With the nights closing in and the cold starting to bite, it can be tempting to start indulging in the festive spirit as early as mid-November, especially when there are lots of tempting special offers available for sweets and treats.
Check out our quick guide to avoiding the main party pitfalls in the run-up to Christmas, so that you can enjoy the festivities without watching your waistline.
1. Start exercising now
Forget leaving your resolutions until the New Year - start your new exercise regime now! Invest in a waterproof jacket, high visibility armband, warm gloves and a hat, and get out into the fresh air every evening to either run or walk. Or join a boot camp, yoga class or HIIT - just something to get out in the evenings and avoid the fridge.
Your body will soon start to reap the rewards of increased circulation, lowered insulin levels and happy endorphins coursing through your veins. This feel good factor will help you avoid lulling into the warm arms of the couch with pre-Christmas treats and seasonal TV. The holiday season starts on the 24th December, and not before!
2. Choose your magic moments
You can guarantee that from mid-November onwards, the Christmas treats will start to sneak into everyday life; cake sales, mince pies on Fridays in work, early Christmas parties - it can be difficult to avoid.
There may be certain events that you’re really looking forward to. Mark these in your calendar and ring fence them. Make your decision to really enjoy yourself at these events (one or two!) and to eat what you want. Outside of this, aim to keep treats to a minimum.
This might mean coming up with some excuses as to why you’re not indulging in a tray of chocolates sitting on someone’s desk, or ordering a gingerbread latte with extra spiced cream. However, come January, you won’t feel deprived, and you certainly won’t have a big job to do to get back in shape.
Being selective, especially if you’re not actually hungry, means you can really savour the treats you were looking forward to. Have an emergency stash of raw, unpeeled nuts, or fruit in your bag, just in case!
3. To drink or not to drink, that is the question
Alcohol is full of empty calories and can easily lead to a snack binge at 2am. The sugar low and dehydration from a hangover the next day can also make it difficult to eat sensibly.
As in (2) above, chose the parties you’re really looking forward to and enjoy them, but consider going alcohol-free at other events in between. Try sparkling water with a splash of grapefruit juice or even a white wine spritzer with plenty of sparkling water. Your head and body will thank you for it.
When having a few drinks, bear in mind that alcoholic drinks contain by-products of fermentation called congeners. Found in higher levels in red wine and darker spirits such as dark rum, whiskey and tequila, these toxins can increase the frequency and severity of hangovers. Congeners from different drinks can react with each other and make you feel even worse. Stick to one type of drink throughout the night and drink white wine or clear spirits such as vodka, gin and white rum. Mix with water or juice and have one or two glasses of water for every alcoholic drink. Our bodies can only detoxify about one drink per hour, so pace yourself – slowly.
4. Be prepared
On days when you are going out, fuel yourself properly throughout the day. Start with a good breakfast and lunch, including some protein and complex carbohydrate.
Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Within five minutes of having a drink, there is a measurable amount of alcohol in your blood, and absorption is increased if your stomach is empty.
An hour before you hit the town, have a meal or at least a snack containing some fat. Fat takes longer to digest, staying in the stomach and slowing down the rate at which alcohol hits the blood stream. Try a wholegrain cheese or peanut butter sandwich, a full fat natural yoghurt with some fruit, or some oat cakes with hummus or guacamole for a healthy dose of fat.
5. Boost your immune system
All of the running around in the run-up to Christmas, the extra pressure, the sugar load, and the alcohol can leave us feeling a bit run down over the holidays, making it more likely that we’ll retire to the couch with the biscuit tin.
Avoid the immune slump by making sure that your day-to-day diet contains all of the nutrients you need to see you through the busy period; a variety of vegetables in the form of nourishing soups and warming stews, plenty of anti-inflammatory spices such as ginger, turmeric and cumin, brightly-coloured fruits in the form of berries, and plenty of good fats to help the immune response, as found in nuts and seeds, oily fish and avocado.
The better your health at the beginning of Christmas, the more likely you’ll be climbing your nearest mountain on December 27th. Watch out for seasonal healthy treat recipes on our website in December.
For further information on top tips for optimum health, log onto our website on www.glenvillenutrition.ie, or follow us on Facebook.
Nutritional Therapist