It’s the time of year when we throw caution to the wind. ‘It’s Christmas..’ seems to be the overarching justification (…’excuse’ if I am being harsh..!) to indulge in all manner of things that we normally wouldn’t dream of. All the good work and effort that we put in throughout the year is cast aside as we munch our way through mince pies, chocolates, Christmas cake and other seasonal favourites. The harsh reality is that the additional consumption, albeit relatively short-lived, can put you back weeks on your health, fitness and weight loss goals. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you take time in advance to think about where the main challenges might be, there’s absolutely no reason why Christmas needs to throw you off track….AND you can still enjoy some of the things you love. Around about now, my personal training clients know to expect a chat about how they can keep focused on their goals without feeling like they are missing out. Together we come up with individual strategies that work for them and experience tells me that if they stick to them, they come back to training not just having maintained their weight but also feeling so much happier and in control.
So it’s courtesy of them (plus a few of mine thrown in for good measure!) that I bring you 10 tips to make your Christmas a happy, healthy and guilt-free one.
Christmas minus the weight gain
Tip 1. Mindset
If you start the festive season resigned to the fact that you will put weight on then you will. A mindset shift is needed to re-programme the brain that it doesn’t have to be that way. Take heart from the fact that if you take the time to put the right plans in place, it is perfectly possible to maintain and even lose weight over the period. Imagine yourself at the beginning of January without the half a stone that you usually put on and free of the burden of having to deal with it. Keep those images in your mind and visualise each day what it will feel like.
Tip 2. What is a treat?
Many of us have been brought up with food as a reward and so the link between the two is deep rooted. Sweets, cakes, crisps, chocolates and so on are seen as a ‘treat’ yet in reality they are harmful, especially when eaten regularly and in large quantities. They are also addictive. Sugar stimulates the same area of the brain as some drugs which explains why it is such a struggle for it to let you say no. Does all that really constitute a’ treat’..?
Tip 3. Action plan
Don’t leave anything to chance when it comes to Christmas eating and drinking. Spend some time in advance understanding where your touch points are and come up with strategies of how you plan to manage things. Have a plan ready and you will feel much more in control.
Tip 4. The essentials
Not everything that we eat and drink brings the same amount of enjoyment. Often we just have things because they are there and without even thinking. Decide which are the things you really love and don’t want to do without. Take time to enjoy and savour them. The rest: leave them out!
Tip 5. Start as you mean to go on
Setting your stall out from the get go makes all the difference. If you know that as soon as you see a mince pie you will have one but you don’t even enjoy them that much then say no from the start. You’ll feel so virtuous for doing so that it will give you the motivation to keep it going. The ‘I’ll just have one..’ mentality generally never stops at one.
Tip 6. Hidden dangers
The traditional Christmas dinner in itself is remarkably healthy. Turkey is a great source of protein, vegetables full of vitamins and minerals and even Christmas pudding contains dried fruit. The challenges are often the accompaniments such as sauces, roast potatoes, brandy butter, or the pre and post dinner nibbles which although small, all add up. Aim to limit these as much as you can and your calorie intake will immediately be much improved without you feeling hard done by.
Tip 7. Trade offs
It is worth checking out the calorie content of some of your favourites. You might find there is a big differential. A good example would be a glass of champagne is just over 100 calories where a creamy cocktail will run into the 100’s. Armed with the knowledge, you can make better choices.
Tip 8. Portion size
Watching your portion sizes can help you to enjoy what’s on offer without feeling deprived. There is no need to have plates overflowing to enjoy your food and going back for seconds is not essential. It takes time before the signals from our brain are received in our stomach to tell us we are full so at the very least hold on 10 minutes before you go in for more. It’s got to be better than that stuffed feeling!
Tip 9. Activity
With time off work and away from the day to day stresses, it’s a perfect opportunity to get more activity in to your life. A long walk on Christmas day is the perfect antidote to the eating and drinking and there’s nothing like that virtuous feeling to help you say ‘no’.
Tip 10. Good for your weight and good for your purse
What we don’t have we don’t miss. If you are hosting Christmas, remember that the shops are open again almost immediately so it is not critical to overbuy on food. Being together with friends and family is what is important and no one will mind – or even notice – if you don’t buy that extra box of chocolates.
Feel free to take the strategies that most resonate and add them to your action plan and, if you’ve got any of your own, it would be great to hear them so do leave a comment.
Here’s to a very happy Christmas that will leave you feeling energised and refreshed and not slow and sluggish!