Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year, but with the long to-do lists, social events and Christmas shopping, the healthy habits you have been building are easily forgotten and your wellbeing drops to the bottom of your priorities.
Christmas overindulgence can leave many with feelings of guilt and remorse, leading them to jump on the next “crash diet” craze come January. This isn’t a sustainable approach, so we have put together some realistic tips to allow you to stay healthy over the holidays:
1. Stay Hydrated!
Even before mulled wine, hot chocolate and eggnog are readily available, many of us do not drink enough water each day. The increased alcohol intake and foods with high sugar and salt content, means water should be placed even higher in our priorities. Our brain can easily confuse thirst with hunger and what’s more, being dehydrated can seriously zap energy levels.
As a generalised rule for over the holidays aim for at least 2L of water a day. Carry a bottle around with you as a constant reminder to keep drinking! Why not ask for a reusable water bottle for Christmas to aid this change whilst helping the planet too?
2. Be Mindful and Present.
Mindful eating simply means not being distracted by other tasks whilst eating, this can become especially challenging around Christmas. Some major culprits of mindless eating include; eating on the go, whilst driving, during a call, whilst watching TV or general mindless snacking in between different jobs on your to-do list. Stopping to think about the taste, texture and smell of each meal or snack you consume and most importantly being thankful for the food will help you enjoy it more and help your brain to tune in with your stomach.
Ever eaten something whilst on-the-go and you hardly even remember it? No wonder we can feel hungry again within the hour. Make eating a significant event, a time to switch off, or time to give full attention to those you are eating with and this will not only will help you to de-stress but will allow you to taste the full flavour of your food and may just help you to stick to two Christmas cookies instead of several…
3. Prioritise the Zzzz’s.
In this social season, your sleep is likely to suffer both in terms of total hours and in quality. Research has shown a lack of sleep significantly increases your appetite and desire to snack on high sugar foods the following day.
If you are feeling particularly tired, make sure to drink enough water, don’t just rely on caffeine to get you through the day! Choose foods with slow-releasing energy such as complex carbohydrates (e.g. wholegrains, vegetables, sweet potatoes, legumes) to avoid spikes and crashes in energy levels and ensure you’re having a source of protein in every meal to help fight-off increased hunger but keep you sustained until your next balanced meal.
4. Keep Moving.
It’s so easy to get comfy on the sofa and watch endless Christmas movies, especially after a big meal and when it’s cold outside! But do try to get some activity in every so often. Why not switch up traditions and have a Christmas or Boxing day walk? Or, instead of falling asleep mid-afternoon, suggest a game of charades with the family to get everyone up and active. If persuading others to be active with you is more of a challenge, why not involve yourself with setting up presents for people, or by keeping the children entertained – a sure way to stay active!
Finding time each day for exercise whether in the form of cardio, weights or yoga will help reduce stress levels, release feel-good endorphins and help you achieve the recommended weekly 150 mins of activity shown to significantly reduce risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes and many other lifestyle-related conditions. Find something you enjoy, partner up with a friend and most importantly make sure exercise is fun! In the lead up to Christmas why not walk to the local shops or to a friend’s house when possible. Even small increases in steps and active calories will help counterbalance the very likely increased food intake!
5. Focus on the 5.
Without getting confused over the many nutrition tips that could be suggested, put your focus on achieving at least 5 fruit and vegetables each day. Ideally, you want at least 3 of these to be vegetables, and yes, that means you should eat your Brussels sprouts!
In fact, these notoriously unloved greens are nutrient powerhouses, providing protein, fibre, Vitamins A, C and K, folate, manganese, iron and potassium! They are rich in antioxidants and as part of the cruciferous vegetable family, can contribute to reducing blood pressure and inflammation. There’s no excuse to not eat them this year!
6. Savvy Socialising.
It seems one of the hardest aspects of eating well during the festive season is during events where you cannot control what food is on offer. It’s good to remember a one-off Christmas meal probably will not make a difference in the grand scheme of things. Make sure you enjoy the food – if you’re going to eat it, it would be pointless to eat it and feel guilty. Make the most of the opportunity and practise mindful eating, being thankful for the food and taking notice of the flavour, texture and smell.
It's a good tip to avoid going hungry to parties with buffets, have a snack prior the event which includes protein, fibre and a source of vegetables. If going to a restaurant take a quick look over the menu before you arrive so you can decide what might be the most nutritious option for you. Keep an eye on portions, don’t feel obliged to clear the plate in a restaurant and when you have been given a larger portion than normal, simply adapt the other meals that day to lighter ones. If you are arranging a night to catch up with friends or family why not invite them round for dinner rather than going out, then you are in charge of what is served up!
Hopefully these tips will ease your worries and help you in sticking to your health goals this winter. A recent study actually showed obsessing over calories during the Christmas period managed to prevent just 0.37kg weight gain (equal to the weight of a glass of water), which probably isn’t worth all the stress. If your overall goal is to lose weight, instead of putting your focus to continue losing weight why not set your focus to build a healthy relationship with food and to make healthy swaps where possible. Think about ideally staying a similar weight rather than worrying if you’ve dropped another pound or two.
Christmas comes just once a year, so relax and ensure you enjoy it! OME Health wishes you a very Happy Christmas.