My clients have already started asking for pointers on how not to go completely off the rails when it comes to holiday food and drink, and this can be a tough time of year if you have worked hard to lose fat or overhaul your diet into a healthier guise. I’m particularly busy with work at the moment, which is why I haven’t been posting recently, but I have an unscheduled break between clients and thought I’d make the most of it to address this important seasonal issue.
Christmas is not the whole of December
My main piece of advice is to remember that Christmas does not last for the whole of December! Between office parties and meals out, it’s easy to let the whole month slide into an orgy of excess consumption: mince pies at meetings, mulled wine out shopping, that grande hot chocolate with all the extra festive syrups…
At the moment, I’m still tracking what I eat against my energy expenditure, and a modest hot chocolate with whipped cream can easily eat up over 300 calories of my daily intake, so they happen on very active days only. This means I still get Christmas treats but only on the days when I can ‘afford’ them because I’ve been particularly busy with training clients and myself, so they are not unwanted ‘extras’ that will end up stored as fat.
(Photo: Refinery 29)
Decide in advance when you will enjoy yourself
I also see the majority of the month as being entirely consistent with my normal eating patterns: three healthy and nutritious meals a day with snacks if needed. I usually relax this completely from December 24-27, enjoying what I want, when I want it (I’m no clean eating fanatic and will happily chomp my way throughout crisps, bars of Dairy Milk and drink a cold beer, given the chance), but I still ensure my meals are nutritionally balanced with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as good quality meat and fish. This means I’m still giving my body what it needs and enjoy my festive treats on top of that, often being too full of the good stuff to eat too much junk. This is my own way of staying balanced. Trust me, I still eat A LOT, but staying on track for the majority of the month before I indulge means I find it easier to get my diet back to normal on the 28th. In fact, the bloated feeling and Buddha belly I usually have by then leaves me desperate to cut back and feel healthy again.
Don’t lay the treats out where you can see them
Research carried out by Brian Wansinck, author of Mindless Eating, showed that if you can’t see treats, you are far less likely to eat them. For example, office workers with a glass jar of sweets on their desk consumed far more than those who had to walk across the room to actively find them. So stash the ice cream at the back of the freezer and shut your nibbles into the cupboard. Chances are you’ll forget they are there until you really want them. When you do decide to indulge, put your crisps and nuts into small bowls so that you mindfully portion them out and don’t eat mechanically from the bag until they are all gone and you aren’t even aware that you ate them.
Keep moving or enjoy a rest – your choice
I relax my training schedule when I visit family for Christmas, enjoying winter walks with my mother. I do still take a mat with me, as prolonged periods of sitting can trigger aches and pains, and a spell of yoga eases that as well as relaxing my mind and making me less likely to start an argument or over react to the usual stresses that can come up at this time of year! I might do a short HIIT session, often using the 12 Minute Athlete app, but I do enjoy a change of pace and a rest. If you stay reasonably consistent all month and only indulge for a few days, you shouldn’t have too much work to do to get back to normal training patterns. Those four days are a welcome deload for me and I enjoy every sugary carb-filled minute spent sitting on my ass watching films! Enjoy some walks, and by all means have a Christmas Day run, if that’s your thing, but a few days away from the gym won’t leave you deconditioned.
Detox – just don’t
In January, lots of silly people will try to part you from your hard earned cash by offering you detox and cleanse packages. Leave them well alone. You do not need to juice cleanse or starve after Christmas. Return to your healthy eating patterns and get moving consistently, and your body will shed any festive excess. Eat more vegetables and cook as much as you can from scratch. That’s as much detoxing as you need.
So, have fun, enjoy yourself and choose what you splurge on; avoid mindless over consumption. Really want that piece of Yule log? Have it! Just don’t have one every day this month and you’ll maintain some damage limitation. Happy holidays!