Let's cut to the chase here, nobody wants to put on a stone over Christmas, but nobody wants to be obsessing about food and taking the joy out of the festive period. So how do we make this Christmas a win/win situation? Well, having survived and truly enjoyed my 41st one without gaining a pound I thought it was time to share the best of the best festive tried and tested weight-management tips for success!
There's a lot of advice out there if you google this topic, but a few tips stand head and shoulders above the rest. It's stressful enough at this time of year without having to remember 15 new dietary rules!!
So here are my top 4. Just 4. Follow these and tell me what happens! I'd love to know. In no particular order......
1. IT IS OK TO EAT WHAT YOU WANT on Christmas and Boxing Day. Our bodies are designed for periods of feast and famine and our genes have not evolved much since hunter-gatherer times when we would feast at times and eat less food at others. Skipping breakfast or lunch and saving yourself for a big meal usually backfires as you're so hungry for your main meal that you'll likely snack on high sugar/carb foods such as crisps and chocolates from noon til late. So do eat breakfast as normal, do have what you fancy and....
2. NEVER GO HUNGRY. So this means 3 things - never skipping breakfast (did I mention that?), piling high half your plate at main meals with plenty of incredibly filling high-fibre vegetables such as Brussel sprouts (YES!), broccoli, leeks, green beans, peas, onions, peppers, mushrooms, cabbage, kale, courgettes etc (you will feel so much better for doing this!) and snack on good fats in nuts, seeds, avocado, hummus, dark chocolate and olives.
3. PLAN IN A FASTING REST DAY. Allow your body to reset with a lazy day over the holiday period. This rest period is also to rest your digestive system and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (your 'rest & digest' mode). Most of us spend too much time in 'fight or flight' mode and don't often (or ever!) take this opportunity to completely rest. Your body will love you for it! This is the opposite to punishing yourself at the gym! Sound good? If you have a few days off at Christmas, choose one, have a lovely lie in, get up late and eat two plant-based meals such as a supergreens omelette with extra salad and a vegetable chili - approximately breakfast at 11am and 5pm is a good guide. Add in some gentle exercise such as a walk in fresh air or yoga.
4. PREPARE YOURSELF! Enjoying more sugary foods and alcohol than usual can upset our blood sugar regulation, so a little planning goes a long way. Always plan a protein-rich breakfast and lunch to stabilise blood sugar such as smoked salmon with scrambled eggs or good old turkey leftovers. Research shows that protein-rich foods help to improve satiety - the feeling of fullness you get at end of a meal - and the more satiated you feel after eating, the less likely you'll feel hungry between meals. A protein-rich snack can also be useful before social events so that you feel too full for dessert. In my experience, having a small lunch with low protein during Christmas, such as a sandwich or vegetable soup, results in endless afternoon and evening snacking (unless I am very very well occupied!). So also prepare good snacks such as those mentioned in point 2 and don't leave sugary temptations out around the house for several days on end. Your goal is to get back into your normal routine well before the first chorus of Auld Lang Syne!
So that's it - Prepare to never go hungry, eat what you want for the main Christmas event, remember your proteins, plan a fasting day and get back into your normal routine as soon as the festivities are over. Oh and a sneaky number 5 that we already all know - don't forget your 2+ litres of water - easily done when we're visiting family and friends and possible having more alcohol than usual.