 for men, according to the Institute of Medicine. Here are additional tips and info on staying hydrated and how to infuse flavor in water.
GO TO BED.
The holidays can be exhausting, physically and mentally, so focus on catching up on rest and getting adequate sleep. The average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Less sleep than that affects concentration, memory, energy levels, and stress levels. Also, lack of sleep puts you in constant search of caffeine or sugar pick-me-ups, which add extra, unnecessary calories and can lead to cravings.
Remember that you’re not alone when it comes to getting back on track with healthy living. If you haven’t already, check out and join the Cooking Light Diet Facebook Community. You can post any of your Ask a Dietitian questions there!