By Nicole Walker
The content in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.
Christmas is a time to enjoy good company with friends and family, maybe for religious ceremonies, gift giving, celebrating and relaxing or perhaps for downtime. For many people these Christmas festivities are celebrated with food, alcohol, chocolates and desserts and often not just once either. It is the time of year you have work functions, children’s school events, friends catch ups and multiple sides of the family Christmas’. Next thing we know it is a whole month of eating, drinking, less time for exercise, stress and our weight can do unfavourable things. If you are overweight or trying to lose weight it can be a very tricky time of year to maintain your goals.
Here are some tips for managing this tricky time so come January you are feeling fit, happy, healthy and proud of yourself for achieving what you want to achieve.
Think ahead and see yourself where you want to be in the New Year
Often, we get to January and jump on the scales, and experience feelings of guilt or regret if we re-gain the weight over Christmas that we worked hard to lose in the year before. This year, think about your goals. Picture yourself in January and where you want to be. Do you want to continue to lose weight or fitness and be in a better position in January? Accept it will be a more difficult time and instead aim to maintain where you are at over the silly season? Or gain weight or lose fitness —hmmm not usually ones first choice! But it often is what happens. Why? Have a think, decide what you want to do and commit to it.
Know what it takes to get there
What will it take to lose weight or increase fitness over Christmas? It will likely take at least what you are putting in now or more. Think carefully about how you are going to maintain your exercise routine. If your classes, sports or usual exercise groups tend to stop over Christmas what are you going to replace these with? Your diet is likely carefully planned and you might be working hard on new habits like eating more vegetables and avoiding too much dessert. To maintain your current rhythm, we will have to continue this over Christmas meals too. If you decide to maintain your weight and let yourself relax a little? Make sure it is just a little – we still need to work hard to maintain weight or fitness so try to be picky with your food and don’t drop exercise completely. Keep reading for tips on managing this!
Holidays are an exciting time for trying new exercise and often people will have more time on holiday than they did in the day-to-day grind. Plan some new, fun experiences such as:
- Learning to surf (or ski if you are in a wintery location!) or swim at the beach
- Going for a lunchtime swim (don’t forget the sunscreen!)
- Doing some aqua aerobics in your pool
- Exploring the hinterland, national parks or nearby trails
- Meeting a friend for a walk rather than a drink or morning tea
- Family bike rides
- Having a family cricket or lawn bowls game after Christmas lunch
- Play mini golf with your work mates for your Christmas break up
- Try yoga and Pilates videos online at home
- Give the dog some love and take them for an extra-long walk
Keeping active day to day and avoiding sitting for long periods whilst including some planned exercise will help to expend energy and maintain muscle mass and fitness. These are all really helpful things to keep you steady over Christmas. If you want to enjoy that Christmas work function WITH dessert then doing a nice long walk on the day to help balance these out so you feel less sluggish.
Pick your important occasions and celebrate them
Perhaps Christmas day for you is absolutely the food event of the year, your Auntie’s Pavlova, the famous roast turkey with all the trimmings. Or maybe your work event is going to be great fun and you are looking forward to letting your hair down with a few drinks. Whatever the important times are – recognise them. But on the flipside also recognise those events that aren’t so important to you this year. Maybe you prefer not to enjoy the work events too much. Or the cake that gets brought in at work is nothing special you just find yourself eating it anyway. Perhaps Christmas for you isn’t about the food at all but the people you spend it with. Consider these values then we can choose wisely how we celebrate. Those events or things that are important – enjoy them but be picky with them.
The events that you are not so fussed about:
- Offer to be sober driver to avoid alcohol calories
- Bring some healthy foods to a potluck
- Celebrate the event another way without making food or drink the centre of attention.
Be picky with special foods or drinks
Christmas day often there will be lots of our favourite and special occasion food and drink around. But there are always other “fillers” too, which are not that exciting and might be worth skipping to make room for the special foods. Bread, crackers, dips, chips, chocolates, sausages etc are all foods we could potentially have any week of the year. Avoid having them at special occasions and you can instead enjoy more of the other special salads, ham, seafood, desserts that only come out once a year. I’m not suggesting have a double pavlova portion, but have a small piece without all the extra trimmings and savour the piece you have chosen. Take your time, enjoy every mouthful and you will be satisfied with less. Perhaps you enjoy the food more than alcohol? Have alcohol free and calorie free drinks instead.
Know what you are eating or drinking
Knowing what foods are lower in calories can be useful when serving up your meal – start with these and have larger portions. Then go carefully with the foods that are higher in calories and at nibbles time. Remember alcohol is calorie dense – so it is always good to go slow, mix your drinks with soda water or sugar free soft drink.
- Salads made from non-starchy vegetables, vegetable sticks with dip, cherry tomatoes, vegetable kebabs on the BBQ
- Fruit salads, fruit kebabs, choc dipped strawberries
- Lean proteins such as chicken, seafood and eggs
- Corn on the cob
- Flavour foods with lemon/lime juice, balsamic vinegar, fresh herbs and spices
Have less of or avoid:
- Adding butter/margarine to breads, potatoes, corn
- Desserts with cream
- Avoid adding creamy sauces, for example: mayo, thousand island dressing or aioli to salads and watch out for the potato salad dressing!
- The visible fat on meat – cut it off the steak and steer clear of pork rind
- Swap usual alcoholic drinks for; shandy’s, low alcohol drinks or soda with wine like the Europeans do! Consider swapping out the alcohol altogether if you are not fussed by the idea!
Most importantly commit to what you decide to do and enjoy!
As long as you have thought about where you are at now and where you want to be in January, thought about what it will take to get there and planned ahead then the last step is to commit to your decision and own it! Be kind to yourself at this busy and sometimes stressful time but do enjoy yourself too. Remember there are many parts of Christmas that are not food related like good company, family or friends, good weather, holidays from work or perhaps it is just a time for peace and alone time to reflect and regather yourself for the start of a new year.
If you need help with your weight loss goals or want to learn more about nutrition to get yourself there, get in touch! We can help you out.
From your Dietitian at Macintyre Health