10 steps to help you stay ‘on plan’ this Christmas

Christmas is a challenging time when it comes to pursuing your health and fitness goals. It can be hard to stay disciplined and consistent with the ramp-up in social obligations that can quickly lead to overindulgences and a setback in your progress.

We understand that the festive period is a time to be enjoyed, but if you want to stay on track, here are some great tips to help you enjoy this season in moderation and keep you one step ahead of the ‘New Year, New Me’ movement, come January.

1. Keep moving

If you do one thing this Christmas to stay healthy, maintain your body weight and get yourself in the best position to kick on in the New Year – that would be to stay active. Although finding time for exercise during the festive season can be challenging, it is not impossible. The worst thing you can do is nothing. Your routine may be different from the usual, but your mindset should be to do what you can, and build from there. Even if it is just a 20-30-minute at-home workout or a walk outside, this is better than completely throwing the towel in and doing nothing.

 

2. Start with a good breakfast

Your first meal will set the tone for the rest of the day, so make sure it is high in nutrients and low in processed foods and additives.

Instead of the usual highly processed cereals, try a high protein breakfast with healthy fats, like a spinach and tomato omelette or poached eggs and avocado. These will not only keep you feeling fuller for longer, but they will also give you a good dose of vitamins and minerals.

On the other side, try not to skip breakfast altogether to save calories. This can affect your blood sugar, energy, and mood, leaving you feeling ravenous and more likely to overeat and make poor food choices later on in the day.

3. Get outside

If going to the gym is not an option with your Christmas schedule, try incorporating more activities with friends and family. Going for a walk, run, or cycle together will help increase your energy expenditure as well as helping you get some much-needed daylight exposure.

Try exercising first thing in the morning before your day gets too busy and you lose motivation. Not only does it set you off on a positive note, but that early daylight exposure helps better regulate your circadian rhythm to promote better sleep.

 

4. Moderation not elimination

Christmas Day, in particular, is when you want to eat what you enjoy, but this is not to be confused with ‘eat everything and anything in sight,’ so try not to take that mindset to the dinner table.

When it comes to Christmas dinner, instead of focusing on calories, pay attention to nutrients. There are plenty of small changes you can make to your Christmas dinner without sacrificing taste or enjoyment. Ensuring most of your plate is filled with lots of vegetables and a serving of lean protein, and keeping the trimmings, such as stuffing or gravy, to a moderate amount will mean you are ticking all the nutritional boxes.

Luckily there are usually plenty of vegetables and turkey on the Christmas menu!

5. Practice what you preach

If you are keen to stay on track this festive period, apply that to all aspects of your day, this includes how you choose to spend your time with others. Plan activities with loved ones that are in line with your goals. Give a food gift that would be beneficial to receive yourself like a fruit basket instead of a massive calorie-bomb hamper of cakes and sweets. Being mindful in every way can help you and others make the right choices.

 

6. Two for function, one for fun

There will be an increase in the number of social occasions you will attend around this time of year that can make it harder to keep your nutrition in check. When faced with invitations for meals or drinks out, a great way to have some control is to go by the rule of ‘two for function and one for fun.’

Plan to have your indulgence at the social occasion only whilst keeping your other meals as ‘functional’ as possible. Make sure those meals are high in quality protein, fibre and plenty of vegetables so you are still ticking all the boxes of your daily nutritional needs without feeling overly restricted.

7. How to say no to food pushers

If you have a specific health and fitness goal, it can be hard to say “no” to colleagues, friends and family who want to share food and drink during the festive period. When we think of ‘food pushers’, we assume they are trying to sabotage us, but that’s not always the case. Often, they are just well-intentioned gestures from those who want to connect with you and show they care. They might just not be thinking about or even aware of your current health and fitness goals.

Remember, if you really want to have something, have it! However, you are well within your rights to say “no thank you” to something you don’t feel will serve you or your goals. The difficulty sometimes is how to say “no” because you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

Here are some examples of ways to approach those uncomfortable conversations:

  • “Everyone else is having one.” – Food will always be there, and right now, I am determined to reach my goal. I am happy to sit and chat with you whilst you all enjoy it.
  • “I made this especially for you!” – That is very thoughtful of you, and I have always loved your_____ but I will give it a miss for today and save it for another day. I hope you understand.
  • “Let’s go out for some drinks to celebrate.” – I can’t wait to celebrate with you, but how about we go for a spa day or a shopping trip to celebrate instead?
  • “Go on! I won’t have another piece unless you do too.” – It is fine for you to have another, please enjoy! But I don’t want any at the moment, thank you.
  • “It is just one more – it won’t kill you!” – I know, but I also know myself, and once I start, I can’t stop. So, at the moment, I would prefer to stick to my goals, but thank you.

8. Visit people, not food

Spending time with our nearest and dearest does not always have to be centred around food, but if it does, make sure that you share with friends and family rather than overindulging alone or eating mindlessly in front of the TV.

Always think to yourself, ‘this food was meant to be shared and enjoyed together socially, not to be eaten alone.’

You can also balance things out by making some of your visits less food-focused by planning activities like family board games or going out together to enjoy some fresh air.

 

9. Watch liquid calories

A big part of socialising, kicking back and relaxing is enjoying a drink or two, but you can have too much of a good thing. It is important to choose wisely and be mindful of your liquid calories.

Festive favourites such as eggnog, mulled wine and creamy liqueurs are high in calories and easy to overconsume.

Alcohol, in particular, contributes empty calories with little to no nutritional value and can lead to making poorer food choices throughout the day.

If you do choose to drink, do so in moderation and ensure you are counteracting with plenty of water throughout to stay hydrated.

10. Remove guilt

Although you want to be mindful, remember that you can sit back, relax and enjoy your time with friends and family, and if you do overindulge, do not beat yourself up.

Do not overly restrict and deprive yourself for the next week to compensate, as this will only encourage and lead to bad habits in the long-term and can seriously harm your mental well-being.

Instead, make a plan and shift your focus to getting back to a more normal, healthier eating and exercise routine.

If you have worked hard this year and want to maintain your progress through to the New Year, not much needs to change. Keeping somewhat of a healthy routine and being mindful of the odd indulgence here and there will help you stay on track come January.

 

Christmas weight gain is a worry for many people who struggle to lose the excess after the holiday season, but you can still enjoy Christmas and keep your fitness and health goals on track. Click here to read our ultimate guide to surviving Christmas. 

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