Managing food over Christmas
December is here, Christmas is upon us and after last year of no socialising, no Christmas parties, it looks like parties, meals out, and festivities are back with a vengeance! Depending on your fitness goals and your history with food everyone will approach Christmas & the festive period in a slightly different way.
The most important thing without a doubt, is that you enjoy the festive period and you realise that food is there to be enjoyed. It’s the time to spend with your family & friends, have a good time, eat the food you enjoy, be merry and celebrate all of the good stuff there is in life!!
However, alongside all the festivities & fun often this time a year brings about a lot of worry with food and many of us can be left feeling like we don’t know how to approach the Christmas period whilst keeping ourselves mindful but also allowing ourselves to enjoy our food and a bit more flexibility than usual!
The first thing I would suggest you do is to establish what are you actually going to do & where will you be for Christmas. Will you be at home with control over your diet or will you be away eating at a family members or friends house or maybe you're out at a restaurant.
The more prepared you are & the more you know what you’re doing the easier it’s going to be to keep on track of things and keep accountable to your daily food habits like normal. If you can be a bit organised with knowing what you're doing & know your options ahead of time it's going to make it far easier to stay in control of your food.
I’m a firm believer that Christmas is the time to enjoy food and enjoy spending precious time with friends and family, especially after last year. It is not a time to be logging everything on my fitness pal and there are lots of other strategies you can use to help yourself keep in control of your food during the holidays!
If you have weight based goals especially weight loss goal something that might be sensible at this time of the year would be to change your goals for a week or maybe a day or two so you focus on maintenance rather than loss at this period.
If you do this & bring your calories up to maintenance, trust me it’ll be way easier to stick to and you’ll find it far more enjoyable.
Establishing your goals first will then help you to know how to handle certain situations. Is tracking your Christmas dinner on my fitness pal more important or actually just enjoying the day with your family?
Understanding what is important to you will then dictate your approach & I most definitely think the latter should be your no 1 goal. And if you do go over calories slightly, then just accept that & then you get back into your daily habits the following day. That's it, no restriction or drastic behaviours. We want to make the festive period as enjoyable as possible but also easy so once it's over you can just slot back into your 80/20 approach again & pick up your daily habits easily with no struggle!
So here are my top tips to help you get through the festive period and have control over your food whislt still enjoying yourself;
Base meals around the three main macronutrients
If you can keep yourself in the habit of building your plate and meals from each of your macronutrients; include a protein, fat and carbohydrate source on your plate. It’s going to be way easier to make better choices & keep giving your body all the nutrients it needs if you do so.
Protein should be pretty easy at Christmas, most of us will have some sort of a chicken or turkey and there are often other protein sources such as beef or pork on offer. If you're a vegetarian then just think about how you can get your protein into your meals or do you need to add some extra plant protein into each meal?
Complex carbohydrates are actually really easy to keep on top of at this time of year, there is plenty of veg to go with Christmas dinner and with most Christmas meals on both Christmas Eve and Boxing Day so try and stock yourself up on lots of vegetables. This way you should be left feeling full & satisfied without feeling the need to overeat.
Use the palm-size serving guide
Using the palm of your hand is a great way to monitor and keep track of your food intake & portion control. The approach is to aim for one cupped handful of carbs, a fistful of veg, a thumb full of fat and a palm of protein.
If you stick to this portion guide when you’re eating out & also maybe when you’re at home or over at your families place then you’re going to have far more control over your calorie intake was still being able to enjoy the meal with everyone else.
Allow yourself treats and chocolate
I’ve said this many times but restriction gets us nowhere. If you want to enjoy some slightly higher-calorie foods than you normally would include in your diet like chocolate or crisps then go for it be mindful and try to listen to your body so you’re not just eating for the sake of it.
But at the end of the day restrictions only lead to bingeing & encourage poor nutritional habits, in the long run, allow yourself flexibility and have about 20% of the food you like within your whole day of eating-the 80/20 approach is the one to follow.
Set yourself some boundaries
Setting boundaries is a great way to keep control of your food choices over Christmas. Just set yourself some super simple rules such as you’re only going to eat in the kitchen or at the table to keep in control of your behaviour. If you end up letting yourself eat anywhere & everywhere pretty quickly you'll find old habits sneak back in and before you know it, that whole bag of minstrels is gone when you didn’t even realise you were eating them.....
Eating mindfully and slowly
Try to be aware of what you're eating & try to actually enjoy your meal. Eat slowly to make sure you properly chew & digest your food but also so you can actually enjoy the experience.
Eating slowly will make you far more mindful & aware of when you're full. This way, if you’re eating mindfully & listening to your bodies hunger levels you’re going to know when your full and stop eating and therefore prevent yourself from over-consuming or eating for the sake of it.
Be mindful of your alcohol intake
The best way to handle alcohol consumption during the Christmas break, especially if your goal is weight loss or maintaining weight is by making smart choices and by being mindful ahead of time about what you’re going to be drinking.
When there is 150 to 200 calories in one glass of wine you want to make sure that you are making good choices. Be clever; swapping out things like a standard gin & tonic for a gin & slim drastically reduce calories and help to keep you on track whilst still allowing you to enjoy a drink or two.
We all like to enjoy oursevles over Christmas & I'm sure most of us probably drink more alcohol than we normally would over the festive period which is absolutely fine just be mindful that alcohol will affect your sleep quality, your hunger levels and it may make it harder for you to maintain your weight and daily food habits over this time.
Again alcohol isn't something be want to be over consuming in the long term so just bear that in mind and make sure you’re making sensible choices.
At the end of the day Christmas is most definitely there to be enjoyed. If you’re anything like my family you’ll probably find that the whole period between Christmas and New Year revolves around doing the horses, dog walks eating and drinking and it’s a great time of the year!
We can really kick back and relax and we should have the same approach with our food, if you gain a couple of kilos don’t panic the majority of that will be water weight & once you get back into your daily habits after Christmas the scales will drop right back.
Establishing your goals before you go into your Christmas break is the best way to have control but do make sure you enjoy it. Christmas Day is not the time to be my fitness paling in the corner by yourself, it’s time to enjoy what’s there and spend it with your loved ones.
Have a great Christmas & December. Enjoy all your festivities and if you need any advice on how to manage your nutrition or training during the Christmas period feel free to drop me a message.
Merry Christmas all!