Three weeks til Christmas! As your calendar gets busier and stress levels build up, remember these 10 tips to survive the holiday season. This is a revised version of last year’s seasonal article How to stay healthy during the holidays.
1. Healthy habits
Keep your habits as untouched as possible. Eat your usual (hopefully healthy) diet, do your regular physical activities, keep meditating if you normally do it. Make sure you sleep well; poor sleep leads to hormonal imbalances and poor decision making when it comes to food choices. A healthy routine is the best way to minimise the impact of occasional deviations from the plan.
2. RSVP honestly
Say “no” to social events you don’t want to attend. Most of us won’t get fired from our jobs if we decide not to go to the Christmas party.
3. Bring a plate
Offer to bring something to eat and/or drink to make sure there will be healthier options at the table. Below are some ideas of what you could bring:
- Dips (e.g. homemade hummus, baba ganoush, tzatziki or guacamole) and vegetable sticks
- Mixed olives
- Seasonal fruit
- Dry roasted nuts
- Bliss balls
- Soda water
- Spirit of choice + low/no sugar mixers
4. Easy on the booze
If you drink alcohol, remember to show up hydrated to parties and have at least one glass of water between alcoholic drinks. If you don’t want to drink but are peer-pressured, order soda water with a slice of lemon or lime. Nobody will tell the difference.
5. Move a little more
Without falling into the “exercise as punishment” mentality, keep in mind that going for a walk or doing a short bout of physical activity after eating can help regulate blood sugar levels. This can be especially valuable if you overindulge during the holiday season.
6. Non-food celebrations
Try organising a non-food centred activity to celebrate the holidays. Bonus points if the activity involves some level of physicality. Even if you go for a meal before or after the main event, the focus won’t be on the food and booze.
7. Strategise your plan of attack
Let’s face it: you will be presented with copious amounts of food multiple times during the holidays. Some of us find it easy to stick to foods that make us feel good and meet our goals. However, most people will end up eating too much and/or foods that will not be the best choice for them. A good strategy is to prioritise the foods you eat.
- Protein foods (meats, seafood, eggs, legumes) which will help with satiety
- Vegetables, which will help with satiety thanks to the fibre, are nutrient-dense and low in energy
- Fruits (don’t overdo if you have sugar control issues), which also have fibre, micronutrients and low kilojoules
- Nuts and seeds, which have some protein and fibre but are higher in energy
- Dips (see options in tip #3). Eat with vegetable sticks or plain crackers instead of chips.
- Cheeses, which have some protein but are higher in energy
After you are satisfied with the items above, if you still want to eat chips, cake, etc., go for it, but have a small portion.
8. Don’t be a bully
Don’t be the annoying person who pushes others to eat or drink (or dance! you know who you are!). You don’t know what they’re struggling with. You are entitled to make your own choices and should respect other people’s choices as well.
9. Don’t spend too much
You don’t have to spend all your money in pricey Christmas gifts. Overspending can be a source of unnecessary stress and will not guarantee people’s love and appreciation. If you want to give gifts, consider making something (edible or not) for your loved ones.
10. Don’t panic
If things don’t go according to plan and you end up eating a whole panettone washed down with a whole bottle of wine three nights in a row… don’t panic. You can still change course. On the other hand, don’t take every deviation as an excuse to give up.