Trying to avoid piling on the pounds over the festive season can be tricky. There’s temptation at every turn and, if you’re like me, there’s a little bit of you that thinks, what the hell, I’ve worked hard all year for this!
Sadly though, a couple of weeks of pure indulgence can severely increase the waist line and leave you feeling less than fabulous come the New Year.
So here are my top 10 tips for making sure you can enjoy the festivities, not feel left out and yet still limit the damage as you head into January.
1. Decide Which Battles To Fight!
Chances are you won’t be celebrating every single day over the holidays. So you don’t need to over indulge every single day either. Decide at which ‘events’ you’re going to enjoy all the treats and let your hair down and have fun. On the other days put the treats out of sight. Hide the chocolates and avoid the booze. Choose healthier foods and give your body a break from the rich, sweet treats. This way you can still enjoy all the good things without paying the price later on.
2. Don’t Store Your Calories for Later
There’s always a temptation to skip breakfast and lunch if we know we’re partying that night. We think if we ‘save’ our calories we’ll do less damage. Not the case! By skipping food earlier on in the day you’re far more likely to go mad in the evening. Instead try and make sure you have breakfast and lunch. It doesn’t have to be a huge meal each time but making sure your body has some fuel to burn will stop you bingeing later on in the day. Try to go for protein based meals as this will help you to stay fuller for longer.
3. Don’t Burn the Candle at Both Ends
No doubt there will be a few late nights with friends but it only takes a day or two of reduced quality sleep to knock our system out of kilter. Try to aim to get a good 8 hours a night as often as possible. Remember too that alcohol disrupts our sleep patterns. Although you may think a few drinks helps you get off to sleep, alcohol actually inhibits our ability to get into deep sleep and can leave us fatigued and de-energised. Often causing us to wake in the middle of the night and struggle to get back to sleep. Add to that the fact that the body loses its fat burning potential when lacking sleep and you can see how important getting a good night can be.
4. Eat Mindfully
It’s so easy to stick the TV on, put your feet up and mindlessly snack on crisps, choccies, nuts and all the treats. When you multi-task on snacking you can very easily over eat hundreds and hundreds of additional calories and you won’t even have noticed you’ve eaten them. Instead, make each meal an occasion. Avoid TV dinners and if possible sit down at a table and focus on what you’re eating. If you are going to snack in front of the TV, get a small bowl and pour yourself a small serving of your favourite snack, rather than mindlessly and repeatedly dipping your hand into the crisp packet or the Pringles tube!
5. Fill Up On Veg
Whether it’s a sit down meal or a buffet try to make sure that the majority of your plate is filled with vegetables. Aim for at least half of the contents of your plate to be vegetables. Rather than guessing what will be on the table if you’re visiting a friend’s house for a party, try taking a bowl of interesting salad or some veggie sticks and homemade hummus with you to ‘add to the table’. At least this way you’ll know there’s something healthy on the menu!
6. Stick to Your Guns
Don’t allow yourself to be brow beaten into over indulging if you don’t want to. Pressure from friends and family to have ‘just one more’ drink or telling you another pudding ‘won’t hurt’ can be difficult to navigate but they’re not going to be the ones trying to shift the pounds come the new year. A polite ‘I’m full’ or ‘I’m just having a rest’ should hopefully be enough to deflect their good intentions. And if that fails, then you might just have to get tough and say a firm “no”. It’s all about choice – and you get to choose
7. Have too much to drink!
Okay, I’m talking H2O here, sorry! Try and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water or non-alcoholic drinks – especially if you’re partying that day. Tea, coffee, sugar free squash, diet soda, sparkling water – all add to your overall fluid intake and can help to offset the negative dehydrating effects of alcohol. Fill a nice stemmed wine glass up with sparkling flavoured water, drop in some ice and a raspberry or two and no one will even notice it’s not Prosecco! Mix spirits with lots of low calorie mixer in a tall glass and alternate alcoholic drinks with soft, sugar free drinks. No one will know if that’s a G&T or just a T!
8. Keep it Slow
If you’re usually a fast eater then it’s really important to try and slow down. The body needs time to realise it’s full and when we eat too quickly we can have consumed way too many calories before the hormone, leptin, is able to tell the brain to quit eating. Slowing down not only helps you to eat fewer calories but it can also help combat the effects of indigestion, avoid that sluggish, bloated feeling of having eaten too much and help you to savour and enjoy each mouthful.
9. Aim for All or Something
Whilst you may not feel inclined to spend hours in the gym over the holidays, getting some movement in will make you feel better and keep those extra calories that you’ve consumed at bay. Getting out for a walk or setting aside half an hour every couple of days to do a bodyweight HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) session won’t take up much time but could be the difference between ticking over and having to start again from scratch. It’s so easy to find ourselves slumped in front of the TV for hours on end so making a concerted effort to get up and move around is key. Have your own dance party and get bopping around the Christmas Tree!
10. Stay Sane
Finally, remember that this is only a couple of weeks out of the whole year. Try not to let yourself get too caught up in the whole ‘diet’ thing. Avoid trying to totally remove the things you like from your life as you’ll only crave them more. Instead, allow yourself a little bit of what you fancy, savour it and don’t feel guilty about it. Life is way too short to spend valuable time that should be focused on family and friends, worrying about a few extra calories. There’s damage limitation and then there’s deprivation. Don’t deprive yourself. Have a few treats, banish the guilt and have a very merry Christmas and an awesome New Year.