‘It’s Chrisssstmaaaassss!!!’ You know it’s that time of year when the dulcet tones of Slade’s Noddy Holder are ringing in your ears everywhere you go! Christmas can be a confusing time. On the one hand we look forward to having fun, spending time with friends and family, enjoying some well-deserved time off work and sampling all the wonderful food. However, the reality can often be over-indulgence, family tensions and burning the candle at both ends. This can lead to feeling stressed, sluggish and run down. For people who are trying to make changes to their health, Christmas can be a daunting prospect and can easily result in months of hard work falling to the wayside in only a few days. We can end up piling on the pounds and starting the New Year feeling exhausted – who has returned to work in January needing a holiday to get over Christmas?!!
So how do we navigate our way through the festive season, so that not only can we survive the next few weeks, but actually flourish and feel ready to embrace the fresh start of a New Year? My 10-step guide to thriving at Christmas will help you understand what to avoid and what positive choices to make, leaving you feeling joyful, refreshed and rearing to go in January!
1. Be realistic. If you are trying to lose weight, then the festive season can be a tricky time, as temptation is all around us at this time of year. Set a maintenance goal instead, which is much more realistic and achievable. This will also give you the freedom to enjoy yourself without feeling deprived.
2. Be kind to yourself. If you do happen to overindulge, be fully present, really enjoy what you are indulging in and get straight back on track afterwards.
3. Be prepared. Normal routines tend to go out the window over the Christmas period. However, make sure you don’t forget about yourself and your health goals by ensuring that you take a bit of time to plan your food choices before Christmas gets into full swing. That way, you will have healthier alternatives in the house and it will be much easier for you to succeed, despite being surrounded by unhealthy options.
4. Don’t be afraid to say no. Christmas is such a busy time of year and it is very easy for your diary to become chock-a-block with endless parties and events. This can be overwhelming and leave you burning the candle at both ends if you are not careful. Prioritise the festivities you actually want to go to and politely say no to all the rest. Don’t forget to look after yourself during this busy time by having plenty of alcohol-free days and getting to bed early.
5. Get some fresh air every day. Make the effort to get out for a brisk walk every day. Walking has so many health benefits from helping to manage our weight, aiding digestion (especially good at a time where we might be eating richer foods than usual), lifting our mood and reducing stress levels (a bonus when we might be feeling a bit cooped up at home). Encourage the family to come out with you for a morning walk; it’s a great way to start the day and to spend some proper quality time together too. But if no one else is keen, grab your headphones and listen to a podcast instead, or simply listen to the sounds of nature around you.
6. Drink plenty of water. Being properly hydrated supports so many areas of our health – from preventing and relieving constipation, boosting our energy levels, supporting brain function, helping detoxification, supporting kidney health and helping hangovers at this time of year!
7. Watch your portion sizes. it is easy to get carried away at this time of year. Be sensible about how much you put on your plate in the first place. Eat mindfully and make sure that you chew properly, taking your time at mealtimes. Listen to your body and respond to the signals that you are full.
8. Make sure you fill up on vegetables. The foundational parts of Christmas lunch made up of roast turkey and vegetables can actually be pretty healthy. It’s usually all the trimmings that are most people’s undoing. Make sure that half of your plate consists of leafy and brightly coloured vegetables. The fibre content will help you feel fuller for longer, as well as keeping your gut bacteria happy and vegetables also contain many health-enhancing antioxidants and nutrients.
9. Make good alcohol choices. avoid creamy and sweet drinks as they can play havoc with blood sugar balance. Instead, opt for vodka our gin with soda and fresh lime or tonic. Red wine is a better choice than a sugar-laden cocktail and ideally, drink alcohol with a meal to help reduce the impact on blood sugar levels. Ensure that you have at least half the week alcohol-free to give your body a break at this time of year. Explore the many lovely non-alcoholic spirits and gins that are on the market now.
10. Have fun! Christmas comes but once a year, so be present and enjoy it.