Break the Cycle
The splurge: Those dreams of sugarplums dancing in your head may be more like a nightmare brought on by too many sweet treats. While experts used to dismiss the notion of sugar addiction, a growing body of research suggests that the sweet stuff can hijack the same brain circuitry that's affected by drugs and alcohol, leading to a vicious cycle of cravings and binges. (Here's how to stop sugar cravings.) And holiday desserts with high levels of both sugar and fat provide a double whammy. The sugar hooks you, while the fat piles on the pounds.
The solution: Eliminate desserts that are rich in sugar and fat for at least 3 days—7 to 10 would be even better. This will help quell cravings while you start to reestablish a taste for naturally sweet foods, such as fruits and starchy vegetables.
Resize Your Belly
The splurge: When the "it's a holiday, I'll diet tomorrow" mentality kicked in, one of your natural appetite control systems—the stomach's network of stretch receptors—lost its effectiveness. Normally, when your stomach is full, these receptors send messages to the brain that say "I'm satisfied." But prolonged periods of overeating make the receptors less sensitive. This helps explain why that feeling of "I'm so full, I'll never eat again" is followed the next day by the sense that you're even hungrier than usual.
The solution: If you keep eating the same high-calorie foods but merely reduce the quantity, your stretch receptors will signal your brain that you're starving and need emergency rations—now. But you can short-circuit this by eating healthy-size servings of low-calorie, high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Their bulk will keep the receptors happy while avoiding excess calories.
Cut Down on Cocktails
The splurge: So you had a few too many spiked eggnogs. The problem isn't just the sugar and fat. The alcohol itself packs in 7 calories per gram (compared with 4 for protein and carbs and 9 for fat). And the stomach and brain don't register liquid calories in the same way as solids, so it's easy to go right on eating and drinking—without compensating for the added calories. (Check out what happens to your body when you consume alcohol.)
The solution: Satisfying, low-calorie beverages can boost metabolism and even temper your hunger. Tea (lose the cream and sugar) has zero calories and ups metabolic rate. Or prepare a pitcher of flavored water, or one of these sassy water recipes. Add sliced oranges, lemons, and limes to a pitcher—or toss in berries or sprigs of mint or lemongrass. They're refreshing and give you healing antioxidants.
MORE: 7 Weird Reasons You're Gaining Weight
Your 3-Day Detox Diet
Now that you know the principles, you're ready to start your binge recovery. Our diet plan provides about 1, 250 calories a day. To cut the craving for sweets, we've eliminated most refined sugars. To keep your stretch receptors happy, we feature plant-based foods that are rich in fiber. And instead of high-calorie cocktails, we give you delicious low- or no-cal drinks. If you're not back to your normal weight in 3 days, repeat for a total of 6 days.
- Egg white–veggie scramble: ½ c egg whites (or 4 egg whites) with 1 c chopped mixed vegetables (tomato, bell pepper, baby spinach leaves), prepared with cooking spray
- 1 slice toasted whole grain bread or ½ whole wheat English muffin with 2 tsp 100% fruit spread
- Coffee or tea with ¼ c fat-free milk
Snack: 1 sheet graham cracker with 2 tsp natural (no added sugar) peanut butter
- Hummus-veggie pita sandwich: ½ whole grain pita spread with 1 tsp deli mustard and 1 Tbsp hummus, then stuffed with vegetables (bell peppers, sprouts, lettuce, tomato) and 2 slices avocado
- 1 medium orange or 2 tangerines
- Unsweetened herbal tea (hot or iced) with cinnamon stick
Snack: 1 piece fresh fruit or 1 c mixed vegetables with 2 tsp oil and vinegar dressing
- Citrus glaze: 1 Tbsp each orange juice, honey, and reduced-sodium soy sauce
- ½ c cooked brown rice prepared with 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 c cooked winter squash, broccoli, or asparagus
Dessert: ½ c fat-free plain Greek-style yogurt with 2 tsp 100% fruit spread
Nutrition: 1, 288 cal, 91 g pro, 181 g carb, 27 g fiber, 26 g fat, 4.5 g sat fat, 1, 322 mg sodium, 82 mg cholesterol
MORE: 15 Teeny Tiny Changes To Lose Weight Faster
- 5 whole grain crackers
Snack: ½ turkey sandwich: 1 slice whole grain bread with 2 oz low-sodium or reduced-sodium turkey breast, lettuce, tomato, and 1 tsp mustard
- Pasta tuna salad: 1 c cooked whole grain pasta spirals or bow ties with 1 c chopped cherry tomatoes and our tuna salad
- Water with sprigs of mint or lemongrass
Snack: 1 medium orange
- 3 oz broiled or grilled boneless chicken breast
- 1 medium baked sweet potato topped with 2 tsp light spread
- 2 c tossed field greens drizzled with 1 Tbsp vinaigrette dressing
- Unsweetened herbal tea (hot or iced) with lemon
Nutrition: 1, 242 cal, 122 g pro, 146 g carb, 26 g fiber, 21.5 g fat, 4 g sat fat, 1, 565 mg sodium, 162 mg cholesterol
Snack: 1 oz low-fat cheese with 5 whole grain crackers
- 1 c low-sodium lentil soup or minestrone soup
- 2 c mixed salad greens with ¼ c low-sodium water-packed tuna or low-sodium diced turkey and 1 tsp olive oil with lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
- Unsweetened herbal tea with cinnamon stick
Snack: 1 piece fresh fruit (banana or apple) or 1 c berries, with 8 oz fat-free plain or vanilla Greek-style yogurt
- Spinach salad: 1½ c baby spinach; ¼ red onion, sliced; ¼ c fresh mandarin orange slices; and 1 tsp olive oil with balsamic vinegar
- Seltzer water with sliced lemon, orange, or lime