TOP 10 TIPS FOR A MERRY HEALTHY CHRISTMAS! (Some can be applied all year round!)
Tip #1: Stay mindful
Christmas time is a time where we are surrounded by foods, everywhere you go you are offered Minced pies or Mulled wine. And yes, it is the time to enjoy it, espcially when surrounded by loved-ones and friends and family you might not have seen in a while. However, what I find quite often is that we actually do not REALLY enjoy what we put into our mouths. We eat so often completely MINDLESSLY. And before you even know it the box of Roses is gone! And you will feel really bad - often physically and mentally afterwards. However, if there is one thing you can change this Christmas it is this: Try to REALLY enjoy what you are putting into your mouth! Look at the piece of chocolate before you unwrap it or at the piece of cake. Think about where it might have come from, where it's been made, who's been involved. Before you put it into your mouth, smell it. Get those digestive juices going. Did you know our digestion already starts with the thinking process? Once you have this piece of sweet in your mouth, let it melt, or chew until it's liquid and until you've got all the sweetness out of it. This can be enough to hit your pleasure centre in your brain. However, if you eat very fast, you could easily have eaten half the box before your brain even realises it.
If you manage to create a little gap between thinking about the food or drink you are about to have, you can most likely reduce the amount of food and drink you will take in.
Tip# 2: Sugar
Sugar is NOT a treat! I don't need to point out all the risks and health hazards that sugar consumption poses. It is not just the calories but all the other damage it does to your body. I don't need to point those all out here, most of you know them. But maybe once you look at sugar not as a treat but rather as an indulgence, you might be able to stop telling yourself that you "deserve" it, because it's Christmas. You deserve to nourish your body and treat your body well, not to cause harm to it.
But yes, everyone will enjoy a bit more sugar over Christmas. Just stay mindful about it and really enjoy it. Once you start eating sugar, it will be hard to stop! Remind yourself how bad you will feel the next day. Plan ahead, and maybe decide when during the day you will have your sweet. Watch how you feel afterwards, and next time remind yourself of it.
If you eat sugar more mindfully, you will automatically consume less already and you will enjoy it actually more!
Tip #3: Eating in
Don't buy sweets yourself. Don't have them in the house. Re-gift sweets. Tell friends and family that you don't want sweets as presents.
Eat as much nutritious food as you can every day to balance out the extra sweets and alcohol over Christmas. Remember the 80:20 rule. If you eat nutritious food 80% of the time, the 20% of times when you have sugar and alcohol won't matter that much. But if you're overall diet and lifestyle is not great, adding extra sugar is not a great idea. Remember sugar not only does not give you any important nutrients, it actually can rob you of vital vitamins and minerals.
Tip #4: Alcohol
Alcohol is also a tricky one. Try to have a glass of water in between your drinks. Avoid the highly sweet, sugary, creamy drinks. When it comes to mixers there isn't really a good option, as the sugary ones are bad and the ones with aspartame aren't good for you either. Remind yourself of how you will feel the following day, and ask yourself if it's worth it. Enjoy drink sensibly as the ad says. Do you really enjoy each drink or do you drink it mindlessly? Remember that it's not just the extra calories, but also you will feel hungrier and you will most likely have that dessert. And you are more likely to go for higher sugary foods the following day.
However, again it's all about balance. If you are out socialising with friends and are having a great time, this is important too. People with more friends and a good social supporting network are generally healthier. Stress is a major contributor to ill-health. If having a glass of red wie helps you relax, the positive effect might outweigh the negative. But it is all about balance and quantitiy. If you need that glass of red wine daily to de-stress you might want to consider other things to relieve stress, and could benefit from a detox.
Consider and commit to a plan to restrict or leave out alcohol in January!
Tip #5: Eating out
Don't go overly hungry to your restaurant. Chose what you are going to have already beforehand. Go for starter and main course rather than dessert. And if you go for dessert, don't fool yourself by going for one that looks "healthy", you will just envy your friend who has ordered the chocolate cake and will feel "deprived", and you'll make up with something else later. Or better, be the first in your group who says "No, I won't have a dessert!" when the waiter comes with the menu. You'd be surprised how often your friends then join in. Nobody wants to be the only one having a dessert.
Tip #6: Exercise
When things get hectic, we are more likely to forget about our regimes, and quite often exercise is cut short as well. Aim to keep up your usual regime as much as possible, whether it is walking or going to the gym. Once you break the habit, it is much harder to get back into it. If you don't excercise regularly yet, aim to get outside as much as possible and get some sunlight during those short days. This will boost your mood and keep you away from the sweets, and you can burn some calories. But don't fool yourself into that you can have all those mince pies just because you've just walked for 30min!
Tip #7: Hydration
Stay hydrated all the time. We can often feel hungry, when in fact we are de-hydrated. Drink water before a meal rather than during a meal. If you aim to drink warm water before a meal, it might fill you up already. Drink a cup of warm water first thing in the morning with some lemon or Apple Cider vinegar to get your digestion going. When going out, aim to always have some water on the table when you drink alcohol to pace yourself.
Tip #8: Sleep
Prioritise Sleep! Sleep is so important for your body to heal and recover from possibly the excesses of drinking alcohol and eating too much. Sleep can actually help you stay slim, as studies have shown. It helps your immune system being stronger. Don't try to go to every party and stay up late every night. Don't allow yourself to become a victim of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out!). Aim to get 7-8 hours sleep every day!
Tip #9: Stress
Christmas can be a stressful time for some people, both physically but also mentally. We forget often that worrying or distressing thoughts can have the same impact as if you are under real stress. Your body releases cortisol. Cortisol itself can be a fat storing hormone. Stress can have so many negative effects on your body and be possibly part of the cause for many modern diseases.
Give yourself time to de-stress. Go for a relaxing walk. Have a hot bath. Close your eyes and take some very deep breaths for just a few minutes. Breathe in for a count of 1-2-3-4, hold your breath for 1-2-3-4, breath out for 1-2-3-4-5-6-7. Feel your whole body relax, feel the tension going out of your muscles in your face and your body. Try do this a couple of times during the day. Every time before you get into the car. Every time before you eat. Before bedtime.
Tip #10: Plan ahead for January
Make already a commitment of what you are going to do in January. Will you go on a detox? Will you do a "dry January"? Will you join a gym. Go look around at offers in December. If you don't plan ahead, it will most likely be Februrary or March or never!
I will do a "New Year New You" online program throughout January. For more information click here
There will also be a 4-week course in a small group (max. 6 people) in Bray, every Wednesday evening from 7pm - 9pm, which will focus on "Intelligent dieting". While it is designed to help you shed some weight, it is more meant as a kick-start to more sustainable healthy eating habits which you will be able to keep up during the whole year. It will give you no-nonsense information about what foods you should eat to clear up some of the confusion that is out there in terms of nutrition advice.
You can book this course here.
I will also continue to offer my free 20-min consultations during January during which you can ask me any questions you might have around food or health concerns to see if Nutritonal Therapy might be for you. You will get some small tips to get you on a journey of healthy eating which for some people can already be the motivation to get started or get back into better habits. It can also help clarify some confusion around food you might have at the moment.
Have a merry Christmas and a healthy happy New Year 2019!