The festive season is finally upon us and so comes a month of Christmas partying and Christmas feasting with lots of indulgent food and far too much booze. Wahoo! But how can we avoid over indulging and undoing all the hard work we put into staying healthy and in good shape? Find out how you can have your Christmas cake and eat it with my top tips for a healthier Christmas.
Christmas only comes around once a year so I won’t be one of THOSE PTs that nags and tells you that you shouldn’t drink and that you should stay on a strict diet and be super healthy in the face of such merriment and festivities. It’s just not fair or realistic. Christmas is the time for joy and celebration with friends and family, and the holiday itself is a break from the stresses of work and life. So why can’t we let go a little and treat ourselves to such pleasures?
However, though I endorse a little indulgence and loosening of control, I don’t advocate completely letting go and succumbing to the gluttony. If you know me by now you know that I’m am all about creating long term sustainable healthy habits, and that swinging from the extremes of super clean and healthy 100% to not caring about health at all is not ideal. And while I don’t ask my clients to stay strict in their routine of exercise and good nutrition during this holiday season (or any holiday for that matter), I ask them to be mindful of their choices and to do as minimal damage as possible for 3 major reasons:
Our diaries in December are filled with endless Christmas parties and for most people the Christmas holiday is basically a time with family in the front of the TV with endless snacks, on top of the biggest Christmas dinner and days on end of left overs! So how can we remain as healthy as we can while still enjoying the festivities? How do we still have our Christmas cake and eat it? Let me share with you my top tips for a healthier Christmas.
HEALTH TIPS TO SURVIVE THE CHRISTMAS PARTIES
Eat before you start drinking. It seems an obvious one but sometimes we get a little too excited and forget one of the simplest rules to line your stomach before hitting the booze. If you’re going for a meal then you shouldn’t have a problem, just try to only have one drink before you get to eat. If you’re not going for a meal then plan ahead and have a snack before you go. Eating before or with drinks can also stave off the late-night alcohol fuelled munchies.
Eat plenty of vegetables with your meals before and after a boozy night. Particularly dark leafy green vegetables or cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, sprouts (yay), for their higher content of folates and detoxifying properties to help your body cope with the toxins of alcohol.
Choose wisely at the buffet table. Party finger food can be the worst. Usually deep fried, very little protein or vegetables, full of unhealthy fats, gluten, carbs and calories. If your options are limited prioritise the protein and get whatever veggies you can. Get your fill of the chicken skewers, mini sausages, cheese, hummus, crudités and fruit before resorting to the potato wedges, filled pastries, and deep-fried goodies.
Pace yourself. Often something that we have intention to do but can easily be derailed when the rounds are being bought. Tricks to help you stay on track with your mission to not hit it hard:
Morning after tips. Some things you can do to help reduce the severity of a hangover:
HEALTH TIPS FOR THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY
Plan ahead. Help instil some self-control by planning ahead of time to avoid situations that may lead you to eat really unhealthily.
Meal plate portions. The number of side dishes that accompany the turkey at a Christmas dinner is really rather ridiculous and it’s easy to pile your plate high with a little bit of everything (and a lot of your most favourite!). Try to still keep in mind of your balanced visual meal plate. A good rough guide would be:
Post meal walk. Rather than slumping back on the sofa after the big feast, take the family out for a nice wintery walk to help burn some of those calories and aid digestion.
Do something active every day. Whether its morning yoga stretches, making it to the gym, going for a run or a walk, try to get out of the house or do something physical every day of the holidays. Not only will this burn some calories and keep you limber, it reduces the time spent slothed out in front of the TV and the temptation to snack, and it can also give you some quality you time which may be needed if family time is a little too stressful hehe.
Avoid spending too long in front of TV. As well as doing something active do something creative, fun, brain engaging, or just simply distracting to avoid TV watching and binge eating. Family board games, jigsaw puzzles, Lego building with the kids (or without), or my favourite quiet past time of crocheting, will keep your hands busy and out of the snack bowl.
Be mindful when it comes to snacking. Let’s face it we snack when we are bored, when we are hungry, when we want a treat, and also out of habit (cinema popcorn anyone?) Before you reach for that treat ask yourself whether you really want it and if you do, would one be enough to satisfy whatever reason you have given for allowing yourself the treat. Just because the box of chocolates is open doesn’t mean you have to sample every single flavour or eat the entire box until it’s empty.
Take your supplements. Continue to take your usual supplements to ensure that you’re still getting your regular dose of vitamins and minerals. Take some digestive enzymes with your big Christmas meal to help aid digestion and avoid the post meal bloat. And take higher doses of Vitamin D and probiotics to give your immune system a boost. Cooped up together with family members during the winter season is a sure-fire way to spread cold and flu. Taking 1000-5000iu of vitamin D and +100 billion micro-organisms of probiotics a day can help to fight off those nasty lurgies.
Consider adding hours or days of fasting during the holidays. We can easily eat 2 days’ worth of calories in 1 Christmas sitting, so try to balance out your calorie intake during the week by fasting intermittently for a few days. This means not eating for a period of 16hrs or more (mostly overnight) which reduces the number of hours to feed and take in calories. And fasting for 16hrs or longer helps to encourage fat burning and reduce inflammation. 24hr fasting can be very effective. Give yourself a cut off time to stop eating and stick to it.
So, there you have some simple tips to help you get through the festive break whilst still maintaining a healthy(ish) diet. Even if you can’t do everything on the list above, just doing 1 or 2 of them will help keep you in a healthier mindset.
My final tip to end this blog and 2018 on, and something that can always be applied not just at Christmas:
Live by the 80:20 rule – be healthy for 80% of the time and enjoy life the remaining 20%. It’s a good balance and a sustainable one. Choose to indulge selectively rather than giving in completely. Decide on what indulgences are worth splashing out on, accept your decision so that you don’t feel regret or guilt, and then do something active and go back on your healthy journey as soon as you can.
Merry Christmas everyone xxx