It’s that time of year again. The Christmas party season has well and truly arrived and Christmas Day will be here in just a few days. If you’re feeling like me, you’re probably starting to feel that all your good work during the year, in trying to make healthy food choices has well and truly flown out the window. Christmas is the time of the year that we give ourselves permission to relax and forget about healthy eating. And in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with that.
But it seems to me that some of us spend December gaining weight and January trying to lose that gain. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not being critical. I’m as guilty as anyone of doing this. If your year has been like mine, it’s been long and tough, and you’re probably looking forward to relaxing, as I am. I don’t want to be counting calories, or saying no to my favourite treats when everyone else is indulging and having a great time.
But even though, I’m happy to relax a bit more than usual, I really don’t want to sabotage all my health and fitness gains throughout the year. In my case, I’m sure, in one festive week, I could quite easily find myself right back where I was in January, if I didn’t try to be a little discerning in my food choices.
A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to enjoy socialising at Christmas. To me Christmas is more about catching up with family and friends, than it is about shopping and presents. Unfortunately, however, those catch ups usually occur in a short window of time. For me, I have a two week block of catch ups and meetings, which means that I have been out for dinner most nights in those two weeks.
All that socialising means that I have had to give thought to creating some strategies which will allow me to have a good time, and not feel deprived, yet at the same time, ensure that I don’t sabotage my healthy eating plan completely.
Have a plan
It really is important to have a plan. Not going out on an empty stomach will make it less likely that you grab at anything that is presented. If you know you are going out for dinner, plan to eat lighter during the day. Fill up on salads and greens and give bread a miss. Eat a light snack before you leave home. Try not to accept everything that is offered. This is especially dangerous with finger food. My plan is always to avoid the finger food as it’s usually calorie dense. We are very fortunate in Australia, that Christmas falls in summer, when healthy salads are in abundance. It’s a great idea to fill up on salads but watch the dressings which can be high in calories.
Make socialising be about the people and not primarily about the food
This tip really works for me. There was a time that my focus when going out would be on the food. I would think about the food before the event and would eat whatever was there, without any thought at all. These days, I go out to socialise. I love catching up with my friends and am happy to make that my main focus. Food is now secondary, but having said that, I still don’t deprive myself on special occasions.
Restrict Alcohol Intake
I’m definitely not saying don’t drink alcohol. That would be unrealistic. But it is possible to make healthier alcoholic choices. If you’d like to have a thick, creamy, calorie dense cocktail, then have it. After enjoying the cocktail, you could then choose to drink wine for example, which is much lower in calories. Use diet coke as a mixer instead of coke. You could top up your wine with sparkling water. There are many choices and some healthier than others. So try to think about that before you arrive at your function.
Make Christmas Day a ‘Free Day’
Christmas Day is just one day! It’s very unlikely that in one day, you will do too much serious damage. Everyone is going to be relaxed and celebrating and you really don’t want to be missing out on the fun. There is the chance that if you deprive yourself, you may decide in the following days, that because you were so good on Christmas Day, you now deserve to treat yourself. What usually happens then is a huge eating fest where you eat whatever food that gets in your way. This form of reward eating can go on for days, and lead to a much higher intake of calories than you would have had, if you had eaten freely on Christmas Day. At the end of the day, allow your guests to take food away. You don’t want your fridge to be be full of rich, unhealthy snacks. Believe me, if this food is in your fridge over the Christmas/New Year period you will eat it. Try to stay away from the snacks, and eat whatever you feel like for the main meal.
Remember to drink water
Drink lots of water. You will find that some of the treat foods and alcohol we indulge in at this time of year, leave us feeling dehydrated. Stay hydrated and you will be more likely to be able to recognise if you are thirsty or hungry. If you think you’re feeling hungry, try drinking first. If you’re still feeling hungry after that, go ahead and eat.
Reward instead of Guilt
Try to think of the Christmas party season, and Christmas Day, as a reward for all you have achieved during the year. The main thing is to not feel guilty about overeating a little at this time of the year. Those feelings of guilt will always lead to major out of control overeating. Guilt about food always leads to a pattern of bingeing and dieting. This is not the way you want to live your life. I have found that rewarding myself occasionally makes me feel better about making healthy choices, most of the time. I know that if I had the guilts about snacking on my favourite foods, that would just lead me to more snacking on my favourite foods. It’s a vicious cycle that very quickly gets out of hand.
Don’t forget to exercise
Your usual exercise routine will be forgotten at this time of the year, as you rush around shopping, partying and preparing for guests who may be visiting. Don’t worry about it, just do what you can. Short bursts of exercise can still be beneficial. Fifteen minutes is usually an achievable period of time to find. Using that fifteen minutes for high intensity exercise will ensure that you keep your fitness at or close to the normal level. After life gets back to normal, you will very quickly get back to your usual level of fitness.
The main thing is to move and move often, to counteract some of the extra calories. Try to include incidental exercise into your day. Take the stairs or park a little further away. These are just a couple of things that you can do to add exercise into your day without having to block out a large period of tiem. There are many fun ways you could do this. Perhaps you could try a different form of exercise over the holidays.If you have children around, have some fun playing games outside with them, take them for a walk, or take them swimming. There are many fun ways you can keep moving. But the main thing is to try not to spend too much time over the holidays on the couch.
Do you have a hot tip to avoid sabotaging your healthy way of life over the Christmas/New Year period? I’d love to hear about it and promise to reply to all comments