Today is 6 weeks until Christmas Day.
Some of us love it, some loathe it and some of us fall somewhere in the middle, not quite Bah-Humbug, but not quite in love with it all. This is my camp.
We have been conditioned to conform but somewhere along the line it seems to have spiralled out of control and we feel that we have permission to indulge, no matter what the cost.
Yes, it is hard to say no. You don't want to be seen as a party pooper or the office bore. Temptations are all around with mince pies and mulled wine, office parties and drinks, boxes of chocolates and biscuits at every turn. You can still enjoy the season without undoing any of your daily healthy habits and even if you are panicking about fitting into your Christmas Day outfit, then I have some simple tips to help you indulge, without over-indulging.
1. Say 'NO'
Say no to milky coffees from expensive chain coffee shops. A delicious sounding Gingerbread Latte made with soya milk comes in at a staggering 373 calories with 13g of fat and 36g of carbs. This is close to a quarter of the daily allowance of calories for females, especially if trying to shift some weight. Even the Classic Hot Chocolate at this chain comes in at a whopping 319 calories, and that's without a snack.
Try an Americano instead if you need a caffeine fix, or a herbal tea.
Say no to desserts on the lead up to Christmas. Everyone's favourite of chocolate brownie with ice-cream weighs in around 1,200 calories. To burn that off it's like doing over 2 hours in the saddle of a bike going full pelt!! Instead if you are out for a meal have a starter instead based on salad, vegetables , seafood or soup to fill you up before the main course.
Say no to white bread, pasta, rice, biscuits, crisps. A Festive Feast Panini, at the same high street chain comes in at an almighty 534 calories and worse, the Festive Vegan Wrap at 543!! Couple this with a milky coffee or hot chocolate and you are nudging towards half a day's allowance.
Just 2 slices of white toast with butter has more than 200 calories and practically no nutritional value. If you can't give up the toast at least aim for wholemeal or sourdough and have with some protein, such as eggs or a nut butter to keep you fuller for longer.
2. Ramp up your exercise
Get your body moving. It's what we are designed to do. This cold winter weather, with dark mornings and short days makes it all too easy to make excuses not to go for a walk or a run or hit the gym. Every little bit will count, and even if you have just 15 minutes a day, well then make the most of it. If you are already quite active maybe introduce one more session a week such as a class at the gym to get the metabolism revved up and staying up to keep the calories burning. Weight lifting, rather than longer cardio sessions will burn calories over a longer period.
Challenge visiting friends and family members to join you for a group cycle, walk or run. Visit a beach, forest, mountain or cycle path you have never been to before.
Don't wait until the New Year to get started....start NOW.
3. Spend some time in the kitchen
One of the best tools I find for staying on track is to be prepared and organised. Of course, life can get in the way, but carving out time for menu planning and shopping pays dividends. It may seem like a chore at the time while there are so many other things you could be doing. It's all about priorities.
SET a timer for an hour, TURN off the phone and social media and just do it.
Grab some of your favourite recipe books, a notepad and your schedule for the week and plan your meals around your diary and commitments.
Even if you can only manage 4 days, well then that's a fabulous start.
Then, make your shopping list and plan your shopping trip.
Make sure to consider portion size too. An easy visual guide is to plan dishes that have for each meal, a palm sized portion of protein, one or two fists of vegetables (non-starchy), a cupped handful of complex carbs and a thumb sized portion of fats (avocado, cheese, oils).
Another great tip is to batch cook. Double up on your recipes such as overnight oats, soups or curries which can easily be portioned and stored in the fridge for a few days or frozen for later. Buy bags of frozen berries and vegetables for convenience too.
Find healthy alternatives to the salty nuts and snacks so you don't feel deprived or left out. Simply roast some chickpeas in olive oil and chilli flakes or smoked paprika for a healthy and yummy snack. If you can't give up crisps or the habit of snacking then try roasting small florets of cauliflower prepared in the same way. These are really delicious and will satisfy the cravings.
4. Try Intermittent Fasting
If you are relatively healthy and not on medications then this might be worth trying. Having a window where you don't eat or drink except for water or herbal teas after 7 or 8pm until breakfast can work for some people. I have written a previous blog on Intermittent Fasting( IF) https://www.anamcara-nutrition.co.uk/post/your-guide-to-intermittent-fasting.
5. Quality Sleep
One of the most often overlooked aspects of weight management is in achieving adequate quality sleep. We all know that we should be getting 7-9 hours a night but how many of us actually get that? I give my clients a 'Sleep Hygiene' protocol which includes being off social media at least 2 hours before bed..try it...it is really quite liberating. The blue light emitted from screens interferes with the production of melatonin, a very powerful hormone which regulates sleep-wake cycle.It is also an anti-oxidant, (in fact it is being researched as an anti-cancer therapeutic agent )and is involved in appetite control too.
"Melatonin exerts its effect on weight by modulating the action of several key metabolic hormones such as insulin, ghrelin and leptin. These hormones orchestrate appetite, satiety, calorie uptake and fat storage. It also appears to increase activity level and core body temperature thereby increasing
So you can get the picture now, that disruption here can lead to hormonal chaos and weight gain.
6. Have at least 4 'dry' days a week
I love a drop of wine or gin as much as anyone and don't want to be a spoilsport, but when watching weight, and being conscious about our overall health we must take alcohol into consideration. Not only are most alcoholic drinks high in calories, alcohol is also a toxin that the liver has to process out of your body. And when your body is devoting energy to the removal of alcohol, it takes energy away from other important functions, leaving you feeling drained and lethargic as a result. Give your liver a chance to rest and help your body process out other toxins by drinking lots of water.
There are some great alcohol free alternatives on the market at the moment, so give them a go, you might be surprised.
7. Let Go of the Guilt
With the world in a state of flux from environmental disasters to political uncertainty, it is easy to let anxiety, sometimes coined eco-anxiety, take hold. We are all only human, living our lives and doing our best. So, if we do have wobbles don't let the guilt take hold. Eating and drinking and socialising is what sets us apart as human beings and is meant to be enjoyed and cherished. But it is all about balance, find yours and enjoy the festivities.
These tips are also for life, not just for Christmas.
Written by Patricia Alexander-Bird B.Sc., Dip NT,
Registered Nutritional Therapist and a member of BANT, the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine.
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