Simple tricks on how to navigate the festive season without ruining your health efforts
Worried about overeating, indulging, and ruining all your hard worked for results over the holidays? Don’t worry, try these simple tricks, and you will feel great after, without having to sacrifice all the fun!
I personally believe that it is ok to indulge a little on special occasions, if that is important for that individual to help them bond, have fun and enjoy life. In particular if they involve social connections and quality time with loved ones, which in themselves too are important for a healthy, fulfilled life.
Research shows that social connections are incredibly important to a long, healthy and happy life. Blue Zones, where there is a higher percentage of people growing to be older than 100 years, all have a few things in common, one of which is that the centenarians (=older than 100 years old) have a strong social network, community feel and know how to ‘live a little’ – they don’t overindulge, but they also aren’t overly restrictive. Many of them will have a glass of wine at the end of the day, shared with loved ones.
Enjoying life and spending time with loved ones lower stress levels, and as many know by know, excess stress biology, including cortisol and adrenaline, can cause a lot of damage to our health.
I have recently recorded a podcast on how stress affects female hormones, check it out here if you’d like to listen to it in more detail.
However, to mitigate things, I generally advise my patients of following a few simple tricks to not feel entirely rubbish after the holidays.
For me that’s after decades on a health optimisation journey – and I am aware that for those just starting out on the health journey, treats and overindulging can still be very tempting! If this is you, then below tricks are for you.
Simple holiday tricks to stay healthy-ish over the festive period:
- Avoid snacking between meals to at least give your body a little rest and time to recover. An easy trick is to make sure to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water between meals. If temptation of the cookies lying around strikes, drink a large glass of water, wait 15 minutes, then see if you are still really ‘need’ this.
- During meals, go for protein & veg first to fill yourself up and avoid blood sugar swings. Have the ‘treats and cheats’ as condiments on the side – after. Your satiety signals should be working much better once you’ve had the fiber from the veg and protein, and it’ll be that much easier to listen to your ‘full’ signals. No need to avoid the cheats entirely, just change the proportions – and timings.
- Whenever the meals aren’t compulsory and in social settings, add some intermittent fasting, to give your body time to clean up (plus keep overall calories down) – that may mean skipping a dinner, breakfast, etc, that you may just have out of habit, but really don’t need to add those extra calories in that moment.
- Try squeeze in some movement. Any time counts, ie a walk after a meal is great! But realistically you’ll be much less likely to go for a run or slot in a proper workout after a heavy, long, boozy meal, so if you manage to get that in first thing while still fasted, you’ll a) burn more fat as in a fasted state, b) will feel lighter and more energetic to work harder, and c) you’ll speed up your metabolism for the rest of the day (and those treats, if you really do want to indulge!). I tend to try and get a workout or run in in the morning, before everyone else wakes and starts distracting me, and then I feel good about myself for the rest of the day (and am much more pleasant to be around as a result too)!
- Wait with alcohol until late afternoon/ evening, as once one has started to drink, you’ll be more likely to overeat, throw any caution out of the wind. Often we also then keep drinking, and instead of having 1 or 2 glasses with dinner, it can end up being a whole lot more if spread over the entire afternoon AND evening.
- Eat until you’re about 3/4 full, then wait 20 minutes- have a little break and speak with family members, etc, and see if you are still really wanting that second serving – if you do, ok sure, go for it. (Just remember maybe skip the next meal instead – overall calories still count).
- If there’s a meal that you simply adore, but that’s ‚unhealthy‘ – have it, and just cut down on other foods/calories before and after! And make sure to enjoy it without guilt!
How about you?
What are your favourite tricks? How do you go about the festive season, do you decide to just go all out and eat and drink whatever is being put in front of you, and then deal with the effects after, or will you try some of above tricks?
I’d love to hear in the comment section below!
HI, I'M MIRTHE
It is my goal to empower you to become the CEO of your health trajectory, preventing and optimising with precision and science backed strategies to live your best life & thrive.