This month, a lot of people weigh more than they did in October. The problem is so widespread that, especially in people who are working to lose, I make it a point to applaud their efforts even if they have simply maintained their weight at the same number over the last few months. That’s because December is the time of year when people eat the most entertainment [read: sugar and white flour].
Why is December such a problem? It has to do mainly with the amount of desserts. What happens when you eat a lot of stripped carbs, like sugar? You use a lot more insulin. What happens when you use a lot more insulin? You store fat more efficiently, and you lose the ability to tell when you are full. Then you increase your food intake accordingly.
In my experience, when a person first begins to eat a diet that requires less insulin, it takes a few days for their appetite to modulate. When you eat a diet that requires a lot of insulin, those high insulin levels coat the satiety centers in your brain and make it hard to tell you’re full. When your body finally realizes that it doesn’t need all the insulin that it’s making, your pancreas “downregulates” insulin production. It doesn’t happen immediately; it takes your pancreas a few days to recognize that it doesn’t need as much insulin. All of this is good news, because less insulin translates into less hunger. A few days after you start conserving your insulin, you wake up less hungry than you used to be.
I tell patients not to worry, that the number will take care of itself as they get back on track making smart choices. And it does. So it’s okay to celebrate the holidays. It’s okay to have a piece of wedding cake or birthday cake or holiday cake. It may even be okay to have a slice of pie every weekend. But you can’t have it every day. Your insulin levels will manage fine if you ask them to spike only once in a while. The problem comes when you eat things that make them spike every single day. Because when your insulin levels are rising every day, they are no longer spiking. Now they are just high.
That’s why I say that what happens in December stays in December. It’s not what you do once in a while that gets you into trouble. It’s what you do all the time. You can’t live in December and expect to remain healthy. But you can certainly visit from time to time.
Wishing all of you a happy and healthy new year…