Perhaps in the past, you’ve thought of Christmas as an excuse to eat every chocolate and mince pie on offer. After all, Christmas comes but once a year. When you see the increase in body fat afterwards, it’s a good job it doesn’t come more often!
Did you know that many people gain as much as 14lbs of fat over Christmas? Today, I heard on the radio that from 10am on the 4th December is when a lot of people decide to give up any healthy eating for the Christmas period – can you imagine, a month of excess when we are probably also less active? So let’s see if there are some ways we can make the run up to Christmas and Christmas itself a little less damaging for our health.
I do not believe that being healthy means denying ourselves all those things we love. Neither do I think it is spending hours with grueling workouts at the gym or running endless miles (though if that is what you enjoy – go for it). I think our lifestyle should be habits we adopt for a lifetime. Gradually making changes that we can stick to but still allowing ourselves treats.
So if you really want to limit the damage this festive season then read on…
1. Firstly decide on your goal. If you have been losing weight and that is still your long-term goal then you really should be looking to hold at your current weight (though we at the studio look more at body fat and muscle which give a much truer picture of weight). If you are within healthy levels and don’t have any major reason to stick rigidly (such as a wedding or a large sports event) then you may be willing to allow yourself a few extra pounds.
2. Know your calories. An average mince pie is around (or over) 200 calories and that is without cream or brandy butter, etc. Christmas pudding can get up to as much as 500 calories. So these decisions have to be made carefully and particularly if you are wanting to include alcohol
3. Really want it. Find your ‘why’. Is it an outfit for New Year that could well squeeze you out if you indulge the week or 2 before hand, is it achieving a goal dress/trouser size or maybe just continuing to feel energised and happy.
4. Believe you can do it. Don’t find yourself repeating the things others are saying. Believe you do not need to gain weight over Christmas, you do not need to drink in huge quantities to have a good time
So if you are still reading, here are some practical tips to help you if you have decided this is what you want this year.
It may be difficult to get to the gym or your usual class over the holidays. Indeed many are shut particularly on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day at least. However, we can still keep active. Try walking more. Find what suits you. Is it getting up early to go for a walk/run or maybe shortly after a meal? Possibly find a buddy nearby. Or, try a DVD or one of the many exercises online or a HIIT routine (again, there are lots of ideas online and some great free apps to set up to time you). Aim for 30 mins a day and for 1-2 high activity sessions a week.
Stay hydrated. Start the day with hot water with lemon and some grated ginger. This will help cleanse and wake you up. During the day drink plenty of plain water alongside green/herbal or fruit teas. Limit tea, coffee and especially fruity and/or fizzy drinks.
Choose your calories
Instead of just eating and drinking without thinking decide which are the things you REALLY want and then try and adjust some of the others to allow for these. However, do not think that, for example, if alcohol is what you really want that you will eat little and just drink!! You need to maintain good nutrition throughout the day to keep your body burning fat efficiently and to keep yourself energised. If you really can’t have Christmas without a mince pie after dinner then can you for-go a starter, not add the extras like cranberry sauce, bread sauce, stuffing etc. Find what works for you but plan it.
Protein is the key to keeping fuller for longer and feeding the muscles. It should be included at each meal and snack. Know you protein levels and try and hit the minimum each day. This is where a protein shake, for example, can be really useful particularly for breakfast.
Beware portion size
The average Christmas dinner is over 800 calories and when you think, women trying to lose weight are often limited to 1200 then we are really going to struggle. Think of the suggestions above to see if there are things you don’t mind missing out on. Then, those that are left make the portion sizes smaller. Less is definitely more when it comes to our health and fitness. Keep proportions the same – lots of veg, at least half plate (hopefully steamed or cooked/served without butter or other calorie rich sauces); ¼ of the plate protein; up to ¼ plate of other carbs like potatoes, rice etc.
Drinking water in between alcoholic drinks limits the time you have to drink the alcohol and keeps you hydrated. You can also try spritzer wine with a fizzy water in for example. Stick to one drink for the day/evening
Know your limit
Don’t eat everything just because it is on your plate. Eat slowly and be aware if you are becoming full.
This may sound a strange one but keeping our blood sugars stable is crucial to not over eating and continuing to burn fat so keep healthy snacks handy. Often, Christmas dinner is eaten later than our normal meals so raw veg sticks with a little hummus/cottage cheese can help stop us getting hungry so we don’t drop blood sugars and don’t feel the need to grab the chocolates or over-eat when dinner is ready. This is especially useful before you go out for a meal. Eat a small snack or a protein drink so that you are not hungry.
Step away from the bakes
If out at a party or works buffet, choose a small plate and put salad or healthier options on first, then a couple of the higher calories items, and then go away from the table. Don’t stand near nibbles.
Prevention is the best medicine
But, if you fall by the wayside don’t think you have to just continue making bad choices. Don’t wait for the next day/week/year. Continue your day with good choices. Use these as lessons – ask why it went wrong and how you could prevent it next time, e.g. did I eat too fast? Was I mindlessly picking at leftovers/buffet? Was it alcohol?
Finally whilst the key to weight/fat loss is not a simple equation of calories in versus calories out, it can be useful to imagine how much activity you would have to do to ‘burn-off’ your treat.
How to burn off a mince pie:
10 mins of CobraFIT
20 mins of BalletFIT
100 mins supermarket shopping
42 min ice-skating
34 mins sledging
77 mins walking the dog
58 mins yoga
23 mins skipping
23 mins swimming
26 mins on cross trainer
OR 232 mins kissing. May not be the greatest burner but make sure you include plenty over Christmas!