Home Alone is on TV, the Christmas decorations are being put up and the gym is nearly empty: yep, Christmas is almost here! The internet is awash with articles on having a healthy Christmas and how to not gain 10 lbs this Christmas etc, etc.
Well I’m calling bullshit on it. I’m actually a bit fed up of all these articles scaring us into thinking we’ll balloon into whales before 1st January. Yes, I think most of us will gain a couple of pounds, but if that’s the price to pay for having fun then so be it. I’d rather enjoy the festive period free from obsessing over everything I eat, I’ve been there before and it’s not fun at all. If anything, that makes you more likely to gain more weight.
My take on it is that the more we demonise certain foods the more likely we are to eat them in excess. My own personal experiences are bingeing on treat foods over Christmas because I knew I’d be having a huge ‘fresh start’ in January. It was all or nothing at its worst. The last couple of years have been different. Now that I don’t label foods as good or bad or deny myself certain foods generally, I don’t feel that need to go totally crazy over Christmas. I do have to watch my tendency to get carried away with the festivities leading up to Christmas, but that’s not the kind of bingeing and guilt I used to experience.
Christmas is a time to be enjoyed, and although I do think you can enjoy yourself and eat really healthily, the reality is that for most of us Christmas will include a hefty dose of unhealthy but very delicious foods. If you do worry about losing weight in the New Year, then watch this space for my Wholeheartedly Healthy Challenge coming in January!
So instead of stressing about every mouthful of food, or worrying about getting on the scales on New Year’s Day, why don’t we try something different? Here’s my top tips for having a Wholeheartedly Healthy Christmas…
Be treat smart
I explain more about being treat smart here, but essentially it’s about not mindlessly eating ‘meh’ unhealthy foods. Quality Street and Roses chocolates are nice, but they aren’t a 10 on my scale and therefore just aren’t worth it. Salted Caramel Truffles however, most definitely are. Think about what your number 10 treats are and enjoy them!
Upgrade your treats. if you’re going to eat crisps, make them good quality crisps instead of crappy ones full of shit. It makes a difference – for one, you’re showing your body it’s worth it. I won’t say upgrade milk chocolate to dark, because if you like milk chocolate, you’re better off just having some really good quality milk chocolate rather than forcing yourself to eat dark chocolate and then end up eating a whole bar of Cadbury’s anyway when you still have that craving. That doesn’t mean there’s not a place for healthier versions of treats in amongst a balanced approach (as well as being excellent for anyone with insensitivities, intolerances and digestive issues that make the usual stuff no-goes), eat them because you enjoy them just as much as some of the less good-for-your-body stuff.
Start your days off right
This is one of my rules for the festive period. I really try and start my day with a healthy, protein-packed breakfast like eggs, bacon and avocado or porridge with an egg in it (better than it sounds, promise). Starting your day like that means your blood sugar will be more balanced, you’ll not feel as ‘bingey’ and you’ll know that you’ve at least eaten something decent.
Remember that a lot of Christmas foods aren’t actually unhealthy
Turkey? Sprouts? Dried fruit? Nuts? Yep, all pretty healthy in their own right when you don’t go overboard – although I can’t imagine you going overboard on sprouts! Try including those foods when you can. Building your main meals around seasonal veggies like squash, parsnips and sprouts with some protein is a great way to go. The treats can be eaten afterwards!
Even if it’s a walk, just doing something active will help keep you in the right frame of mind, or maybe try an online yoga workout each day?
Focus on all the things that make you feel good
Way before Christmas was Christmas, it was celebrated as Winter Solstice. I believe there’s a human need to cheer each other up in the dead of winter and bring the light in. This celebration is about getting us through this dark, cold time of year (unless you’re reading this from the southern hemisphere!) so really think about what makes you feel good. That might include food, but also think about other things like connection with others, cosiness, relaxation and sleep. Try and make sure you’re getting some of your needs met over Christmas – you’ll be less likely to collapse in a heap in front of Netflix with a glass of red wine and a tin of sweets!
Eat, drink and be merry
If you’re going to eat less healthy foods (which, lets face it, most of us are going to) then you might as well enjoy yourself. Feeling guilty about it is completely pointless. Remember that life is about more than calories or skinny jeans, if you’re enjoying yourself, then it’s been worth it!
I hope you like my own personal take on having a healthy Christmas!
How do you approach the festive season?