Have you ever felt guilty over the holiday period for overindulging? Does one day of unhealthy eating derail your efforts to get back on the wagon until January? Do you set unrealistic New Year’s resolutions, thrashing it out in the gym throughout January to ‘cancel out’ the calories?
What if I told you that you can enjoy whatever food you want and be healthy at the same time? Have I got your interest?
Everywhere you look there’s a ‘nutrition expert’ providing tips for avoiding so called ‘bad foods’ over the holiday period. This is not that sort of article. I’m encouraging you to eat all foods, just mindfully.
Choose foods more consciously, with intention. Get real about your eating over the holiday period. With a more mindful approach, you can enjoy whatever foods you like, be able to socialise, and remain fit and healthy at the same time.
Determine what's important to you over this holiday period.
It’s ok if healthy eating isn’t your number one priority. Pretty sure this would be the case for most of us, including dietitians.
What we eat shapes our daily lives and this holiday period is no exception. Whatever your priority over the coming month, know that it is probably influenced by your food choices one way or another.
If you’re choosing food and drink based on your main priorities for the holiday period, you are voting for what’s really important to you. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t eat chocolate.
Eating mindfully is all about weighing up the pros and cons before making your decision to eat or drink. It is telling yourself that you can eat or drink whatever you want, but asking yourself whether you really feel like it. So perhaps it’s about really savouring a smaller amount of chocolate, rather than restricting it altogether.
If you feel like you’re food and drink-related decisions are falling by the wayside, which they almost always do at this time of the year, then you have your roadmap (your priorities) to jump straight back on the wagon.
Jumping straight back on the wagon doesn’t mean in January. Giving up on your priorities because of one setback is like slashing all remaining car tyres because of one flat.
Keep business as usual…as much as possible.
Maintain your normal meal pattern as best you can. This is a time where many of us are off work and it’s like one continuous weekend.
Plan to have 3 main meals per day and healthy snacks in-between (or whatever is normal for you). This will help to mitigate your susceptibility to undesirable food choices, especially when you’re on the run. You may wish to:
Start the day off well by having a healthy breakfast
Be selective when eating out – there’s always a healthier choice, whether it’s a choice between foods, or simply the amount you consume
Eat a healthy snack before you go out for a meal
Focus on eating a predominantly plant-based diet when eating at home
Never go back for seconds
Reduce your energy intake the day after overindulging and make sure you exercise
Factor in social occasions as part of your plan and accept that you will indulge in foods that aren’t in line with your priorities. Know that if you have planned your meals, that the next meal will be a healthier one, so enjoy all foods in moderation.
Maintain your normal exercise pattern and keep as active as you can. With more time on your hands this shouldn’t be a problem right? This will help to counter the food and drink, maintain muscle mass and keep your metabolism humming into January.
The more you veer away from your normal meal and exercise patterns, the more difficult it is to get back on the wagon.
Look and feel better over January
Finally, from an evolutionary perspective, many of us are built to store energy in times of plenty and conserve energy in times of famine. This is a mechanism that has ensured our survival over the ages. Therefore, it’s much easier to put weight on than it is to lose it.
If you do inevitably fall off the wagon over the holiday period, you will look and feel better if you avoid going on any extreme health kicks in January. It’s not normal to deprive ourselves of food and thrash it out in the gym.
Instead, look at your current meal and exercise patterns and make small sustainable changes. This is much easier to achieve and you won’t be miserable in the process.