By Jennifer Davies, Public Health Practitioner
Christmas is the time of year when many of our public health messages go out the metaphorical window. Not many people want to hear that they shouldn’t have more than a couple of glasses of wine (unless its per meal) or that pigs in blankets or bacon sarnies are off limits. We get it. We’re only human too! And I can promise you that we will be breaking many of the healthy-living rules that we are conscious of throughout the rest of the year.
So we thought we would put together some actually useful ideas to help you navigate the festive season in one happy smiley piece, whilst keeping half an eye on your health. Because half an eye is better than nothing at all.
Everything in Moderation, Including Moderation
This is one of the truest bits of dietary advice I have found, and I have found a lot. Remember why we don’t like diets? If you constantly restrict yourself too much you are more likely to binge and then fall off the wagon entirely and decide that you’re never going to ‘bother eating healthily again’ while you munch your way through a cheeseboard for two. Probably consuming more calories overall than if you had just allowed yourself a bit of what you wanted when you really wanted it.
Not to mention all the stress involved in constantly saying ‘no’ to things you would really rather have, and the upset and guilt you probably feel when eventually you do eat a few handfuls/tubs of Celebrations.
If you regularly allow yourself a bit of what you fancy, you will probably find that you stop craving it so much too. So when you do come to eat it, you are satisfied with having less.
I’m not suggesting anyone goes around living off of mince pies and brandy butter for a week, or constantly stuffing yourself silly at every meal, but I am saying – relax your food rules, allow yourself to enjoy the food that you really want, and you may be less stressed and maybe even eat in a healthier more balanced way
Raise your Standards, Sweetie
It is hard to get away from all the festive foods and drinks at the moment. That’s no bad thing by any means, but if you want to try to eat more mindfully, then channel your inner diva and only eat the stuff that looks like it is absolutely delicious.
Turn down the Value mince pies growing stale in the office cupboard, but enjoy your mum’s delicious flakey home made version.
Chocolate coins are usually pretty average chocolate and a complete waste of calories in my opinion. Say no to those, but really enjoy digging out all of your favourite Celebrations before the rest of the family get to them. Mwa ha ha.
Don’t just constantly nibble through all the christmas food out of boredom – save it and make a delicious turkey curry or pie with it later.
By saving your indulgences for when it will be really really worth it, you will enjoy your food so much more, and by turning down the food that doesn’t meet your new impeccable standards you will save yourself a few calories that wouldn’t have been worth it.
Plan to Hydrate Yourself while Drinking
We all know that drinking too much is bad for us. We all also know that sticking to limits is really hard at Christmas when we all just want to kick back and relax.
Of course we never advocate binge drinking, but if you absolutely must just let rip on the prosecco – at the very least, stay hydrated while drinking and rehydrate yourself the next morning.
Alternating drinks is a great idea. Or even just having a glass of something non-alcoholic on the go at the same time, if you don’t want to alternate.
Buy in your favourite cordials, sugar-free fizzy drink, or fancy grown up alcohol-free stuff because if it is in your house and close to hand you are much more likely to have a go at it. Plus water tastes weird on a hangover, and that’s basically a scientific fact*.
Get some Fresh Air
Many people find themselves so busy, and/or so busy having fun, that any exercise goes out the window. Try to lose any black-and-white thinking when it comes to this. If you can’t fit in your usual gym class, a 20 minute shuffle to a Youtube video workout is better than nothing. Try to make sure you get you and the family out of the house at least every other day even if it is just 10 minutes walk around the block.
Even better, get your exercise in by ditching the car – need some more milk? Walk a child to the shops and back instead of jumping in the car. Walk to the park for a break with the kids, or even just try to walk faster around town while doing your sales shopping!
Make Food Swaps
There are lots of really simply food swaps that don’t take much effort but can really help to keep us on the right track over Christmas.
Don’t roast your potatoes in an inch of oil, but try an oil spray instead.
Swap full sugar drinks for sugar-free versions.
Try Elmlea cream or greek yoghurt instead of double cream.
Choose lean cuts of meat over fatty bits.
When cooking with cheese, choose extra mature cheese – the strong flavour often means you can use less of it. Or try the reduced fat cheese.
Swap butter for a lower fat spread or a light cream cheese, or use a healthy fat like tahini or avocado instead.
Here’s a few more ideas.
Try a Helpful Mantra
Christmas is really stressful. If you can find a positive quote, thought or saying that makes an impact on you take it on board as your personal mantra. Sometimes they even make helpful comebacks for dealing with rude or ungrateful people!
Try some of these:
- ‘Aim for ‘good enough’ not ‘perfect”
- ‘Just because I am struggling, does not mean I am failing’
- ‘Am I being kind to myself?’
- ‘What would (insert inspirational person/celebrity/TV character here) do?’
- ‘My track record for getting through bad days so far is 100%… that suggests pretty good odds I will get through this too’
- ‘Other peoples opinions of me simply do not matter’
- ‘Self care isn’t selfish’
Stock Up your Medicine Cabinet
Just be prepared. Noone wants to be driving around Telford on Christmas Eve night desperately hunting down medication. Stock up with most things you could feasibly need in advance, and you will be prepared for any eventuality.
Here’s a basic list to get you started. Go quickly while everything is still open!
Extend Some Goodwill
A sure fire way to spread some Christmas cheer and lift your own mood is to do something kind for someone else. This can be as big or little as you like. Invite your lonely neighbour or colleague over for Christmas lunch, donate some items to charity, make someone a present or just take some time out of your busy day to sit and give someone your full attention for a while.
Do Something Nice Just for Yourself
How can you take care of others if you aren’t firstly looking after yourself? You can’t pour from an empty container, after all. You won’t help everyone else feel calm and relaxed if you’re walking around more frazzled than last years tinsel. Happiness is contagious, and the people around you will want to see you happy.
Make sure you carve out some time just for you. Whether its a glass of wine and a book with the door closed to everyone else for half an hour, a 20 minute run while everyone else is lounging in front of the TV, a bath, time to sit and enjoy your favourite christmas movie or even just sneaking out for a quick drive while you blast your favourite music – there’s only one you. So here’s to looking after number one.