For many of us it’s our favourite time of year. With the festive season comes family gatherings, presents and of course the obligatory and copious amount of gluttonous foods that accompany it. For those of us who are into our fitness and are mindful about what we eat and drink (or would like to be), navigating the festive period can be a real struggle when it comes to keeping on track with your diet.
Did you know that the typical person will consume a massive 7,000 calories on Christmas day! That is three and a half times the recommended daily amount for a woman and just under three times the recommended daily intake for a man. It’s easy to see therefore how such a high intake can seriously compromise your body composition not to mention negate all the hard work you have put in throughout the year.
Of course the problem is that despite Christmas day being traditionally the most indulgent day of the festive season, the onslaught of rich caloric foods starts before Christmas and continues until the new year. In fact, the average weight gain in the eight days between Christmas and New Year is a considerable 3 kg! All this before the inevitable New Year’s resolution gym warriors decide that after having gained weight over the past few weeks they intend to embark on a rigorous fitness regime and that ‘this is the year they will get in shape’ only to likely fall off the wagon two weeks down the line as life and its commitments take priority. The cycle then repeats itself.
Now that I have thoroughly depressed you and made you feel guilty about eating mince pies (sorry, it’s for your own good) I want to explain how you can still enjoy the festive season without compromising your health and fitness goals. A few simple tricks and tips are all that is required to ensure you do not end up looking like Father Christmas himself – I call it damage limitation 🙂
Despite Christmas lunch/dinner being significantly energy dense in terms of calories – average is 1475 calories (excluding pudding!), it is actually ‘treats’ and snacks that pack the biggest punch when it comes to unwanted weight gain. All the little ‘ooh I will just have one of those’ chocolates, biscuits and glasses of bubbly all add up considerably. So how can we avoid this minefield of sweet and delicious goodies tempting us from every angle? A bit of knowledge goes a long way here, so I am going to give you a few handy tips to see you through the festivities, whilst still having fun:
– Alcohol provides a considerable amount of calories, therefore wise up and take spirits with slim line mixers (tonic). Red wine in moderation is ok too, try and stick to 2 glasses and keep hydrated by drinking a glass of water for each glass of alcohol you consume.
– Needless to say snacking on chocolate, crisps, biscuits etc is not going to do you any favours. Instead stick to a handful of nuts, fruits such as tangerines or oranges (very seasonal) and if you must indulge in chocolate go for a couple of squares of the darkest chocolate you can find (75% and up is good). The fibre and healthy fats found in the nuts and cacao will curb your appetite nicely whilst fruit will help with any sweet craving you may have. Of course if you are hosting why not make your own cakes/treats. You can find some excellent, tasty recipes on the Nuvia Journal to satisfy any sweet tooth –your guests will never know!
– When it comes to Christmas dinner itself load up on the vegetables (call me sad but brussels sprouts in gravy are my FAVOURITE thing about Christmas, mmm). Try and fill your plate with as many as you can. Sprouts, carrots, greens of all kinds will provide vitamins and again the fibre will fill you up. Protein is another secret weapon against cravings. Ensure to load up on lean sources such as turkey and chicken or sources such as Quorn, cottage cheese, eggs etc if you are vegetarian.
– Be wary of carbs. Carbs are great and often demonised in the media, however it is important to remind yourself that you are not Michael Phelps and therefore eating copious amounts of bread, potatoes, sugary foods and drinks is just not necessary. In fact, I would go as far as saying that if you do one thing only over the festive period it would be this – managing your carb intake is hugely important when it comes to body composition not to mention your health. By doing this you will knock out most of the unhealthier options by default – biscuits, cakes, sweets etc. If you are cooking try swapping carb sources (if your traditionalism allows it!) for instance baked sweet potato is a delicious and nutritious alternative to white potatoes. Rye bread is a great substitute for white processed varieties.
– Lastly try and stay active over the festive period. I often advocate with my clients a few weeks of disciplined eating and exercise in the lead up to Christmas so that by the time the turkey hits the table they will know that they have at least earned that mince pie taken in a moment of weakness and know that it’s probably not going to do much to hinder their fat loss/body composition goals.
“A few simple tricks and tips are all that is required to
ensure you do not end up looking like Father Christmas
himself – I call it damage limitation :)”
So, there you have it. A few simple tips that will make a big difference. Given some mindfulness regarding your food choices there is no reason why you can’t have your mince pie and eat it too!
Written by personal trainer Tom Harris (The Fitness Gypsy). We’re super excited to be working with Tom over the next few months at Nuvia. More healthy habit building tips to follow in 2018!