It is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year but for many trying to make it a healthy Christmas can be a challenge and a perfect storm of overindulgence. The worry sets in January 1st – most of the parties are over, you’re feeling run down, looking a bit haggard and thinking it’s time to renew that gym membership. Let’s preempt all of that stress – there are sensible ways to navigate this territory. You can still enjoy all the festivities of the season and get through the Christmas period without too much impact on your health and waistline. So grab onto Santa’s sleigh and get ready to tackle the festive season in a healthy way!
Think before you eat. Rather than mindlessly noshing on whatever is in front of you, spend a moment thinking about whether you really want it, or are you just eating it because it is there. Instead of gorging yourself on Christmas dinner (we’ve all felt that breathless struggle of food induced exhaustion), eat a normal sized meal and then take a 20-minute break to see if you are still really hungry. It takes 20 minutes for the brain to register that the stomach is full. Chances are, you will realise you’ve had enough. Take the time to choose food you really want to eat and then actively focus on enjoying the smell, taste and texture of each bite. This will naturally help you slow down and stop when you are full.
Get food smart and save on calories where you can. Take off the skin from the turkey or chicken, remove the fat from the ham or lamb. Make roast potatoes with olive oil instead of butter. Make mashed potato with low fat or fat free milk instead of cream. Steam vegetables instead of roasting. If you go back for a second helping, go back for the veg or salad as it is most likely the lowest calorie option.
Don’t sit down all day – walk it off. We know every Christmas movie under the sun will be showing on the TV, but you don’t need to plonk yourself on the sofa all day! At some point during the day, make a concerted effort to get the whole family to go for a walk. The more activity the better – it will help you feel less groggy and sluggish over the festive period! Your body will thank you, and it allows you to spend some great quality time with the family too.
Keep tabs on how much you are drinking – go easy on the booze. This mistake easily sneaks up on you because liquids do not activate our stomach’s full receptors. Minimizing alcohol on Christmas day or at least alternating each alcoholic drink with a glass of water will slow down the alcohol intake while minimizing the consumption of empty calories. For more tips on alcohol during the festive season, check out this article: Don’t Make Pour Decisions.
If you are on a mission to lose weight this Christmas, it is ok to say no. “It’s Christmas!” is not always a good enough reason for a second helping, or why you should tuck in to that mince pie! If you’ve made progress keep going. Remember, Christmas comes around every year. Keep your focus where it belongs: enjoying the company of friends and family.
I know that healthy holiday eating can make people anxious, but try not to get too worked up. This should be a time of celebration and also relaxation. If you do happen to eat more than you planned during this holiday season, don’t beat yourself up. More importantly, don’t let a slip up become a fall. If you do go overboard, don’t get stuck in a food rut. Try to get back to your healthy eating habits the very next day.