How can you have your cake and eat it this festive period?
This Christmas is obviously going to feel a little different from years gone by but I will still try to make the most of it and take a little time off work, relax and spend time with my wife and kids. As much as I want to reach for the mince pies and Bailey’s at 11 am, I also want to try and still eat my 5 a day, stay in shape and not ruin my hard-earned gains in the gym. Statistics show that we put on an average of a kilogram of weight every year, MOST of which is gained at Christmas and then never fully lost. Unfortunately after what feels like the whole year spent in some form of lockdown or restriction – that weight gain is even greater this year.
So how can you go into the festive season and have your cake and eat it?
Well, the calories that you take in and the energy that you expend should be taken into account over a longer period than just a few days over the Christmas break. So, a week’s break ‘off the routine’ shouldn’t have any long-term negative effects.
However, the short-term impact can be enough to put you off really overindulging! If you eat an excess of refined carbs or sugars and drink more alcohol calories than usual, this can cause a big spike in blood glucose levels, followed by a blood sugar crash. This means your energy levels will likely crash and you could well end up with a headache, feeling irritable, bloated and sluggish. Then the vicious cycle starts again making us crave more stodge and more sugar. It’s a catch 22 scenario! Nobody wants to feel like this, especially during an already busy and sometimes stressful time, with kids (potentially) running riot.
If we’re not in complete lockdown (!) We're also likely to be sitting in the car more as we drive to visit family and friends and be sat in front of the TV more when we watch The Grinch or Home Alone for the thousandth time. Getting up and out for some fresh air and walking will help alleviate tight hip flexors, short hamstrings, ease strain on your lower back and aid digestion.
My advice? Moderation is key.
It is a time of year for celebrations and enjoyment, but it doesn’t mean that you need to forget your health completely…
· Aim to eat well 5 days out of 7. This allows you some flexibility for Christmas gatherings.
· Don't write a whole day or even a week off! If you have a treat or a mince pie don't worry! Just ensure the next meal or snack you eat is nutritious to help rebalance your blood sugar levels and keep total calorie intake on track.
· If you make a bad choice or are in the position where you can't choose a healthy option easily, don't beat yourself up. But make sure you follow it up with a good choice! The chances are you can still stick to your basal daily calorie intake by eating lighter meals before and/or after your cheat meal.
· Drink plenty of water; alcohol is a diuretic causing you to dehydrate faster. Try to break up every couple of alcoholic drinks with a glass of water to help rehydrate. The brain often confuses the sensation of dehydration for hunger so you could end up snacking unnecessarily when all you needed was a drink (non-alcoholic!). If you’re really dehydrated try using a sports electrolyte solution like ‘Zero’s’ that contain magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium, as water alone simply won’t always do the job.
· It's almost impossible to keep in a calorie deficit to keep you losing body fat over Christmas, so don't set yourself up to fail. Giving your body a break from intense exercise and a calorie-controlled diet can actually help boost your metabolism, a process called 'anabolic burst cycling'. Instead, aim not to lay down any EXTRA body fat that will take time to burn off in January, and come back well-rested and raring to go!
· Life is too short not to enjoy the festive period, after all, you've (hopefully!) exercised and followed your nutrition plan for most of the year, you deserve a treat! Just don’t overdo it. Use the time to enjoy some food and drink, give your mind and body a rest and get ready to start the New Year already fit and healthy. Still aim to include some exercise – go for walk, a bike ride, fit a short exercise session in or follow my 30-min online workouts and keep yourself feeling fit and functional!
Drop me a message if you are wanting more advice on how to keep on track! Merry Christmas!