too much fun in December, which is what the holidays are for, if you ask me. I love to celebrate, so the weeks between November and December are full of lots of food, drinks, parties, and people. And I love it that way. But I’ve grown to love the quieter, more restrained rhythms of January in contrast to the excitement of December. For me, this is what makes living more seasonally so attractive: there’s a time for everything.
January is typically my time to reset my cravings a bit. I overdid it with sugar and cookies and booze in December, so it’s time to clean it up in January. I’ve noticed that I resort to a few “tricks” to clean up my eating when I’ve overindulged. They aren’t rocket science, but I’ve noticed that I tend to fall back on the same several things that help me when my body is in a need of a reset of sorts. I’m finally starting to realize that moderation doesn’t always work for me. I do better cleaning things up for a few weeks, and then resorting back to my normal, pretty healthy living. I
don’t try not to beat myself up about the fun I had over the holidays (or vacation or fill-in-the-blank) and instead just focus on cleaning things up for a few weeks, which I find reboots my cravings and habits back to normal.
Here are my tricks in case any of them happen to work for you:
- Have good, prepped greens on hand. I love salad so I have no problem eating it every day, but I’ll get lazy if it isn’t really easy to throw together before work to take for lunch. After years of growing our own, i just don’t really like most of the store-bought stuff anymore. In the past, I’ve given in and bought red leaf from the store during the winter months, but this year, I’m relying on FarmersMarket.com to stock up on salad and greens mixes and loooving my salad options that are in the fridge. As an extra bonus, the stuff is picked the day before I get it, so it’s far more nutrient-dense (and so much tastier) than anything I would find most likely shipped in from California in the store. I like to wash, spin, and prep the greens for the next few days to have in the fridge, so it is super easy to grab to go. I have been using this thing for the last year or so, and it does seem to keep greens better longer than my previous method of just leaving them in the salad spinner.
- Spice up your salad. I learned this one from Grant. He makes what he calls “salad pizzazz” in bulk to have on hand for salads. His recipe varies, but it is usually a mixture of nuts + dried fruit + seeds. At some point, I’ll have to ask him to write up an actual recipe or two to share, but it is pretty difficult to screw up using what you have on hand in those categories. I love green olives, so I almost always have those on hand because I’ve found I actually enjoy sardines on my salad when I throw in a few green olives and red onion. Find what you like on your salads and keep it on hand – anything that gets you eating more salads is a good thing in my book: cheese, extra veggies, fruit, whatever. We make big batches of salad dressing at the beginning of the week to have on hand, so that our daily salads practically make themselves.
- Eat LOTS of soup. We eat lots of soup in the winter anyway, but I like to make it even more than usual in January. Most soups are a super satisfying way to eat clean anyway, and, when you make it in big batches, you don’t have to think about meals for a few days. I sometimes even eat soup for breakfast just to up my veggie intake for the day (and because I LOVE soup). Some of my go-tos are garbage vegetable soup with whatever veggies I have laying around (this is a great soup for frozen or canned veggies from last year’s garden), black bean soup (I’ll probably leave out the cheese and sour cream this month), curried sweet potato (or any kind of winter squash subs in nicely), and chickpea and chard soup.
- Add greens to anything and everything. At the end of the growing season, we typically have more greens (kale, chard, arugula, etc.) than we know what to do with, so we freeze them in big batches. These are great to add to soups, smoothies, and just saute on their own. Because greens cook down so much, even a few bites is technically a serving a vegetables, so I wind up using extra greens as an easy way to up our veggie intake all year around.
- Water and lemon or ACV first thing. I trick myself into having some water and raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) every morning by telling myself I can’t drink my coffee until I’ve finished my water and ACV. I find that, when I start my day with a healthy habit with loads of benefits, it sets me up for success for the rest of the day. If things all go downhill from there, at least I’ve had a giant glass of water to start the day.
- Ferments at every meal. We make our own curtido, saurkraut, and kimchi (more details on our favorite recipes and methods coming soon), and I find that everything works more smoothly when I make all of us eat at least a spoonful with every meal. We all love lots of curtido with our eggs, but if we’re eating something that seemingly doesn’t mix well with whatever ferments we have around, we just have a spoonful on its own. There are so many benefits to fermented foods, but it is really a long-game in terms of keeping our guts healthy.
- Avoid sugar. The evidence continues to mount against sugar, and I find that, if I can cut it out for two weeks, the cravings dramatically decrease. So when I’m trying to clean things up, if I can eliminate it altogether for two weeks, I don’t crave it as much, and then a little bit every once in awhile is a nice treat versus a constant craving. Sugar is something that I do notice its effects in my body right away, so it is a bit easier to just avoid it for me unless it is really worth the treat (i.e. homemade Christmas cookies in December = totally worth it. A Snickers bar = not worth it).
- Limit booze. I would rather have a glass of good red wine over dessert 99 times out of one hundred, so this is a hard one for me. I find that, when it comes to alcohol, taking a few weeks off altogether reduces my craving (and tolerance) for it. My problem during the holidays months is that that “one more” glass of beer or wine can sometimes decrease my normal discipline, so I wind up eating more too.
- Roast in bulk. I don’t love raw veggies (except drenched in a really good homemade veggie dip), but I do love roasted ones. I try to roast several pans of veggies at the beginning of the week because then they’re super easy to add to salads, soups, or just snack on throughout the week. Grant and the kids love raw veggies, so I try to prep some for them too. If I have leftover roasted veggies at the end of the week, I throw them together for a yummy and super easy vegetable soup.
- Fast one day a week*. This one is a bit more controversial because it doesn’t work for everybody, but, maybe it is because moderation doesn’t work all that well for me, intermittent fasting actually works for me – and makes me feel better. Much of the science reports that occasionally fasting has tons of benefits (here and here for good summary information). This is a good summary of various methods, but I’ve found that fasting one day a week (I typically do dinner – dinner) works best for me. If I get cranky in the meantime, then I just eat, but if I’m fine to wait it out, I do. Fasting is an ancient spiritual discipline (and shows up in all of the major religions), and so I have tried to practice it in that way, and enjoy the health benefits too.
Most of these things I do throughout the year anyway, but I seem to get off track around the holidays, on vacation, and during the summer. And I like it that way…part of living seasonally is celebrating when it’s time to celebrate, but it also makes those festivities more enjoyable and memorable when they don’t last all year long.
*Obviously, do your research, talk to your doctor, and do what is right for you!