Last Christmas was my most active and for this reason it stood out as being one of the very best and I felt amazing. I’m lucky enough to still have active parents and grew up going on long family walks regularly. I’m often caught up in catching up with old school friends when back in the area and don’t make it along to the run. This time I made it a priority and had a lot of fun exploring the countryside I used to know and enjoying a drink in the pub with other families, post run. The morning runs made me more energetic and willing to eat sensible sized portions of food.
Below I’ve compiled some of my top tips to help you stay fit over the festive season.
Of course it’s going to take a little bit of willpower and careful thinking but a healthy lifestyle is all about turning bad habits into good habits, so let’s think ahead and get practicing before it’s too late.
Attend training as usual: Your training schedule should remain in the diary and social festivities are to fit around it. No excuses. Earn the right to consume those extra calories and arrive at events feeling great, with a story to tell and much more likely to not undo the hard work.
Eat Smart: Where buffet-style food is involved, turn up having already eaten a small, balanced meal or refuel as usual post-training, while allowing yourself room for a small treat at the party and enjoy it thoroughly. You don’t want to be seen as the greedy returner always grabbing more, so choose wisely then stay away.
Never go back or accept the offer for seconds: no matter how tasty. Eat slowly and enjoy every mouthful. Be mindful. You know what it tastes like and you don’t need more. It’s too easy to eat double quantities in one sitting and remember, pudding is still to come.
Go easy on the alcohol: You may be a little thirstier than usual after rich food but switch up the booze with water or flavoured drinks such as soda and lime. Having a soft drink in hand is often enough to satisfy and will do you a great favour the next day (or save you from making a fool of yourself at the work party!)
Is it worth eating? Buffet style food can often be cheap and very calorific. When eating the treats, make it worthwhile. By this I mean, question the quality. Where is the product from? Does it look cheap? What are the ingredients? Don’t unnecessarily consume highly calorific treats unless it’s really good or something different to usual. By this I mean, distinguish between the smart price cocktail sausages and cheap chocolate. When offered a pick from a box of celebrations, I say no. When a rich dark chocolate torte is on the menu at a 4* restaurant, I go for it. The torte is specially made by skilled chefs and not easily accessible on a daily basis. It’s a treat, enjoy it slowly.
Get out of the house: Plan activities with the whole family and base your day around a family walk. Pre warn the family to bring appropriate clothing and get out, whatever the weather.
Psychology works: Use this little ‘focus mantras’ before you go out to wine and dine. By setting out a mental goal before arriving at a party you are much more likely to leave feeling good about your choices and have a great time, guilt free:
I will eat slowly and make wise choices, enjoying every mouthful.
I will focus on having a good time and being sociable with friends and family, rather than trying every food available
I will drink in moderation and stay hydrated with soft drinks.
Plan to see friends for a fitness related catch up: Rather than a brunch or another drink, meet up with old buddies for a gentle jog or activity game of badminton (not a workout and conversation should be flowing).
Set a January goal: This will help you stay motivated over the festive season. Set small goals, whether it’s increasing the distance of your weekend run, throwing in an additional 4 minute HIIT session or just ticking off your usual training sessions to ensure none are missed.
Pack your gym kit when staying away from home: Get up before the family and head out for 20 minutes of exercise or work through a simple HIIT session. Keep it short and get it out the way first thing. Start the day on a high.
Suss out local events when away: There may be a Parkrun nearby or Hash Running group for you to jump on.
Weigh yourself on the 1st January – every year: Thanks to my mum for introducing this one for us both about 12 years ago and it’s genius! Set yourself a target weight (you may currently be a year or two away from this but stick with it). When your target weight has been reached – vow never to go above this, even with the indulgent festive period. It’s all too easy to gain 1lb every year and reach the age of 60 wondering how you got so huge. Going down on the scales gradually or maintaining your healthy weight will prevent that slight and often unnoticeable increase which adds up over time.
If you have any tips that work for you or wish to share your struggles, please let me know via the comments box below.