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Hints and Tips for a Healthy Christmas AND All the Fun.

Okay, so how are we going to approach Christmas to come out feeling tip top?


It’s happened in one of two ways up to now, right? You’ve felt like you’re missing out because you’re trying abstain from everything, trying to be ‘good’ – which actually ultimately ended up in a mega ‘binge’ of the leftovers when everyone else had finished anyway OR you’ve gone so far overboard that you come to New Year’s Day feeling sluggish, bloated, spotty and unhealthy?


First of all, let’s get one thing straight – I HATE attaching morality to food – the phrase ‘I’m being good’ or ‘I was naughty at the weekend’, when used in relation to food, can get in the bin. Eating ‘bad’ food only induces feelings of guilt and attaches our emotions and who we are as a person to our food choices. There is no good and bad, okay, perhaps less and more optimal nutritionally, but again, that looks different for everyone. You are not a bad person and should never feel that way because you ate something that might be slightly less than optimal for our physical health – especially, if you wanted it!!


So, how can we enjoy ourselves AND not go overboard so that we don’t feel rubbish in a couple of weeks’ time?


What is too much for me, is different for what is too much for you and that’s a great place to start. Don’t let anyone, ever, not just over the festive period, unless it is a qualified coach, tell you what is right and wrong for your goals.


Mindfulness is a phrase that we hear over and over again but around Christmas time it could really come into its own when utilised properly. If every time you eat over Christmas, you ask, ‘what is going to make me feel my best, both physically and mentally right now?’, then really, we shouldn’t go too far wrong.


If we can practice the self-control and trying to detach from our emotions to play the long-game and ask how we want to feel after a particular meal, indulgence or occasion and really honour that then we are on the right path – that, though, is way easier said than done.


It takes practice and progress won’t be linear but if we can simply start by asking ourselves those questions then we are at least giving ourselves a fighting chance.


Something I like to think to myself is that I never had a great time BECAUSE I overate – the food might have contributed to a great time socially because I enjoyed a great meal with friends, for example, but I never went into Monday thinking I had the most perfect weekend because all I did was sit around over indulging. We don’t need to eat loads of everything and anything to have a great time. Let’s try to look at food as a by-product and Christmas for exactly what it should be, the people and the occasion.


Something else we might struggle with over the Christmas period is feeling like the odd one out for saying ‘no’ if we don’t particularly want something for whatever reason. Keep my voice in my head telling you that you are your own person, only you know how your body and mind feels and it’s absolutely okay to say ‘no’, and that is ‘no’ to yourself and ‘no’ to the friends making you feel as though you HAVE to drink alcohol or have desert.

In a slightly related matter, we spend a lot of our time over the festive period out of control of our meals but really, we are still in control of our health. We can eat out every meal of every day and still make progress towards whatever our goals might be, we just have to make mindful choices. So perhaps we make sure we get plenty of protein and veggies in the day in the run up to a less nutrient-dense buffet in the evening for example. Perhaps we’re going for a meal with multiple courses and aren’t so hungry the following morning so choose not to eat breakfast as we aren’t really feeling it. Just because we aren’t preparing every morsel of food to go into our mouths, it doesn’t mean that we can’t still feel great around that. Again, we can always say no, we are adults, and we can stop when we have had enough – telling yourself that you can’t is a self-fulfilling prophecy and something well worth discussing another day.


Another thing I would love for you to be able to exercise mindfulness around at this time is your physical activity choices. As far as I’m concerned, we should NEVER be walking, running, exercising in any capacity to ‘burn off’ calories. Strength training, exercise and physical activity of any description is to make us fit and healthy. We can control our nutrition in a healthy way if we have body composition goals – particularly fat loss. It is a hugely unhealthy mindset to get into if we are exercising to burn off calories, and I see it time and time again, weekend ‘binges’, only to over exercise and restrict come Monday. This results in no exercise progress and a miserable mind. Demotivating to say the least.


Don’t put too much pressure on yourself - moving a little is better than not at all. On days that you had originally planned to train, if you simply cannot face going ‘hard’ then just moving at a lower intensity is better than nothing. If your energy isn’t great then going a little slower is far more optimal for longevity than getting some sort of ‘guilt’ session in because you feel that you HAVE to. Just walk? Move often, move well, recognise when you need to slow down. Work with your body, work with your energy.


And if you want to train deep down but still aren’t really feeling it? When it comes to physical activity, just start - commit to a 5 minute warm up, that’s all. You’ll likely find that once you’ve warmed up it makes sense to just get the rest of the session done.


So, my short, sharp tips for over Christmas to remember:


·       Pick your indulgences – I like to save mine for great experiences with others.


·       You could incorporate leftovers into nutritious meals.


·       Moderate your intake around indulgences if that’s what your goals require – keep things as normal as you can around social occasions.


·       Fill up on veggies first – what can we ADD to your plate for health?


·       Be mindful around nibbles, give yourself hard lines in the sand before you even start if that, again, is what your goals and values require.


·       Keep moving where you can – you will feel better for it.  Also rest and relax when you need to!! Your body might be telling you that it is ready to rest and that is okay - know how to differentiate this from being lazy and giving yourself an excuse though.

·       Get some movement done first thing in the morning, start the day well and have a great breakfast – that is often one of our least indulgent times in the day around Christmas time – exercise is also out the way then and you won’t find yourself 3 mulled wines deep with a session still to do.


·       Remember you don’t need long to get a positive workout - we have all done sessions in the gym less than 10 minutes long and felt like we need a week to recover!

·       Sleep well, hydrate well and eat well around enjoying the more indulgent times at this time of year! It’s also really important to manage stress and have some alone time – Christmas can be intense!


Above all know that this is a very short period of time in life, your body responds to averages over time. This short time is there to be enjoyed, in years to come you won’t remember how great that 6am session was on Boxing Day - what you will remember is the gorgeous people you spent Christmas with, how wonderful Mum’s first attempt at a Christmas cake was and the snuggle up on the sofa all night spending the most quality of time with the people you love the most. In reality, there are probably only a few super indulgent meals over Christmas and we can eat lighter around those if that’s what we would like to do – you aren’t going to put a huge amount of body fat on over the festive period – especially as we actually have to eat OVER AND ABOVE our MAINTENANCE energy intake requirements by 3500 calories to put on a single pound of body fat – not 3500 calories, but 3500 calories above your maintenance. No stress team, enjoy the festive period full of peace, love and happiness and feel fabulous into the New Year knowing that you are wonderful just the way you are – and if you need help to FEEL your wonderful self in 2024 then you know where I am.


Peace and all the festive love, A x

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