There’s so much to enjoy during the holidays – the decorations, gift giving and family traditions – but it’s the endless rounds of parties and festive dinners that can cause problems for those people trying to lose weight or even those looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
If you’re worried about overindulging this festive season, check out my tips to help you to stay healthy and happy. Remember, careful planning is the key to getting through the holidays. The next time you feel challenged, remind yourself why you started on this youth-preservation journey in the first place.
1) Don’t overload on guilt
Let’s be honest – eating some unhealthy food during the holidays is inevitable. No matter how dedicated and “good” you’re trying to be, the onslaught of parties and get-togethers means a mass of tempting treats, and always saying no can become a problem.
When you do succumb to the delicious food on offer, don’t let your guilt spiral out of control – guilt can lead to additional unhealthy behaviours. If you happen to overindulge in party food one day, focus on returning to your regular eating routine the next day. Don’t get caught up obsessing over the dessert you had last night; instead, concentrate on the delicious, healthy food you are going to eat today! It’s easy to do when you factor in time for a shopping spree at SpiceBox Organics in Hong Kong.
2) Focus on food heaven
Holiday buffets, seasonal menus and lavish parties present a never-ending selection of food from which to choose. You can become giddy with the excitement of piling your plate high with a little bit of everything, but stop and think about it for a second. Not all holiday dishes are created equal, and you really don’t need to try everything.
If you’re going to take a break from your normal eating routine, make sure you’re choosing the foods you are genuinely excited about and give you true enjoyment. In other words, if you’re going to cheat, make sure it’s with something really worth it! If it doesn’t make your heart flutter, skip it. When I decide to indulge, I take a few capsules of DuoLean and call it “damage control”. This is a natural supplement that binds glucose (sugar) and fat to eliminate them from the body before the damage is done. Ask Punam at SpiceBox Organics for more information and keep some in your purse at all times.
3) Switch to sparkling water
Another tradition of holiday parties is the free-flowing alcohol. Bottles of bubbly and seasonal cocktails may help some people to get into the holiday spirit, but if you’re going to enjoy the odd tipple, don’t go overboard. Nobody enjoys dealing with a hangover, but the effects of too much alcohol go beyond a sore head and a dodgy stomach the next day. Drinking alcohol causes facial bloating, dehydrates your skin, robs the body of vitamin A and is proven to accelerate the ageing process.
When you’re celebrating with friends and family this season, make sure to alternate alcoholic drinks with sparkling water. Not only will this help you to avoid consuming additional calories, but it also keeps you fresh and fights the dehydrating effects of alcohol. Water is wonderful and you should be drinking more of it!
4) Veg out
When faced with the massive and varied amounts of food on offer at holiday buffets, it’s tempting to stack your plate with all the most mouth-watering offerings, but eating without thinking leads to ignoring your internal cues of hunger and satiety. Do you even like the seasonal dishes presented? Just because they’re around for a limited time doesn’t mean you have to eat them!
Start your meal by loading your plate with vegetables. If you’re worried this sounds boring, remember that there are lots of fun, delicious and healthy seasonal side dishes, packed full of vegetables. By starting with the low-calorie options, you’re increasing the nutritional content of your meal, and when you reach dessert, you will likely feel too full to have anything more than just a bite.
5) Don’t save up calories
Before you go to a holiday party, do you think about skipping a meal to save up the calories for the evening’s festivities? This means you’ll be arriving at the buffet table hungry and are more likely to overeat. When you’re hungry, the cravings you feel for salty, fatty and sugary foods come from an increased level of cortisol, a steroid hormone that plays an important role in nutrition.
The idea of saving up calories for later in the day can backfire big time. “Eat your regular meals and snacks through the day and fill up on protein-rich and high-fibre foods so that you have a nice, full feeling when you get to the party,” suggests Angela Dufour, a registered dietician.
6) Follow the “one bite” rule for desserts
The spectacular selection of delicious and decadent desserts available over the holidays can be a minefield for anyone trying to live well and eat healthy, and the pressure we feel to enjoy traditional foods while fighting against the temptation to overindulge is tough. When confronted with yummy cupcakes or a brandy-butter-covered pudding, try to follow the “one bite” rule – allowing yourself one bite means you can join the food festivities and feel less restricted, and best of all, it won’t change your weight-management goals. Obviously, you need the strength and willpower to ignore temptation and not eat another bite.
Also, don’t forget the seasonal fruit and nuts available during the holidays. Nutrient-rich pomegranates, mandarin oranges, chestnuts and walnuts are appetising alternatives to the sugar-laden desserts typically found this time of year. Grab a box of beautiful nuts and dried fruit to bring as a gift or make your own decadent sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and lactose-free dessert – like these snowballs.
7) Merry meditation
A survey carried out in December 2014 found that 20 per cent of the UK population felt stressed about Christmas, a holiday that’s supposed to have its foundations in peace and goodwill! When you think of the pressures behind shopping, cooking and fitting in all the festivities, it’s not surprising that we can all end up feeling stressed and anxious.
The best way to successfully manage stress is to integrate stress-busting changes into your lifestyle on a daily basis. Meditation is a perfect way to achieve this. Not only will regular meditation keep you calmer over the holiday season, but it can also help you to live a longer, healthier life. Scientific evidence suggests it can improve psychological conditions like anxiety and depression, which, in turn, can affect mortality.
8) No more new year’s resolutions
As the clock strikes midnight on 1 January, millions of people around the world will be making new year’s resolutions to lose weight and get healthier. The statistics for sticking to new year’s resolutions are not good – 25 per cent of people will abandon their plans before the first week of January is up. After six months, more than 50 per cent will have failed in their resolutions. Let’s face it – new year’s resolutions don’t work!
If you want to become a happier, fitter person who lives a longer, healthier life, you need to work on making sustainable changes to your lifestyle. Radical dieting and random detoxes won’t help. The changes you make should be part of a regular and committed focus on feeling good, reversing the damage already done to your body and increasing your healthy lifespan, not just your lifespan and health separately.