Christmas can be a difficult time if you're trying to manage your weight. It's all the parties, the mince pies, the chocolates & of course alcohol which make it so hard to stay on track. The usual response is to think "I'll just deal with my weight after Christmas". But do you really want to get to start the New Year's with a set-back? Of course you don't!
You also don't want to start some 'diet' that leaves you feeling restricted & thinking about nothing except the food you're not getting to eat! This can be a recipe for a 'blow-out' disaster!
What you need is a way to enjoy Christmas but still manage your weight, so here are some tips to help you enjoy Christmas & stay on track.
Plan Ahead - Also known as Balanced Indulgence - It’s the time of year when it's so easy to indulge – a mince pie, a glass of wine, a handful of Quality Street – yes, it seems like a lot when you look at it from a calorie point of view. However, to counter this, all you need to do is take some time to think about things and plan ahead. If you know you’re going out for dinner, plan in healthy foods during the day and stick to your plan. If it’s a heavy weekend, eat well and exercise during the week.So many people beat themselves up over what they’ve eaten at this time of year when, in reality, as long as you’re eating in moderation overall, the odd bit of indulgence isn’t going to impact that much. One of the best tips I can give for maintaining a healthy regime over Christmas is that you don’t need to ‘start again’ – if you’re in a good place mentally about your diet and your health and fitness goals, you’re more likely to carry on and succeed, so one cheat meal, or day, isn’t going to ruin all your hard work.
Have something before the party - You know what happens when you turn up to a party starving? You'll eat anything they give you! Hunger sabotages your resolve. To prevent yourself turning up hungry, have a light snack beforehand.
Focus only on the things you like - Humans love variety, so when faced with endless canapes or a buffet situation, it's only natural to want to sample every single one. Don't do it! You will know from past experience, there's usually only a few things that you will really like. So, don't fill yourself up trying everything, just focus on eating the foods that you will really enjoy.
Plate up - When you're in a buffet situation, instead of going back for seconds or thirds, put everything that you want to eat on a plate in the first instance...and stick to it. Don't go back! This will make it much easier to know how much you've eaten, and you won't leave the party feeling guilty or remorseful (or nauseated) that you ate too much.
Cut down serving size - If you're given a slice of cake, you will typically tend to eat all of it. With this in mind, If you are having cake, it's best to ask for a smaller slice - savor it, enjoy it, and don't go back for more. Try and cut down your serving size of food and also alcohol (smaller glasses) and it will lead to you eating and drinking less.
Have a "quality quota" - If you like a particular food, for example, mince pies, decide how many you're going to have for the entire Christmas period and stick to it. It could be three, five or even seven pies. You pick the number, but stick to it. And when you have a mince pie it has to be a good one, you have to eat it slowly and enjoy it without any guilt.
If you are drinking alcohol, choose wisely! - My tip for the Christmas party season is to make wise alcohol swaps. Instead of creamy cocktails, I’ll drink vodka and soda with a dash of fruit juice, or choose a glass of wine topped up with a flavoured sugar-free sparkling water, such as apple and elderflower, or make a cocktail with a kombucha base. At Christmas time, I think a great incentive for me is to buy a gorgeous dress to wear over the party season. Promising myself I will wear it – and feel great in it! – gives me all the motivation I need to stay on plan.
Don't buy Christmas food too early - You can still have a house brimming with food at Christmas, but just put off that "stocking up" for a few days. If you delay even a few days, it means less time that you're surrounded by temptation. Seems like a trivial step, but it does make a difference.
Christmas is a time for sharing! - Sharing is the best way to sample foods you like without having to eat the whole thing, so get a buddy to help you out.
Delay don't deny - We don't like hearing the word 'no'... even when it's from ourselves. As soon as you deny yourself something you feel an increased desire to have it. Get around this by "delaying not denying". You want that sweet treat? Sure. Just say you'll have it after you've checked your email, watched that TV show or gone for a walk. You'll be surprised by how many times you end up not eating it after the delay.
According to a recent survey, diet is the most common trigger of everyday guilt for women - closely followed by fitness. The biggest problem with guilt is that it can make us feel hopeless and deflated. Guilt is a terrible motivator and will only lead to a pattern of bingeing and restricting - be that food or exercise. Instead, make some rules around food that involve things you should have rather than things you shouldn't. When it comes to nutrition, viewing food as 'harmful' can be incredibly dangerous, particularly when we often believe that a single or even a couple of bad meals are going to impede our health or appearance, which isn't necessarily the case - our guilt is often based on inaccurate assumptions. The truth is that a big delicious Christmas lunch or dinner should be something we look forward to and enjoy - remember it isn't going to impact our health in the long term, unless we start to eat this way every day!
Make sure you move - Dance! Run! Jump! Whatever you do, just move! It's often easy to fall into reverse with exercise routines when diet goes out the window. However it's not only gym-based workouts that burn calories, or keep those extra kilos from showing up. Christmas is family time - have some fun with the kids, they'll keep you on your toes and that will be burning calories. Music will definitely be playing at most gatherings. Grab a spot on the floor and dance like no-one is watching. There are so many ways to keep that heart rate high, and most of them you can include others in. As long as your butt is anywhere but the couch, you're off to a good start.
Don't let setbacks set you back - It's Christmas, you want to enjoy it with family & friend without feeling like you are restricted or missing out, so you'll most likely eat a l little more than usual, but it doesn't have to be a total blow out. If you over indulge, don't let one over-eating incident put you off or make you discouraged. The worst thing you can do is over-eat, feel discouraged and then over-eat more with the 'oh well, I've blown it now anyway' attitude. Just get right back on track - it will make all the difference.