10 Steps to an Enjoyable Healthy Christmas
With Christmas rapidly approaching we’re soon going to see a trend that occurs at this time every year. People will start to panic about gaining weight over the festive period. This will soon be followed by a barrage of tips across social media from Fitness Professional recommending that people replace Chocolate with Fruit and so on. I’ve got a bit of a problem with this. I believe in the concept of making things realistic for my clients. I don’t believe telling people to abstain from wine or chocolate over Christmas is realistic, or fair. I wouldn’t expect anybody to make progress towards weight loss goals over Christmas, let’s just focus on enjoying it without doing too much damage. So here’s my tips on how to handle the Christmas period:
1. Have a Plan and Stick to it: Wandering into Christmas without giving it any thought is a recipe for disaster. If you do this, every day will become about overindulging. You can enjoy Christmas and have your few drinks and chocolates if you plan it beforehand. It doesn’t have to turn into two weeks of eating junk food. I would recommend pinpointing the days you want to let the hair down. For me it would be Christmas Day, St Stephens Day, New Years Eve and New Years day. My advice would be to chill out and enjoy those days. That’s four days, not the fourteen which is likely to happen if you don’t have a plan.
2. Choose your nights out: Similar to the point above. Choose the nights out you really want and enjoy them. Don’t drink every night for the sake of it. For many people it will be St Stephen’s night and New Years Eve. Those two or three nights out won’t do any major damage if they’re done in moderation and you follow the other nine tips listed.
3. Be Active: Why do you need to laze around over Christmas? You don’t need to be training but you can certainly stay active. Get out for a nice walk each day. After Christmas dinner you can feel quite sluggish so it’s good to get moving. You’ll feel much better after a walk and some fresh air. After the excess of Christmas dinner calories it makes sense to use some of that energy up in any case.
4. Plan your Training Days: You don’t need to be in your usual training routine over Christmas but you can certainly be clever about maintaining your physique. There’s a few days between Christmas and New Year where there’s not much happening and people can actually get quite bored! I use those days to do some training and I recommend for my clients to do likewise. It doesn’t have to be really intense training but just enough to keep you ticking over. Usually people enjoy those training days after the relative lack of activity in the previous days. Energy levels will be good due to the calorie excesses of the previous days, you may as well put those calories to use!
5. Christmas Food can be Healthy! Christmas dinner can actually consist of some really healthy foods. Turkey is one of the greatest sources of Protein. Look for lean white Turkey. The brown meat tends to be higher in calories and saturated fats. Brussel Sprouts are a great source of nutrients. As always beware of portion size, this tends to be the biggest trap people fall into with Christmas dinner.
6. Use Christmas as Recovery Time for the body: If you’re training hard your body needs recovery time. I recommend a deload week for my clients every 6-7 weeks. This is a week of little or no training to let the body recover. You then come back fresh to your training and get more from it. Plan your training so that the end of your 6 week training block occurs at Christmas. If you’ve been working hard all the way through the lead up to Christmas you’ll have minimised a lot of the damage before it even happens.
7. Balanced Life Approach: My view is that there has to be a balance when it comes to training. Downtime is also needed and Christmas is the perfect time for that. I just don’t understand why fitness pros expect people to work towards goals over Christmas, or why clients want to do it. What’s the point in training all year round if we can’t unwind occasionally? If we can’t enjoy a week off at Christmas or a week away on holidays during the summer? Balance is the key to everything. Even for your mental health you need to be able to switch off from time to time and spend time with family and friends.
8. Be an Adult! While I firmly believe that it’s ok for people to enjoy treats over Christmas we need to remember that we’re adults, not children. Therefore we know, as adults, to consume treats in moderation. Enjoying a few treats is more than acceptable but be mindful that you don’t want to sit down gorging for long periods of time. Also, avoid sugar in the mornings. Yes it’s Christmas but that doesn’t change the way your body works. If you have chocolate in the morning you’re going to crave chocolate all day long. Get a good breakfast and it’ll naturally reduce the likelihood of you overdoing the snacks and treats.
9. Plan you’re return to routine: Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail. I’m a big believer in planning ahead and putting systems in place. So in a similar way we planned the days for letting loose. I would also recommend planning the day you return to your normal healthy eating and training routine. If that date is established, even written down, we’ve got a concrete plan to ensure we minimise damage. If there’s no plan you could easily end up losing all of January to unhealthy habits and unfortunately you won’t get away with that. Planning is fundamental to success.
10. Perspective: I’ve left the most important point until last. As an experienced fitness and nutrition expert I feel there’s a habit of scaremongering creeping into the industry. People are being pressured into feeling that they must look a certain way, act a certain way and do all sorts of insane things to achieve that. People are making money on the vulnerability of the ordinary person in the street. You’re being made to feel that you have to lead a ridiculously clean life and you have to do it 24/7 to achieve the standards required. My question to you is this. What’s the worst that will happen if you have a few drinks and chocolates over Christmas? If you follow these tips you stand a good chance of maintaining where you’re at. Even if you don’t, at most you’ll only gain a few pounds, unless you go to extremes. It’s nothing that can’t be undone within two weeks in January when you get back training. If you’ve been looking after yourself all year round you really have nothing to worry about. If you haven’t, then Christmas probably isn’t the time to be starting. Don’t stress this Christmas, life is too short.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!