Can you believe that Christmas is only just around the corner (where has this year gone!)? With what seems like endless BBQ’s with mates (COVID safe ofcourse), dinners with the relo’s, work Christmas parties (in person or virtual), Christmas day feasting, New Year’s Eve celebrations, camping (or more luxurious!) holidays on the horizon, many of us see our health and fitness goals reluctantly take a back seat during this period. But this doesn’t have to be the case!
Check out my TOP 5 TIPS for staying on top of your hard-earned health this “silly season”:
- STICK TO YOUR ROUTINE
If you are not heading away from home during the holiday period, keep up your gym routine that you are already in! Planning your weekly exercise regime and continuing your workouts will not only assist you to maintain your fitness and weight throughout the holiday period but will also help to sustain your routine into the new year. Falling out of routine is the cause of many people’s health complaints during this time (hello New Year’s resolutions!) If you ARE heading away – first of all, lucky you! Second of all, aim to incorporate some moderate-intensity activity on as many days as you are currently exercising. This could be brisk walking, a beach run, a gym session in your hotel or trying something left-of-field (and slightly more exciting) such as kayaking, ocean swimming or tennis with the kids!
- SOCIALISE… ACTIVELY!
Instead of that coffee date on the weekend, why not make it a walking coffee date? Take advantage of the warmer evenings and take your family on a post-dinner walk and reap the benefits of not only exercise but also the bonus of social connectedness with your loved ones. Are your girlfriends suggesting a picnic? Why not suggest a bush walk or coastal walk in the radiant sun, instead? Perhaps your mates want to head to the beach for the day – bring along footy or cricket set and get your sweat on before you jump into the waves and unwind on the sand. Socialising actively will help us get more steps into our day and help us burn a few extra calories that we might consume in the midst of all our socialising, but most of all, it makes breaking a sweat so much more fun.
- DON’T ROCK UP TO THE PARTY STARVING
Arriving to the party with a grumbly tummy will usually see you heading straight for the food table, delving into that table garlic bread, or eating whatever food is on offer immediately (and often consuming way too much!) Eating a small meal or snack before social events such as parties will help you think of other things than food (such as catching up with your mates!) and assist you to make better choices when you arrive. Choose a snack with some fibre and protein to assist in satiety, for example some yogurt and fruit, a handful of nuts, rice cakes with nut butter or cottage cheese. Final tip: try to avoid standing next to the grazing table to avoid mindlessly snacking throughout the event.
- BE MINDFUL OF THE GROG
Alcohol plays a huge role in Australian culture and is often associated with festivities and social events over the Summer period. Just like no food should be “banned”, the same should be true with alcohol. We just need to remember to view our chilled glass of rose or schooner of beer just as we would an indulgent dessert – enjoy it slowly, mindfully and in moderation. If you do decide to drink at an event but you are wanting to manage your overall intake of alcohol, trial the following tips:
- Avoid participating in ‘rounds’. You may feel compelled to drink faster to keep up with your mates and have more drinks than you initially intended.
- Kick start your festivity off with a refreshing glass of soda and lime or water and alternate each alcoholic drink with a soda water/water. This will not only assist in keeping you hydrated (and reduce that pesky hangover!) but it will also reduce the total amount of alcohol you consume.
- In a social dinner situation, feel free to set the tone from the get-go. If you mention you are planning to only drink 1-2 glasses or are actually going to lay off the alcohol for the evening, you might be surprised that others will respect your wishes and not create temptations for you, or may even follow suit and join you!
- TUNE INTO YOUR BODY
Do you ever feel out of touch with your hunger and appetite? A lot of people tend to find themselves eating for many other reasons than true hunger, especially with a rise in social events. Listening to your innate hunger and fullness cues is no easy feat but we can practice through utilising mindfulness techniques that help us to tune into our bodies. If you constantly find yourself mindlessly snacking or feasting at social events, it can be easy to overconsume food, feel sick and then feel guilty, disheartened and frustrated with yourself. If this sounds like you, then before you delve into your next cracker loaded with triple ash brie, quince and prosciutto, STOP and pose yourself the following questions:
Question: “Am I actually feeling hungry?”
If the answer is YES à opt for a proper nutritious meal rather than grazing your way through the day. You are more likely to overconsume less healthy options because you are actually hungry!
If the answer is NO à “Do I truly want this food in front of me or am I not really fussed either way?” If this food isn’t nutritious and isn’t going to satisfy your taste buds either, you’re best to pass on this food. If this food isn’t nutritious but IS going to satisfy your taste buds (because it’s one of your favourites!) then by all means go for it! Just enjoy it slowly, mindfully, in moderation and without distraction where possible.
Consistent practice in listening to your body’s hunger and fulness cues AND asking yourself what you truly feel like, will help you to find a place where you are able to enjoy a small portion of your favourite ‘indulgent’ foods without guilt and without overeating.
I will leave you with these final words of wisdom for the sunny weeks ahead… RELAX and ENJOY yourself, CELEBRATE in the company of those you love, LOSE the GUILT and other feelings that don’t SERVE you, stay ACTIVE in ways that make you SMILE and last but not least, TRUST your body and trust yourself – you’ve got this!
Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
JORDAN KAIN (APD, MND, Exspsc)
Dietitian and Exercise Scientist