12 Tips of Christmas

December Damage Control Guide:

The 12 Tips of Christmas – 

This is the compilation of tips to help you best navigate through the month with minimal effect on your health and fitness goals. It’s a great time of year so you want to make the most of it. Follow these tips and you’ll find yourself much better off come January. These tips apply all the time by the way , not just for December, they’re just especially applicable now. Enjoy.

1) Don’t adopt a ‘well f#*! it all then’ mindset You were never necessarily ‘off’ the wagon so don’t fret about trying to get back on. This happens a lot with people who have a tendency to eat in a restrict/binge cycle. They’ll eat immaculately most of the time..until they slip up. This slip up is viewed as an utter ‘failure’ of the diet and causes them to go off the rails because they think ‘oh well I’ve ruined my diet now because I had this one piece of cake so I may as well eat the whole thing and everything else’. I hope you can see how this is a flawed mentality to have. Eating one piece of cake won’t even come close to ruining any of your hard work (unless the rest of your diet is crap), eating a whole one and the rest might..So instead of beating yourself up for ‘slipping’ , instead consciously decide ‘oh yes I am going to have this one piece of cake and I am going to enjoy it’, then do so, and leave it at that. You can fit in the occasional treat, don’t deprive yourself so much that it causes you to eat 4 weeks worth of treats in one sitting. The most successful diets are sustainable long-term.

2) Don’t go out hungry Be it to a dinner, drinks, party, shopping, don’t let yourself be ravenous going out the door. This makes it much more likely you’ll overeat and make poorer food choices because we’re wired that way when we’re hungry. Ever notice how food you don’t usually find appealing suddenly doesn’t seem so bad when you’re starving, kebabs made in the back of a transit van anyone? Especially don’t be hungry when out grocery shopping, that’s how you end up with a lot of weird stuff in your shopping basket that you didn’t really want. Eat something good that will keep you full and energised like a mix of protein, fats, fibre & complex carbohydrates.

3) Keep sleeping Everything works better when you get a bit more shut-eye so keep getting as much sleep as you can even with the added commitments of the festive season, you’ll be a lot better off for it. You can find a full supply of sleep tips here -> Sleep Tips 101

4) Plan Ahead We’ve said already that the season brings with it a lot more opportunities to over-indulge on food and/or drink. Fortunately most of these situations we find ourselves in we already know about in advance. You have a big night out of dinner and drinks planned for Friday? Perfect! Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday consider eating a little bit less starchy carbohydrates and fats to give you a calorie buffer for Friday night. Knock 10% off your daily calories on these days and all of a sudden you have a lot more to play around with at dinner. On the Friday itself, stick to lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, legumes and a small amount of healthy fat until you go out that night. Plan ahead so that you can make the most of the silly season without it having a big impact on your health or goals.

5) Slow Down Slow down, chew your food thoroughly, and take about fifteen minutes to eat a meal. It takes about this long for the satiety signals to kick in so that your brain knows you’re being/have been fed. It’s a lot less likely you’ll overeat this way and most people tend to inhale their food pretty fast and before they know it they’re ‘overfull’.

6) Up your NEAT! NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis and is essential all the calories you expend on things other than formal exercise, sleeping & eating. Any walking involved in your commute, active at your job? That’s NEAT. Fidgeting, housework, gardening, pacing – all NEAT. While these activities might not account for much of a calorie burn on their own, taken together, on a daily basis, consistently over time they add up to a large proportion of our energy expenditure. So think of ways that you might increase your NEAT, could you park a bit further away going shopping? Could you take the stairs more instead of the lift or escalator? Could you go for a stroll while taking a phone call? There are plenty of ways to do it, see which ones fit in best for you and your routine. Studies show that NEAT levels are a big difference between people who are overweight compared to people who are relatively lean so while it doesn’t sound like much it definitely matters.

7) Show some compassion and self-love and enjoy yourself this season! It’s a wonderful time of year. There are lots of fun things to do and lots of opportunities to connect and reconnect with family and friends. Only the most neurotic of us wouldn’t make a single poor food choice or slip up at all for the rest of the year but that’s okay, we’re all human. So please don’t beat yourself up about the odd treat or drink here and there, it’ll happen, accept it, enjoy it and move on. Take the next opportunity to make a good decision and try to make them the majority, but not the all. Be aware and mindful of what you’re doing and implement these tips and you should hopefully find the ‘damage’ wasn’t all that much.

8) Keep it eating your protein, vegetables and fibre. Prioritise the P’s – the protein and plant foods. These are what will ll keep you fullest with minimal calorie contribution. So eat them, lots of them, all the time. Do that and you won’t have too much room for much else and you’ll be well nourished for it too. Energy levels will be nice and stable and keeping protein consistently at the level it needs to be is great for maintaining body composition.

9) Choose lower calorie alcohol Opt for low sugar , low calorie alcoholic beverages so that the booze doesn’t make up a huge chunk of your total energy intake. Think spirit + diet mixer like vodka & soda with lime, gin & slimline tonic, whiskey & diet coke.

10) Be realistic with your goals to finish out the year Lets face it, December is not the easiest time to make a lot of progress towards your health and fitness goals, it can certainly be done but you need to be aware that it will probably require more restraint than usual. So decide how you want to finish the year, do you want to let your foot off the pedal a bit, use this time as well earned break of sorts, cruise and maintain what you’ve worked for and then come into January feeling refreshed and ready to tackle it again? Or if you have good momentum going at the moment then by all means keep the foot down, just be conscious of what it might entail.

11) Be mindful & aware Like most of these tips this doesn’t only apply to this time of year, cultivating a sense of awareness and mindfulness is very important in general. In this context though I’m mostly referring to mindless eating, you know, when you’re parked on the couch with a tin of Roses on your lap, watching a Christmas movie. It’s very easy to consume a lot of excess calories in this way because you’re not thinking about the eating, you’re just doing it, before you know it you’re covered in sweet wrappers and all that’s left in the tin is the Brazilian Darkness. The point here is not to avoid the sweets altogether but to be aware that you’re actually eating them. Don’t leave the tin out, it’s too easy to just keep dipping back in for ‘just one more..’, instead choose some, a reasonable amount, put them in a bowl and decide that these are the one’s you’re going to have and that’s it. And when you’re eating them, actually taste and saviour and enjoy them, don’t be mindless.

12) Keep moving Stay as active as possible this Christmas time and try to stay in a somewhat regular exercise routine. Get in a few workouts a week like you usually do so that you don’t fall out of the habit, this will usually promote better food choices as well because again, you’ll still be in the habit and mindset to do so. It’s easy to miss days and especially when your exercise venue might be closed or have reduced opening hours this time of year but you don’t have to resign yourself to going to the gym either, get out there for a crisp Winter’s walk (doing farmers carries with bundles of Christmas shopping bags all around town counts too).

Get as creative as you like, just be doing something.

By Bodyfirst Nutritionist Brian O’hAonghusa