In this episode of the Real Health and Weight Loss podcast, Dr Lucy Burns, a weight management and metabolic health expert, takes the lead solo to discuss strategies for staying on track with health and wellness goals during the Christmas season. Dr Lucy emphasises the importance of managing metabolic health, particularly in a world where insulin resistance and metabolic diseases are on the rise.
The episode provides a comprehensive guide to navigating the holiday season with a focus on health and wellness. The three aspects discussed offer practical insights for individuals to make conscious choices, ensuring a balance between enjoying festive moments and staying true to their health goals.
Dr Lucy delves into three crucial aspects which include:
- Having a Realistic Plan: Understand yourself and your triggers, decide what approach suits you best for the occasion. Whether it's indulging a bit, sticking to a low-carb lifestyle, or having alternatives in mind, make a plan that you're comfortable with and won't regret.
- Visualising the Plan: Use visualisation techniques to foresee scenarios, anticipate challenges, and prepare responses. This helps in gracefully declining offers that don't align with your plan and avoiding unplanned indulgences.
- Avoiding All-or-Nothing Thinking: Recognise the tendency to view choices as either perfect compliance or complete deviation. Instead, if things go off track slightly, take a pause, regroup, and continue with the plan rather than falling into a cycle of overindulgence followed by guilt.
Dr Lucy underscores the message that individuals are in control of their choices. The goal is to navigate the Christmas season with mindfulness, making decisions that align with personal health and wellness objectives.
Dr Mary Barson (0:04) Hello, my lovely friends. I'm Dr Mary Barson.
Dr Lucy Burns (0:09) And I'm Dr Lucy Burns. We are doctors and weight management and metabolic health experts.
Both (0:16) And this is the Real Health and Weight Loss podcast!
Dr Lucy Burns (0:21) Hi my gorgeous friends it's Dr Lucy here. I am by myself this week. Many of you know that Dr Mary's been unwell, she is well and truly on the mend. But we wanted to get this episode out ready for you for Christmas. So I thought I'd just do a solo performance. So gorgeous ones. It's called How to stay on track this Christmas. And I'm going through three things. And the three things are; Why should you stay on track? Do you even need to stay on track? Why staying on track feels hard at Christmas, and then three strategies to keep you on track.
Dr Lucy Burns (0:56) So the first thing I guess I want to go through is, you know, should you stay on track? What does staying on track actually mean? And I guess there are a couple of things to consider. So if we're looking at Christmas Day, by itself, like just one day of the year, lots of people will tell you. Well, one day doesn't matter. And there's some truth in that one day makes no difference to your life, to your health, to anything that you do. If it truly is just one day. The problem I see though, is so many people I see, you know we're going to do whatever we want to Christmas, then that sort of extends into boxing day, then there's plenty of food still leftover. And then they go— Oh, well, look, we'll just wait till a new year, the new year comes, it's still more food, there are more parties, there are more barbecues by this stage, you know, fluffy is awake, your sugar cravings are back, you kind of go you roll on into Australia Day, and all of a sudden it's July. It's the same if you're in the US, you've probably already been, you know you've had, you've had Halloween, you've had Thanksgiving, and Christmas into New Year, it's now cold dark you're thinking. And so it becomes a bit tricky. So I think it's really important to recognise that one day, honestly, it really doesn't make any difference. But that's the trick has to be one day. And for lots of us, it's not. So what I want to talk to you about is why is it important to stay on track over Christmas. And what does staying on track over Christmas actually mean?
Dr Lucy Burns (02:35) So the thing that we know is that in our particularly Western world, but not just that now, developing countries as well, we're seeing the rate of insulin resistance and metabolic disease escalate, escalate like crazy to you know, now certain parts of the community of the world have, you know, 90% of the population is metabolically unwell. Now, if you're in the category where your metabolic health is a bit less than ideal, then we're going to try and keep that on track. And again, doesn't mean one meal, one meal won't make a difference. But we don't want one meal to be two meals to be three to be 30 minutes. So what we want to do is think well, what does being metabolically unwell even mean, and the way we like to describe it is, it's not just the way we like to describe it's what metabolic, you know, for metabolic health entails, at its root causes is high circulating insulin levels, or insulin resistance or hyperinsulinemia, whichever phrase you like to call it. And that's often associated again, then with hypertension or high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, abdominal, so increase visceral fat around your abdomen. And what that makes us feel is sluggish, tired, you know, which is not thriving, we're just sort of coping with life, and left alone that causes enormous amounts of medical complications, including type two diabetes, and the like.
Dr Lucy Burns (04:19) So we've got a number of ways that we can manage this but certainly our food is malnutrition is by far and away the most effective with the least amount of side effects way to manage it, it's probably the cheapest compared to spending hundreds of dollars on medications. And as I said, it's the way it's actually just returning to the way our body's designed to eat. So the tricky thing is that we know insulin resistance has multiple factors that come together to cause it. And genetics is most definitely a predisposing factor. So there are some people who can get away with eating oodles of sugar and have very little consequences. and other people find that they have to be really mindful of the amount of sugar and processed carbohydrates they consume, or their insulin resistance or type two diabetes, everything gets worse. So we know that you know, to manage insulin resistance, it's about reducing processed carbohydrates in particular. So that is sugars and starches. Processed starches include flour and sugars.
Dr Lucy Burns (05:28) So what does Christmas involve? A lot of flour and a lot of sugar. So a lot of cakes, a lot of puddings, a lot of chocolate, a lot of lollies. And tied with that is an enormous marketing campaign, from those companies that produce those foods, who stand to profit. So that's step one. Step two is that for many of us, those types of foods are tied in with our memories, and associated feelings about Christmas and food. And I know for many people, you know, Christmas like we did, I did a little poll the other day. And I said to people, you know, five seconds, what foods do you associate with Christmas? So you know, outcomes, mince tarts, or mince pies. Depending on which part of the world you're in. Christmas pudding Christmas cake pavlova, Australian Scotch diamonds, gingerbread, gingerbread houses, all the food that is actually available all year round, but for which our brain only comes up with it at Christmas. One of those foods in particular was shortbread. So you can buy shortbread any day of the week. But suddenly at Christmas shortbreads are in the shape of a star, and it just holds so much more appeal. So a couple of things we need to think about and be mindful of is, at the end of the day, as I said, You are the boss of you, you can do whatever you want, there isn't any right or wrong. There's no moral judgment here.
Dr Lucy Burns (07:06) I don't know if any of you can hear my cat in the background. And she's just decided to start meowing, but anyway, I'm just gonna plough on through. So you're the boss of you, you get to decide which plan you want to do. But what I want you to do is have a plan that you're happy with. And what I mean by that is a plan in which you wake up in the morning with no regrets. So some strategies that you can employ here. The first thing we need to do, there are three strategies, I'm going to go through the first one, step one, and have a plan. So that plan might be to have a day off. It might be that you've got a great big family function, and you don't want to think about the food just can have whatever you want. That's a perfectly reasonable plan with a couple of caveats. And the caveats are, do you know yourself? Well, once you start on scorched diamonds, will that wake up your cravings? And will you then once got diamonds for the next six weeks? If that's you, you may want to rethink that plan. Or, if that's you, you may want to then make sure following Christmas Day, you have a plan to no longer eat scorched almonds. And what I mean by that is if scorched almonds are your thing, and you decide on Christmas day you're going to have them well then you're going to have to put some kind of strategies in place. So the Scotch diamonds just aren't in your cupboard for the next six months.
Dr Lucy Burns (08:48) So if someone says to you— look, take this half a jar home with you because you know, I don't want them, you might want to go next. Or if you know that people are going to give you Scotch diamonds and that they're going to be then calling your name from the cupboard. For the next six weeks, you might want to work out a plan for those, you might decide to give them away, you might decide to leave them at the place where you've gone for lunch, or if people have come to your place, you might decide to give them away. Whatever it is, the key is always knowing yourself well. So there's no right or wrong in this situation. Honestly, there isn't. But if you've been following us for a while, you know that the way we like to look at things is that every action has a result.Every behaviour has a consequence. When I say consequence, consequence always sounds negative. Consequences can be a positive thing. Your behaviour might be that you go walking every day, for a month, or the consequence of that is going to be that you'll feel fitter, that you'll have better aerobic capacity, that you enjoy the outside world, all of that sort of stuff.
Dr Lucy Burns (10:07) So, again, it doesn't matter what you decide to do, as long as you are completely aware that whatever action you take has a result. And the longer you do an action, then the more likely the result is of that action. So again, bringing it back to one meal will rarely make any difference to your health. You know, caveats, be, don't eat peanuts, if you've got peanut allergy. But in general, one meal makes no difference. If you do that one meal 100 times it's going to make a difference. So just know yourself well there. So the plan could be as I said, go a plan and do whatever you want. The plan might be that you're going to continue your low carb lifestyle, you're going to make a menu, and you're going to come up with alternatives that comply with your low carb life. And that can be pretty easy, especially at Christmas. I mean Christmas meals when you boil it down, usually a protein base, and Turkey pork, whatever it might be, in Australia might be seafood, prawns, usually some vegetables again, if you're having a hot lunch, it'll be you know, there might be some roast potato and maybe you decide to forego that but you know, there's cauliflower, broccoli, beans, you know, all sorts of veggies that you can have. If you're having a cold lunch, there are salads, heaps, heaps of different salads that you can do that will still keep you on your low carb plan that is still delicious, flavourful, full of herbs and spices and goodness. And you just make them a little bit fancy, sprinkle some nuts on them. If again, you're not allergy allergic to nuts, sprinkle some feta through it. If you're not intolerant to dairy, so many ways that you can make that food delicious. And then for dessert, you might decide to take low carb pavlova, using an alternate sweetener, you might decide to take some you know fresh berries again, if you're in the southern hemisphere, berries are in season, and I cannot tell you how delicious raspberries are at this time of the year. We are so lucky. You get to decide because you, my friends, are the boss of you.
Dr Lucy Burns (12:33) So step one. Okay, strategy one is to have a plan. Think about it. Write it down, know yourself. Well, ask yourself– is this realistic? Make sure that the plan you create is realistic because humans like to win. So don't make a plan that there's quite a lot of you inside in your brain going yeah, great plan, Lucy, but you're never going to do that. Never mind, we'll forge ahead. Don't do that that's unhelpful. Make the plan realistic.
Dr Lucy Burns (13:02) Step two, visualise your plan. So visualising is a beautiful technique. It's a technique that is done often with athletes, people sitting exams, public speakers, and performers, all of those people visualise themselves doing the action, and they visualise their success. So in the end, if you're a performer, you will visualise all the clapping. If you're giving a speech, you will visualise yourself standing at the podium with your slides, you will know that you're going to go through your speech without any stumbles. And that you're going to get a standing ovation. If you're an athlete, you will visualise yourself if you're a swimmer standing on the blocks, diving in when the start gang goes swimming in the zone, all of those things. They are powerful, powerful techniques that improve performance. So if you want to stick to your plan, and again, maybe your plan because you know you are the boss of you, you get to choose your plan. Maybe your plan actually involves no alcohol. Maybe you've decided, maybe this is your first year where you're not drinking alcohol. Well, then you visualise it, visualise what you're going to do, how you're going to approach it, maybe there's people there, you haven't seen maybe there's people who are just going to hand you a glass. What is your strategy for those who just need to be prepared? So a line that I always love, my favourite line for anything is ‘no thanks’. I don't eat that anymore. Or I don't eat that, or it might be, no, thanks. I'm not drinking alcohol today, or no thanks. I've stopped the wine. And people will ask you because they're just curious. Oh, why not? And you can just say whatever you like, but a favourite line of mine is – he doesn't agree with me. And when they go, What do you mean? You just go you don't want to know. So it's really, really easy.
Dr Lucy Burns (15:09) You may have people that will try and convince you to eat their food that maybe they've made a plum pudding, maybe they said you– come on have made it, it's beautiful. You can just already, you've got your line planned, you visualised it. Ah, thank you, it looks amazing. But I just don't need that anymore. It doesn't agree with me, I'm really happy for everyone else to have it, it looks incredible. But it doesn't agree with me. And they'll say give up, they honestly will. But you just need to have a little line ready.
Dr Lucy Burns (15:45) And then the third strategy is really again, important because particularly if you've done lots of dieting, over the years, you will identify with the concept of being an all-or-nothing person. An all-or-nothing person is not actually a person, it's just a mindset. It's a mindset process that we've been taught, where we feel that you have to be perfect because that's the only way it'll work. And that's where we do it, we have this absolute belief that has to be perfect. That's why it'll work. And then if it's not perfect, we just think, bugger it, and we just do whatever we want. So we call that pressing the stuff up button. So again, let's say you've come up with your plan, you've done your visualising, and somehow, it's not all quite going to plan, it doesn't mean that you need to press the stuff up button and then eat everything, hoover down the whole table. You don't need to suddenly eat six months tops to get rid of them. You don't need to suddenly be wolfing down everything till you feel sick in the stomach so that you can start again tomorrow. I love the idea that we can just come in with a little bit of mind management around damage control. Basically, you can just say, interesting, isn't it that I have a couple of almonds and scotch diamonds. Yeah, okay, that was nice. But I don't want to do any more. I'm just going to put them away. And I'm just going to continue straight back on my plan.
Dr Lucy Burns (17:18) So you can just regroup and agree really great way. And this sounds a little bit weird. But a really great way to do this is if you find yourself sort of standing at a table or you're hovering or you're just stuck, you can feel yourself starting to sort of wolf down a few things. You should take a little mini break. And maybe you go to the bathroom and you just regroup and you're just regrouping with yourself. And you can do a little like a little breath, work exercise little mindset exercise. And you can just talk to yourself kindly, and you just go okay, this is not how I planned the day. This is how I'd like the day to look. And this is what we're going to do. And it's just like having a little chat to yourself. It does two things by going to the bathroom, one it just moves you away from all the queues, the queues being food products, or the food thing or it might be a person again, who's shovelling food in your face that you don't want to eat, that's fine. So you just total into the bathroom, take a little mini break, take a few breaths, and then regroup and go and grab a glass of water and then move away from wherever it was that you were. Again, what I want you to really be mindful of is that you can still enjoy your Christmas meal, you can still enjoy your Christmas period because their food that is available is wonderful, beautiful nourishing. Protein, chicken, ham, turkey, pork, whatever it is prawns, amazing food, still delicious, still fills you up, still makes you feel part of it, but just doesn't take you off your path.
Dr Lucy Burns (19:06) And as I said, if you do find that you have wandered off into the wilderness, you don't need to beat yourself up over it. You don't need to carry on. You don't need to self-destruct. You don't need to go and move down everything. You just recommit, and regroup, not the next day, but the next minute. And I cannot tell you, for me that has been like the biggest revelation because I used to always go well God I've stuffed it now. I'll eat everything I can. And because I'm going to start again tomorrow, I'm going to be perfect tomorrow. And it just made for a like a binge that day, which would make me feel sick. Then I'd wake up in the morning feeling terrible. You'll be guilty. And then there'd be one little thing that had come past and my eyes are beyond stocks and I think ah oh yeah, have that today and just start again tomorrow. And this will go on for weeks. unhelpful, unpleasant doesn't make you feel good.
Dr Lucy Burns (20:03) So lovelies, that's what I would love you to do. Okay, you've got your three strategies, you're going to make a plan, whatever that plan is, doesn't matter if your plan, you're going to visualise your plan, you know, think about it, you know, visualise how you're going to approach people, you know, who bring food that maybe you don't want to eat. Remembering, eating is not a team sport, it's an individual pursuit, you are the boss of you, and you are allowed to advocate for yourself. You don't want to eat a particular food product, you don't have to. And you're going to recognise perfectionism and pressing the stuff up the button, you're gonna try your best not to do that. And if you do find that you've sort of popped down that pathway where you started to eat everything in sight, you're just going to take a break, go to the bathroom, regroup, take a few deep breaths, have a little chat with yourself, come out, move away from the table, or wherever it is that you are, and start right there. And it'll be wonderful.
Dr Lucy Burns (21:08) Gorgeous ones, there is no need to feel Christmas, there is absolutely no need to fear it, it can still be fun, and you can still have a great time with those simple strategies. And I wish you and your family all the very, very best. And next week, Dr Mary has a great episode. She's interviewing one of our colleagues, who's in the wellness world with some steps, it's fair to say some tricks and tips and somehow steps popped in, add some strategies on stress management. So my lovely friends have a wonderful, wonderful week and I will catch up with you very soon! Hohoho!
Dr Lucy Burns: (13:28) The information shared on the Real Health and Weight Loss podcast, including show notes and links, provides general information only. It is not a substitute, nor is it intended to provide individualised medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor can it be construed as such. Please consult your doctor for any medical concerns.