Christmas can be tough if you’re trying to lose weight. Everyone’s in a good mood and everything seems to focus on food and drink as we get closer and closer to Christmas Day itself. Now, we’re not ones to demonise food and if you really want a mince pie then we’re definitely not suggesting you deny yourself that pleasure. But what can you do when the temptation to overeat and drink too much is everywhere but you want to keep a modicum of self-control so you don’t end up undoing months of hard work? We asked our nutritionist friends to help us figure out how we can have a healthy Christmas without sacrificing all our favourite festive treats…
Break it down
Nutritionist Kim Pearson says that if there’s one piece of advice she gives her clients, it’s that Christmas is not a month of gorging. “I always remind them to see Christmas as a series of events. Admittedly, there will probably be a few more celebrations than your average month, but where many people run into trouble is the daily excess that December can bring. Enjoy yourself when it’s time to celebrate, but in between those times, aim to maintain your usual healthy lifestyle as much as possible.”
Know your limitations
Everyone deserves to treat themselves and make the most of the jubilant feeling around Christmas, but Chemist Click pharmacist Abbas Kanani says it’s important to understand just how much you can handle. “As many people see the festive period as an excuse to drink more than usual and to overindulge on rich food, doing so can leave you feeling fatigued, heavy and may cause indigestion, so take it slow”.
Nutritionist Ellie Isom from BioCare says that being aware of what you’re eating is key to having a healthy Christmas. “If you know you’re going out to a party, adjust your daily diet accordingly. If you’re going to be consuming more at night, then eat less during the day and be aware of your feelings – if you feel full, then stop eating”.
It’s ok to say no. How many times have you heard people say “but it’s Christmas!” as a reason for why you should have a second helping, or why you should tuck into the Christmas chocolates in the break room? If you’ve been on a mission to lose weight all year and don’t want to start unpicking at your progress with weeks still to go until Christmas Day, just say no – no one can force you to eat things if you don’t want to.
Ellie suggests some subtle ways of doing this, saying: “If you’re going to a party, eat a healthy meal with lots of vegetables and good quality protein before you go, so you don’t turn up hungry and ready to eat everything in sight. Using the excuse of having already eating is a good one that no host will take personally if you’re worried about offending people!”.
Indulge in healthy luxuries
Luxuries don’t necessarily have to be unhealthy. Consider whether there are healthy foods that you really enjoy but rarely get to have during the year. “A seafood platter with crab, lobster, crayfish and scallops with homemade lemon mayonnaise and fresh dill is a favourite in our house and is indulgent without being unhealthy” says Kim.
“If you’re spending a lot of time in the kitchen this Christmas, avoid the temptation to pick at foods while you’re cooking.” says Abbas. “This can cause you to be full before it’s time to eat your dinner, which if you eat a meal on top of that will end up leaving you bloated and can add hundreds of extra calories to your day”.
For Kim, organisation is the key to not gaining several pounds over Christmas. “I start thinking about my Christmas food shop early to make sure I remember to order all of the treats I want to enjoy but don’t end up with a lot of excess food.” Doing your food shop online also means you won’t be tempted by the various junk food offers that may catch your eye when walking down the supermarket aisles, plus you’ll avoid the stress of a busy supermarket in the week before Christmas.
Don’t buy too early
Similarly, the shops have been stocking Christmas food for months, and it can be tempting to take advantage of offers, but if you buy it now will it last until Christmas? “The likelihood is that you’ll get too tempted and will tuck in way before Christmas. Personally, I know I don’t have the willpower to resist so I will have my shopping delivered – with all my favourite Christmas treats – a few days before Christmas, so that I’m not eating these treats constantly for weeks before the big day” says Kim.
Keeping active will help you to feel less groggy and sluggish over the festive period. Christmas is a busy time of year, but if you can squeeze in even a little bit of activity, your body will thank you. Kim recommends that you make the most of the crisp winter days. “Long walks in the countryside is a great family activity that will allow you to spend some quality time together while also getting some fresh air and exercise.”
Set a date
Setting a date for returning to normality can be a good way of putting a stop to overindulging. Will you go back to your usual healthy eating habits in the lull between Christmas and New Year? Will you continue to make the most of being off work, surrounded by loved ones and plenty of biscuits until the very last day of December? Or are you more the type to get straight back on it on Boxing Day? Make a plan and stick to it and getting back to your normal will be a hell of a lot easier.
Above all, enjoy your Christmas. It’s rare that we get the opportunity to take some time out, to celebrate and reflect on the year that has just passed, so make the most of it. If this involves more food and more indulgence than usual, then so be it. As Ellie recommends, savour your Christmas Day and enjoy every mouthful!