Christmas doesn’t have to mean weight gain – here’s how to stay on track.
It starts with your advent calendar chocolates, and ends with… well, where does it end? The festive period can be one long whirlwind of meals, snacks, drinks, and bizarre food choices (mince pies for breakfast, anyone?)
If you don’t want to look like Santa by the time January rolls around, it’s time to put some measures in place. Now.
Can you enjoy the festive period without sacrificing your health and fitness goals? We think so. And this is how to do it.
#1 Set A Goal
Get specific with your goal for Christmas and New Year. Saying “I don’t want to put on too much weight” isn’t helpful. What’s “too much”, after all? Set a concrete goal: what do you want to achieve, and what do you want to avoid? It could be weight gain, activity levels, training sessions, caloric intake, food tracking. You can’t achieve it unless you set it out as a goal. Think about it like this: once you’re back at work in January, and looking back at the festive period, which boxes do you want to be able to tick? Stand your ground, have a plan, and stick to it.
#2 Choose Your Battles
It’s impossible to avoid all food, drink, snacks, and treats over Christmas. Unless you want to alienate yourself, upset family, and be “that guy” at all the parties. So choose your battles. Do this now, ahead of time, so you are in proactive (not reactive) mode. What will you say “no” to, and what will you enjoy? You don’t have to eat every mince pie going, and you don’t have to drink on every social occasion. Decide what you’ll do, own it, and enjoy it. And don’t apologise for saying no to the rest.
#3 It’s Not All About Food
It’s a cliche, but cliches are usually true: this time of year is not really about the food. It’s about family, friends, loved ones, and quality time. Focus on the company, and you’ll be less focused on putting calories into your mouth. If you can get some of your friends and family on side, that’s even better. Trust us, you won’t be the only person keen on maintaining some semblance of healthy living. Get outside, bundle up for walks, take the dogs out… there are lots of options which don’t involve food.
#4 Keep Activity High
NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis) counts for a great deal of your energy output. So keep your activity levels high right through the festive period. This means everything from standing up more than you sit down, to walking more, and doing manual chores. Volunteer to go into the loft to get the decorations down. Help put the tree up. Shovel snow. Walk the dogs. Play with the kids. Don’t fall into the trap of sitting on your butt all Christmas.
#5 Move Every Day
Your gym training schedule might go out of the window over Christmas, but you can still do something every day. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be something. A 30 minute run. A yoga session. Bodyweight exercises in your room. A strenuous outdoor play session with the family kiddies. Move your body every day, work up a sweat, and get out of breath. It will burn off some calories, and stop you from spiralling off track.
#6 Be Like The Kids
Talking of kids, if your Christmas period includes any youngster then take a leaf out of their book. In fact, if you can keep up with the kids you’ll be doing a good job. Notice how they don’t stay still. They run about the house, play games, fiddle with things, ask to go outside. Try keeping up with a 5-10 year old for even one day, and you’ll do your fitness a favour.
#7 Mindful Snacking
The main Christmas meal isn’t the problem (after all, it’s basically a fancy roast dinner – plenty of meat and veggies). The culprits for festive weight gain are the snacks. The bits and bobs you probably don’t even count as food. The handful of nuts grabbed from the bowl on the coffee table. The 2 (or was it 7?) little chocolates out of the tin. The tiny slice of cake with a cuppa. Don’t fall foul of mindless eating over Christmas. Simple pause, think, and consider what you’re about to it. That can be all it takes to save (or splurge) 500+ calories a day!
#8 Make Smarter Choices
What about the food you will be eating? Even there, you can make better choices. Go for lean protein, plenty of vegetables, and potatoes over bread. When it comes to party food, choose fresh options over pasty-based (think pigs in blankets instead of sausage rolls).
#9 Do You Really Want This?
One simple question to ask yourself is “do I really want this food?” We eat so many things at Christmas just because they are there. We don’t even particularly like them, and we wouldn’t eat them any other time of year. There’s a huge difference between eating a slice of your Nan’s famous fruitcake or your Mum’s secret-recipe stuffing, and mindlessly throwing back handfuls of generic chocolate miniatures. Do you really want this? Do you really like it? Is this special? If so, go ahead – but enjoy it. If not, then leave it. Save your calories for special foods that really matter to you.
Best & Worst Christmas Foods
Christmas dinner isn’t the problem. After all, it’s basically a glorified roast. It’s all the other foods at this time of year that can throw you off track. Snacks on offer all day long, chocolates around the house, party food, and high-calorie side dishes.
Turkey – a very lean high protein meat
Green veg – lots of micronutrients
Smoked salmon – a popular choice for Christmas breakfast
Roast beef – high in protein
Potatoes – lots of vitamin C and B6
Carrots – packed with vitamins
Brussels sprouts – love them or hate them, there’s no denying they’re healthy
Pigs in blankets – high in fat, but also high in protein
Fruit – choose fresh fruit over dried fruit every time
Sausage rolls & other pastry snacks – stick to one or two if you truly enjoy them
Mince pies – high sugar dried fruit filling plus fat in the pastry = calorie bomb
Christmas pudding – high in calories from the dried fruit, and often topped with fats from cream/icecream
Sauces – difficult to know what’s in them – and impossible to pour just a little