Wow, so I get asked this one a lot. New Year is on the horizon so everyone has health and fitness somewhere in the back of their mind. However, with all the temptation of festive food and drink everyone is struggling with how to stay healthy at Christmas. Here's my idiots guide...
1. Stop being so uptight!
Christmas isn't going to ruin your health. Seriously! Christmas is one day, maybe up that to 5 to include Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, and a couple of parties. Ok make it 10, be reasonable. 10 solid days of festive food and drink is still only 2.7% of your year. You need to think of the bigger picture! Looking at weight loss specifically, say you are in a 1400 calorie surplus for every single one of those days (which for someone who maintains at 2000 would be a consistent 3400 calories per day for 10 days), you would gain 4lb of fat. That's it. That's from 14,000 extra calories on top of your usual 20,000 to maintain. If you use some of the tips in this article to control that a bit better then you'll be in an even better position. 4lb is not a big deal anyway. If you gain more than this on those calories it's water not fat, and it will fall off sharp as you like. I know it's not all about weight/fat but let's be honest, when you're trying to stay healthy at Christmas this will be top of the list for most people!
2. Be reasonable
I used to be someone who would eat stuff I didn't even like, just because it was there. I reckon everyone reading this has done the same, right? But everything you eat adds up, so make it count. If you don't really like something, don't fucking eat it, yeah?! Take a look at the packaging and decide if you are going to enjoy it enough to warrant the trade. If it's just for the sake of it, then leave it for someone who will enjoy it. If it's something you love, then go for it!
3. Drink water
This is advice for any time of year to be honest. Relevant benefits for Christmas include blunting hunger, improving digestion, and keeping energy and immunity high. If you are less hungry then you're less likely to binge on crap, if your digestion is better then you'll be more satisfied and comfortable, and if you have good immunity and plenty of energy you'll enjoy the season much more!
4. Eat a ton of veg
Especially sprouts, obviously. If you don't eat sprouts then are you really celebrating Christmas? You know that's what the 4th wise man brought to the nativity, right? He was left out of the story because the editor wasn't a fan of cruciferous veg. Veg will help keep you full and your blood sugar balanced so more stable energy. Also the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients will help keep you stay healthy at Christmas.
5. Stay active
Over the winter you might be tempted to be less active. The weather isn't as nice, the dark mornings make you feel sluggish, and nobody is seeing your body under all your jumpers so what does it matter about some extra padding? Well, for a start this isn't about how you look! This is about how you feel, and staying active will help you feel good and stay healthy at Christmas. Embrace the cold air, and wrap up for a winter walk with your friends or family, or by yourself. The scenery can be quite stunning this time of year! If you have been going to the gym regularly, or doing any kind of regular activity, don't stop. Keep your routine throughout the holiday period. If you have to drop it from 4 days to 2 in order to stay consistent then that's cool. You might have lots on, I get that. But don't stop completely.
Something you might like to try is intermittent fasting. This is not a diet, but an eating pattern or schedule. There are a number of different ways to work this, but my two recommendations for Christmas would be either shorter eating windows or specific fasting days.
The way this might look for you could be eating between 2pm and 10pm and then fasting until 2pm the following day. This is a very common 16/8 pattern, and is roughly what I follow in my normal day-to-day life. This helps me, as I like eating large quantities of food in one go rather than little and often. This is my preferred way of keeping daily calories in check. If you eat more in that 8 hour period than you have cut out during the fast then you haven't gained anything!
Another way to use this method would be to take certain days as fast days. For the 5/2 method you have 2 days of under 500 calories to offset the calories on other days. Personally I don't like this as much, as I believe you should be having adequate protein each day and 500 calorie limit twice a week makes this tricky. What I prefer is a total fast (0 calories) for a full day BUT ONLY NOW AND AGAIN. For example you could fast from 8pm December 23rd until 8pm December 24th and then have your Christmas Eve evening and Christmas Day to eat whatever. Then maybe fast again between Christmas and New Year. This is only suitable for some people, so maybe do a trial run beforehand. At the end of the day this is all about personal preference. Check out this article for some more basic info.
How to stay healthy at Christmas?
Don't stress, stay active, be reasonable, offset calories, drink plenty of water, and have a damn good time!
What are your favourite ways to stay healthy at Christmas? Let me know in the comments!