Healthy eating during the holidays is an oxymoron, right? Even if you aren't the kind of person who tends to “get fat” from consuming lots of calories, it's pretty shocking from an overall health perspective what happens when you eat a big meal on a holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas.
I'm talking about issues that go way above and beyond indigestion, flatulence, and the need to loosen your increasingly tight belt.
When you have large portion sizes, huge meals, and especially meals high in fat combined with carbohydrates and salt, there are some pretty disturbing health issues that follow shortly after eating or even the next morning, and recently scientists have found that there's up to a 17% increase in your risk of dying from a heart attack after eating a hefty meal.
This is because, when you overeat, even for a single meal, the following disturbing things happen inside your body:
- Blood insulin levels increase, which decreases fat mobilization and the ability to burn fatty acids as fuel.
- Increased storage of fat and carbohydrate and conversion of sugars into fats, even with a big meal as low as 750 calories (the average American consumes about 4,500 calories during a Thanksgiving meal).
- Sympathetic autonomic nervous system activity increases from a release of norepinephrine and epinephrine, which can significantly increase blood pressure.
- Increased percentage of energy coming from carbohydrate oxidation with a decreased percentage of energy coming from fat oxidation.
- Significant reduction in endothelial (blood vessel) function for up to 4 hours (even in healthy, low cholesterol subjects) due to a big accumulation of circulating triglycerides.
- Changes in the blood that allow it to clot more easily, combined with increased workload and blood flow to the stomach and intestines, thus raising the risk of a heart attack.
- Clusters of solid food material that can get stuck in the narrow duct that connects your gallbladder to your intestine, causing potential for gallstones.
- And the list goes on and on…including increased inflammation from overstuffed fat cells, reduction in sensitivity to appetite control hormones, and large vacuoles of triglyceride based fat building up in the liver (fatty liver).
But if you're anything like me, you're a freaking human being and you like to enjoy life, so you're probably going to have at least one meal during the holidays in which you consume some significant amounts food, often accompanied by higher amounts of carbohydrate or alcohol than you may normally consume.
So what are some things you can do to maximize fat loss, control appetite, and limit the damage from excessive eating?
Healthy Holiday Eating Tip #1: Move
First of all, as I mention in my free Thanksgiving Fitness Survival Guide, multiple studies have shown that a pre-meal exercise session, a post-meal exercise session, or both, can significantly increase fat oxidation and metabolic rate. In addition to that Thanksgiving Fitness Survival Guide, here are some other ideas for simple holiday fitness strategies that you can use.
The general range of exercise time used in most studies is 20-40 minutes, although Tim Ferriss discusses successful blood sugar control in his 4 Hour Body Book with as few as 40 “air squats” in the bathroom stall.
It's more effective if you do this session as a “glycogen depleting” session, meaning that you're using up your body's storage carbohydrates. In other words, that pre-meal exercise sessions should ideally be performed fasted.
Healthy Holiday Eating Tip #2: Eat The Right Thing Before
When you eat a meal a few hours before another big meal you can get what's known as a “second meal effect,” which means that your response to the big meal can be improved by whatever you ate before. More specifically, if you eat a meal that is low in fat and with a high percentage of low-glycemic index carbohydrates, “resistant starch” (like beans, mostly unripe bananas or sourdough bread), and dietary fiber, you have decreased glucose and insulin responses as well as reduced blood triglycerides after your next meal.
In practical terms, this could mean doing something as simple as a few hours prior to your big meal doing a fasted exercise bout and then afterward having a big salad full of kale, spinach and arugula, with some resistant starch like kidney or black beans on top. Or you could just eat a green-ish banana. To me, both these options sound somewhat disgusting, and I'll stick to my standby method “fasting + cold thermogenesis.”
Healthy Holiday Eating Tip #3: Use The Right Supplements
There are just a handful of true “longevity hotspots” in the world. One is Bama County, located in western China on the slopes of the Himalayas. Circa 2000, this location boasted at least 79 men and women over 100 years old and still very active out of a population of less than 230,000. Their ratio of 3.52 centenarians per 10,000 people is the highest found anywhere in the world. Bama County has a secret; Japan’s residents have the longest average lifespan of any other country in the world.
Amongst Japan’s many islands, the people of Okinawa are the longest-lived. Okinawa has a secret…in both Bama County and Okinawa medical researchers have found that key foods play a significant role in the longevity of the inhabitants.
In Bama County, much credit is given to the daily consumption of a plant they call shilianhua, or “rock lotus.” In Okinawa, a role similar to that of rock lotus is filled by wild bitter melon. Not the bitter melon found in vegetable markets, but a smaller and far more bitter version that grows wild. So what do rock lotus and wild bitter melon have in common that promote fat burning, liver health, and anti-aging?
The answer involves caloric restriction and insulin. Only two mechanisms have been shown to be successful in promoting longevity in higher organisms.
The first mechanism lowers the levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). The second mechanism restricts calories, which usually has, as one result, a lowering of circulating insulin levels. Rock lotus influences both of these mechanisms. According to a Jutendo Medical University of Japan clinical trial, rock lotus improves liver function and fatty liver. This action resembles that of compounds known to reduce insulin levels as an aspect of improved blood glucose control. Less insulin means less fat storage.
Wild bitter melon is similarly health-promoting. For example, it has been found that extracts of the wild bitter melon activate cellular machinery to regulate energy production (technically AMPK-activated protein kinase) and the way that fats are handled by the liver. Activation of this metabolic pathway is important to aging. It is sometimes referred to as “exercise in a bottle” because activation of AMPK is an aspect of the benefits derived from exercise. The effect of an extract from the wild genotype of bitter melon called Glycostat® has proved to be more powerful than others on the market and much more consistent in producing positive results.
Interestingly, neurosurgeon and cold thermogenesis expert Jack Kruse, who I've had on a previous podcast, recommends combining bitter melon extract with cold thermogenesis to enhance the formation of metabolically active Brown Adipose Tissue.
In short, rock lotus and Glycostat® work better in combination. Both promote better blood sugar control with less insulin. Both promote healthy blood pressure. Both support healthy liver function. And both mimic changes in cellular energy metabolism typical of caloric restriction.
I know most of us can’t live in a longevity hotspot such as Bama County or Okinawa. That's why Kion developed Kion Lean to bring the longevity hotspot to you. To get full benefits of the Kion Lean's blood sugar control effects, simply take 1-2 capsules prior to any of your primary meals of the day.
- healthy liver function
- blood sugar regulation
- lower body fat levels
- anti-aging factors associated with longevity
So let's say you wake up on the morning of a big holiday meal or celebration during which you know you're probably going to be eating lots of calories. What does an “ideal” damage control scenario look like?
- Start the day with a fasted exercise session, preferably with cold exposure or cold immersion either before or after (or during if you're going for a swim). Also, go for an easy walk or light cardio session immediately after the big meal.
- If you're going to eat a few hours before the big meal, eat primarily fiber and resistant starches. And if you need help choosing the right foods during the meal, check out my free Thanksgiving Fitness Survival Guide.
- 30-60 minutes prior to the big meal, pop 1-2 capsules of Kion Lean.
And that's it! Do you have questions, comments or feedback about these strategies to maximize fat loss, control appetite, and limit the damage from overeating? Just leave your thoughts below.