Your healthiest Christmas yet!

Halloween is barely over, the Bonfire Night fireworks haven’t quite died down, but the Christmas lights have already been switched on in London and high streets all over the country. The Christmas Season is upon us! Before long you will be receiving invitations to Christmas parties: the Office Party, the Tennis Club Party, the Charity Christmas Dinner … there’s always something, almost every week, and at the end of it all the big day(s) itself: Christmas, closely followed by New Year’s Eve. Yes, it’s called party season for a reason. So what does that mean for your good healthy habits? Maybe you started a new health and exercise regime during the summer, got really into it and are doing quite well. Maybe you’re planning to actually start in January – new year, new you!

photo credit: Victor Hanacek, picjumbo

Many of us put their health regime on hold for the Party Season. Christmas comes only once a year after all, so what’s the harm in taking time out? The average weight gain over Christmas appears to lie somewhere between 200 g and 1 kg. Not that much, you might think. True. However, studies have found that losing the weight gained over Christmas is rather difficult.

Here a few tips that might help you stay on track over the festive season:

  1. Stick to the 80:20 rule

If you follow a healthy diet of real foods in moderate portions 80 per cent of the time, it’s ok to indulge in less healthy options 20 per cent of the time. Just make sure that is doesn’t sneakily turn into a “50:50 rule”.

  1. Keep a food diary for December

Keeping a food diary can be quite a chore, I know, but it’s not forever, it’s just for one month. A food diary provides accountability, and sometimes just knowing that will have to write down what you are putting in your mouth creates awareness and encourages you to put that treat down again.

Every evening, underline the poorer choices of the day in red and the healthy ones in green. This way, you will have a visual clue of how well you stuck to the 80:20 rule. Was there a day of much more red than green? Make the next day completely green.

  1. Look for the best option

You may find yourself choosing food from buffets and set restaurant menus more often than usual during the party season, and more often than not someone else has made the choice of caterer and restaurant.

Look for the most natural looking foods: lean meats, fish, seafood, nuts, crudités, fruit, veg, eggs (yes, even if they are quails’ eggs), cheese, beans and lentils are preferable to salads drenched in sugary dressings or mayonnaise, processed meats that look like they come from a packet, or anything breaded, battered and deep-fried. If it is beige, steer clear.

  1. Is it worth it?

Consider skipping dessert. Keeping sugar consumption at bay helps keeping blood sugar levels in balance, which in turn helps reduce cravings. Before you let anything sugary cross your lips (which might subsequently spend a lifetime on your hips), consider whether it is worth the 5-mile run required to get rid of it. If it’s one of your Mum’s homemade mince pies, with a crumbly, flaky crust and cinnamon infused fruit – hell, yeah, it probably IS worth it. If it’s a neon-coloured cupcake with pink icing that comes from a packet it probably isn’t. Pass.

  1. Only drink socially this month

Piling on the pounds by drinking is even easier than trough eating, and alcoholic drinks abound during the festive season. Sadly, not drinking at parties often raises annoying questions: “Are you on a diet?” – “Are you pregnant?” – it’s none of anyone’s business why we’re not drinking, but not everyone finds it easy to just brush off such questions. Having to drive is most easily accepted – no questions asked – so you could offer to be the designated driver of the night.

But maybe you would, in fact, like to have a drink at a party. If you normally like to unwind with a glass of wine or a bottle of beer in front of the telly after a busy day at work, take a break in December. Just drink when you’re out and about and in the company of colleagues, friends and family, but even then it is wise to limit the alcohol.

Apart from the effects of alcohol itself on our weight and health, it also has the side effect of weakening our resolve, and while you might find it easy to go for crudités and hummus early in the evening, you might reach for deep-fried mini spring rolls, chips and crisps by the end of the night if you’ve had too much to drink.

  1. Schedule your return

How many times have you had a good gym routine going – only to have it interrupted by a bout of flu, a holiday, or the Christmas break. Not this time! The American author and happiness expert Gretchen Rubin recommends the Strategy of Scheduling.

So, rather than going back to the gym “some time in January”, make it specific: Put it into your diary for 27 December. Why wait? Who knows when you’ll get around to it, when your next visit isn’t in the diary? Schedule the first and a few subsequent gym sessions to make sure you get back into your routine as quickly as possible. You could even book a personal training session as an extra incentive. Oh, and if you have a routine at the moment: Keep going until Christmas. You need it more than ever now!

So there. You’re now equipped to sail through the season and have your healthiest Christmas ever.

Happy Christmas!

BTW: Since Christmas is nearly upon us, money can get tight. See tomorrow's Nutrilicious News for tips on healthy eating on a budget. There's still time to subscribe!