How to Dance with the Sugar Plum Fairy this Season
Ahh the holidays.. Such a wonderful time of the year to celebrate with those we love and get into the festive spirit.
As much as I truly love the holidays, they also bring up fears of falling back into old habits that I’ve worked hard to break such as eating my bodyweight in sugar just because it’s ‘Christmas”.
Last weekend we had a big group of friends stay over to celebrate the holidays. It was a wonderful time full of laughing, games, and good food. But, there were also my favourite weaknesses. There were Reid’s Chocolates (an institution in Galt), deliciously spiced sweet mulled wine, and artisanal donuts and cookies of every style. When I saw the spread, I told myself “Oh just enjoy, it’s the holidays! Let loose - Enjoy it all!” So… I did.
In the moment I was basking in the glory that is a sugar high, my taste buds were doing the Macarena while my brain was soaking up the massive surges of dopamine. Glass after glass, donut after donut (I ate three), and delectable holiday treats after another, because why not? If I was already on this train, I should simply fully indulge right?
I fell for it - Again. I believed the old narrative I told myself - (Again).
Like clockwork - My body started to feel off, my stomach started to shoot pains throughout my system, I developed an intense headache, and I felt my mood shift. I went to bed to try to sleep it off, yet tossed and turned all night resulting in waking up feeling like I needed six coffees to even open up my eyes and had a thirty pound kettlebell sitting on top of my head. I was neck deep in a sugar hangover. I had glorious plans for the next day yet I had 12% of my normal energy and was quite the grump, acting like the Grinch pre-heart expansion.
It took me 3 days to recoup. I dive into how I brought my body back to centre below - But before I do I want to explain why I shared this story. I did so for two reasons - The first is that I want you to know that even the owner of a wellness food company cracks when there is an abundance of sugary treats in front of her, that she indulges in too much, and feels like absolute garbage afterwards. It’s so easy to think that everyone else has it together EXCEPT for you, but that adds a level of guilt and self-sabotage that does zero bloody good - It’s much easier to grow and change habits when you understand that we all struggle with food and to give yourself grace for not being perfect.
The second reason why I share this story is because I’ve found that words matter when it comes to building habits. So when I say a “sugar high” - I mean it. I truly believe that we become high when we eat large amounts of refined sugar, and just with any type of “high”, a “hangover” follows suit. Using these words have really helped me shift my relationship with sugar because as with alcohol, I limit myself to a very small amount because I know that if I drink more than a glass of wine that I’m going to put my future self into a detrimental hangover and will limit what I can experience the next day. By looking at sugar in the same way, I’m able to not let my desire for the immediate gratification rule my decisions because I acknowledge that IF I overindulge, that it comes with a price that I’m inflicting on my future self.
I’ve opened up about my journey with sugar in previous blogs but I wanted to talk about how I manage it during the holidays as I find that it is the most difficult time of the year for me to maintain my distance from it. The good news is that if you find yourself down a sugar-lined rabbit hole that there are many things you can do to help get your body back in sync as well as a few preemptive tricks to help you stop before you follow in Alice’s footsteps.
How I got my Body back to Baseline
Grace > Self-Scolding
After a day of indulging, the easiest thing for me to do is to sit and wallow in a puddle of self-scolding. “How could you eat that much sugar yesterday?! You know everything that it does to your body.. Do you not have any self control? Common Madi - You feel like garbage and you did it all to yourself. You deserve to feel this terrible”
That was a common narrative that I used to tell myself. I believed that if I berated myself enough, that maybe by some miracle I would stop craving these foods. Beating yourself up for something that you ate the day before does nothing except make you feel like you aren’t worthy of feeling good and sets your self confidence back miles.
Instead of taking the easy option to just berate yourself - Try giving yourself grace instead. Remind yourself that you are not perfect, and that perfection has never been the goal.. Our goal has always been 80/20 - 80% of the time, eat for health - 20% of the time, eat for joy - If you go over the 20% threshold, you’re still worthy of feeling your absolute best. It just means that you have to put in a little extra work.
Hydration IS ALWAYS KEY
Regardless if you ate too much sugar, drank too much alcohol, or enjoyed too much processed food - After you’ve reminded yourself to be gentle to yourself, your greatest asset is to hydrate your body and help flush the toxins out. Both sugar and alcohol have been proven to act as a diuretic, so it is imperative to drink liquids the next day. Reach for water with lemon juice, caffeine-free tea, and broths to help rehydrate your cells and support your body’s natural detoxification process.
Greens + Anti-inflammatory Aids
Both sugar and alcohol create inflammation in the body, so when we are trying to reduce the affects, your best tool is to reach for anti-inflammatory ingredients such as ginger root, green leafy vegetables (kale, collards, spinach etc), nuts (almonds, walnuts, and cashews), olive oil, and tomatoes. The high amounts of chlorophyll in dark leafy greens trigger our liver to eliminate toxins and help cleanse our colon supporting our body’s powerful detox process. Leafy greens are also rich in vitamins and minerals which help offset the effects of lower blood sugar levels which is a side effect from too much sugar (also known as reactive hypoglycemia) that can cause symptoms of lightheadedness, irritability, anxiety, and shakiness.
Sleep + Movement
One of the best ways to do so is to make sure that you’re including movement during the day (this also helps cycle out toxins from your body) so whether that is a yoga class, a weight-training session, or a long brisk walk, prioritizing proper sleep and body movement for the next few days will make sure that we are taking care of our body. Other tricks to improve sleep hygiene is to use a NSDR video (non-sleep deep rest) to help you fall into a deep restful sleep. My favourite is done by Dr. Andrew Huberman that you can find on youtube here.
We may feel sleepy after a sugar-crash, but it causes major disruption and inability to reach deep sleep later in the night which is the healing part of our sleep. After a weekend of overindulging, it’s incredibly important to prioritize getting a deep, restful sleep.
Preemptive Tools to keep you away from the Rabbit Hole
Prioritize Protein + Unrefined Treats
Protein is the most satiating macronutrient that actually helps you feel full longer and regulates blood sugar. Making sure that you’ve had a meal high in protein before you go to an event will make it easier to stay away from the treats table. Our favourite protein-packed dishes right now are our omnivore Moroccan Chicken and our plant-based Sweet Chili Tempeh Noodles.
A great way to ensure you’re getting enough protein while also satisfying your sweet tooth is to have all natural “treats” such as energy bites made with unrefined sweeteners on hand so that when you do feel that craving for something sweet you can satisfy it without sending your body down a spiral for more. We just released a special holiday flavour of energy bites “Gingerbread Bites” which are high in protein, healthy fat, fibre, and are sweetened with medjool dates! Check them out here.
Mocktail > Cocktail
If you are out at an event, see if they have mocktails, cocktails with zero added sugar, or simply ask for a soda water with citrus juice. It can feel like a social no-no to decline a beverage, especially at a “Cocktail Party”, but swapping out an alcoholic sugar-infused drink for something without any will not only help you make better food decisions but will ensure that you’re hydrating your body versus dehydrating it.
Maintain 80/20 Rule
As stated above, I truly believe in the 80/20 rule when it comes to eating. A large part of that “rule” is to ensure that you’re eating enough food that is high in nutrient density. When we allow our blood sugar to crash the thing our body wants the most is quick energy (aka. Sugar-filled snacks or beverages).
Nook is here to take care of the 80% for you with our plant-forward, nutrient-dense menu that are ready-to-eat so that you simply take them out of the fridge, heat, and enjoy. The holiday season can be filled with joy or it can be filled with stress - By outsourcing your meals during the weeks it gives you time back to tackle all of the items on the “To-Do” list so that you can channel your inner Santa vibes vs. feeling like the mother in Home Alone.
I hope that everyone has an amazing holiday season full of joy, cheer and self-love (you’re worth more than you give yourself credit).