Don't end up looking like Santa this year! The holiday season is fast approaching. It is a time of celebration for most of us and there are a never-ending array of parties and dinners to attend! It is a time of year when many months of hard work can be reversed in a matter of weeks.
This is NOT about being a grinch and ignoring the enjoyment of the festive season. In fact, I would argue you can have more fun and enjoyment if you focus on some of the strategies I will expand on below. It is about having fun whilst keeping yourself on track.
The Christmas season should be about enjoying friends, family and yes food. Here are a few things to consider over the coming 4 to 6 weeks that will help you stay healthy, happy, fit and enjoy the holiday season the best you can!
Enjoying Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is something I talk about in depth in my book Fit for Life and I have mentioned countless times to clients over the years. At this time of year there are options for food almost everywhere. Parties, Christmas dinners and all the favourite treats come out.
You don’t have to completely avoid these enjoyable foods. On the contrary, I want you to FULLY enjoy them. Enjoying food does not mean shoveling into your mouth as fast as possible. It means truly being present in the process of eating the food!
Savouring and enjoying food means paying attention to the food you are eating. It means being able to enjoy a smaller portion of food as if it were a big serving. The physical size of a meal is only part of the experience. Much of the feedback you get from food comes from things outside of it being in your stomach.
Your brain can only focus on a limited amount of input at any one time. If you are watching TV whilst eating, checking your phone or driving, you are limiting the attention you can give to your food and will feel far less satisfied with what you have eaten. This can lead to eating even more food to try and make up for it. At this time of year it is worth eating mindfully as often as possible and especially when it comes to big feasts!
A few tips for mindful eating:
Getting Exercise In
Whilst the holiday season is a busy time, it is also a time where many have plenty of time off. There is no reason to stop exercising and for many people it is a great time to exercise even more! That hike near your house that you have always wanted to try, a different sport with some friends, climbing at indoor rock-climbing, going for a kayak.
The possibilities are endless. If you are taking time off over the Christmas period then book in some extra time to get out and get your body moving! You will feel the endorphins from the movement and it will reduce the lethargic feelings you often get after the big Christmas feasts.
Get family and friends involved and enjoy the free time you have to move!
Focus on Health Outside the Parties
I will end up attending a big range of functions over the Christmas period, as will most of you. There is a party for every organization and every different group so you can end up with 10 different parties to attend!
With this in mind, it is worth focusing on your health and fitness outside these parties even more than usual. If you know you have 3 events this weekend where you will be drinking a bit of alcohol, you can focus on minimizing your drinking outside of these events completely.
If you want to go big on the feasts at these events then make sure you are reducing your junk food consumption outside of these events day to day so you can make up for it. This is a way to both enjoy the feasts and keep yourself on track!
One of the best strategies to consider over this period is strategic fasting. This is a way to enjoy big feasts without going crazy on the energy intake. Essentially it means planning ahead and knowing when the bigger meals will be.
As an example, if you know you have a big Christmas Dinner at night you can either fast completely through the day, or simply eat a very reduced amount throughout the day. If you are meant to be eating a reduced energy intake, fasting is one of the easiest ways to enjoy bigger meals and stay on track.
Fasting is not for everyone, if you have pre-existing medical conditions it is worth finding out if fasting is for you. If it is, use it throughout this season to control your food intake to reasonable levels!
If you are somebody who is keen to continue as if nothing changes then continue your weight loss and fitness goals as if this time of the year is no different. If on the other hand you are somebody who knows very well they will be eating and drinking more than usual then it is wise to evaluate your fitness goals for this time of year.
I often give clients one month to MAINTAIN their weight and fitness level over this time. This is harder than it looks from the outset if you are into the Christmas spirit and want to go big on the feasts and drinking.
Maintaining your weight means you are setting a realistic goal and not trying to do something unachievable. It also means you are not going backwards, instead you are simply pausing for a month with the promise to continue as soon as the month ends.
Focus on the Company
The most important part of the Christmas holiday season is catching up with friends and family and enjoying time together. The obsessive focus on food detracts from what gives you the most enjoyment at this time of the year!
Consider that a feast and alcohol is only part of the experience and shouldn’t be the total experience. Focus on all the other aspects that make this time of year enjoyable and you will find everything much more fulfilling than just stuffing your face!
It is very much possible to both thoroughly enjoy the Christmas period and keep your health and fitness on track. Being fit and healthy does NOT mean you have to go without fun. Using some of these strategies means you can have your cake and eat it too! You can enjoy this time of year and keep yourself fit and healthy ready to go into 2019 recharged and ready to tackle your fitness goals once again.