One of the main things people look forward to about the holidays, once they’ve left the excitement of toys and Santa behind, is the food. They look forward to mince pies and Christmas cake, to large comforting dinners and giant desserts. Many people look forward to putting their normal eating habits to the side for a few days and overindulging.
But, not everyone. Some people dread Christmas food. If you’ve been dieting for months or training for something in the new year, what you eat might be important to you, and you might worry about the temptation of festive meals and treats. As much as you want to indulge, you might be anxious about ruining all of your hard work, gaining weight, and getting back into bad habits that you have worked so hard to leave behind.
The good news is, you don’t have to sacrifice the festive spirit or enjoyment to eat more healthily over the holidays. And, this year, with COVID-19 restrictions in place, there might already be fewer office parties, night’s out with friends, and big family gatherings, which could help. Here are some more tips to get you through the season.
Get Some Exercise
If you are worried about holiday weight gain but want to enjoy festive treats and indulge in comforting meals, why not mitigate some of the damage by exercising?
Overeating and drinking more alcohol aren’t the only reasons we gain weight over the holidays. Less exercise and days lounging on the sofa also play a part.
Commit to exercising over the holidays, and you’ll gain less weight. It will also mean that your fitness levels and muscle mass will stay where they should be, and you’ll have an easier time losing any weight that you do gain once your diet returns to normal.
The good news is, there are some excellent ways to exercise over the holidays. If you are looking for something relaxing that still works your muscles and boosts your heart rate, shop swimwear and spend some time in the pool. Alternatively, if you are looking for an escape from the season’s stresses, restoring yoga practices could help.
If, for you, Christmas is all about family time, why not take everyone out for a long walk, or, if there is any, to play in the snow? A long walk after a large meal can aid digestion, boost your energy levels, and reduce any guilt that you might be feeling. It’s also the perfect way to prepare for an afternoon playing games and enjoying the festivities.
Eat Smaller Portions
If you want to enjoy all of those festive treats and try a bit of everything at the dinner table, try to stick to smaller portions instead of denying yourself. Enjoy a half-sized pudding, or serve yourself half a portion of potatoes. Even without sticking to any kind of diet, and while managing to have a little of everything, you are eating half of the calories, and half of the fat, than you would typically have.
Fill Up on Veggies
Vegetables are a big part of Christmas dinner. Roasted sweet potatoes and carrots are healthy but also sweet and tasty. Buttered sprouts and peppery cabbage is refreshing and warming, and nothing beats a Christmas parsnip. Fill your plate with festive vegetables, enjoying all of the different flavors and getting your sweet fix, then have much smaller portions of meat and potatoes. Do the same with leftovers and meals for the rest of Christmas week, and if your family has a festive takeaway tradition, opt for a meal with plenty of steamed veg.
Choose Starters Over Desserts
There might be several courses to enjoy if you are going out or enjoying a large meal at home. Try to choose the starter, and skip dessert where possible. Or, if you are at home, enjoy a full main course, and serve yourself a half portion of both the starter and pudding so that you get to sample everything.
Think before you eat, instead of attacking the cupboards wildly. Ask yourself if you are really hungry or you just want to eat? Take your time to decide what you want, and then portion a serving onto a plate when it comes to things like chips and chocolates, instead of sitting in front of the TV with the whole box.
Eat More Slowly
Whether it’s a big meal or a box of chocolates, we eat more when we eat quickly. We don’t give our body time to adjust to how much we’ve eaten, and we don’t take the time to understand the signals that our brain is sending that we are full. When we eat quickly, we often don’t realize that we’ve had enough until we are so full it’s uncomfortable. You might even eat until you feel sick.
When you eat slowly, your stomach and your brain speak to each other more effectively. You’ll get a chance to register that you are full, and you’ll stop, long before you are stuffed to bursting.
Drink Less Alcohol
A massive cause of holiday weight gain is alcohol, not food. Try to drink less, limiting yourself to a few drinks, and only drinking on special occasions instead of every night of the period. Then, make sure you drink wine or spirits with low sugar tonics instead of fattier options like beers and creamy cocktails.
Don’t Worry Too Much
Whether you choose to stick to your diet, make some changes, allow full-on binges, or increase exercise, it’s alright. If you don’t want to indulge, you certainly don’t have to, and you shouldn’t let anyone else pressure you into “letting go” or tell you that you need to “have some fun.” Equally, if you do want to overeat for a few days, that’s fine too. It’s just a few days, it won’t have any long-term negative effects on your health and fitness, and you can get straight back to your usual healthy eating routines when you are ready.
The key is to do it your way. Eat what you enjoy; avoid what you don’t. Stick to plans or go entirely off the rails. It’s your body and your decisions.