How to Enjoy the Christmas Season Without Gaining Weight
By Shauna Reid
Once upon a time, Christmas was all about giving. Giving up on my diet, that is.
The feasting began when the first giant tin of chocolates arrived in the office, then dragged on 'til mid-January when my jeans wouldn't zip up.
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It's hard to stay on track this time of year, whether you're maintaining or trying to lose weight. So many parties, so many mince pies! How do you let your hair down without winding up a lardy ball of regret by New Year?
I used to think it was an impossible dream . .
But after years of practice, (and the small matter of losing over 12 stone) I think I've finally got a healthy Christmas cracked.
Let me share my strategies...
Forget about losing weight
I aim to maintain, but don't panic if I put on a pound or two. Why? I love Christmas and I love food.
I tried to abstain in the past - declining party invites, vowing to eat steamed sprouts and turkey while my family scoffed the good stuff.
Or I'd go to the other extreme, giving myself an 'all you can eat' licence in December, because of course I'd start over in January!
Neither of these tactics ever worked.
"Just one more crisp before the bells!" I'd say at 11.59PM on New Years Eve. Then the champagne would come out and I'd renegotiate:
"I'll start again at midday!"
It was actually changing the all or nothing mindset that allowed me to come up with a healthier ways to cope.
Plan, plan, plan
I study my calendar like a war General. Every social event is a battle and you need a strategy! What food will be there? What temptations will you encounter? How will you deal with them?
Example: The office party
- Eat huge bowl of porridge for breakfast to line stomach.
- Examine menu in advance and choose the most veggie-laden option.
- Alternate boozy drinks with water.
- If tempted to eat more than I need, get up on the dance floor!
Example: Boxing Day lunch at the in-laws'
- Volunteer to be designated driver to avoid guzzling the port.
- Practice saying, that was delicious but I'll pass on seconds, thanks!
- Book a gym class for next day to get the endorphins buzzing as soon as possible.
Make a list
I'm too old to write to Santa but I do write a list of my favourite festive foods.
I get honest and think about what really makes my tastebuds sing. Home made walnut sticky toffee Christmas cake? Totally worth it. Cheap and nasty choc-covered peanuts in the office? Not worth the calories.
It may sound dorky but this detailed thinking makes me more aware of my choices and helps prevent mindless grazing of food I don't really fancy.
So just say you really love plum pudding, plan to have a fat wedge of it with lashings of custard - but don't spoil it by nibbling on stale crisps or three extra potatoes beforehand.
Let the anticipation build. Take your time and savour every morsel.
I treat Christmas food shopping like any other week of the year: I plan my meals and buy only what I need.
I'm a long-time fan of online grocery shopping and it's even better at Christmas. I have to be organised and book a delivery slot a few weeks in advance, but I feel smug knowing I won't be elbowing my way through aisles of tempting treats and last-minute turkey hunters.
I also order ingredients for the first few days after Christmas so I can get back to normal right away.
I used to buy extra food at Christmas "just in case somebody pops around” - even when I first moved the UK and only knew six people in the entire country!
But let's be honest - when I buy too much food I feel compelled to polish it off, "so it doesn't go to waste".
The supermarkets only close for one day - there's no need to fill the trolley like the world is about to end.
Exercise portion control
Among the treats on my Christmas list is Terry's Chocolate Orange. I could happily munch the whole "fruit" on my own but now I buy one only if there's at least one other person to share it with.
It pains me to part with those precious segments but I know it's for the best!
No matter how many parties are on I make sure to exercise regularly. As well as a great hangover cure, it helps counter any extra calories.
It also reminds me of how great it feels to be fit, so my healthy goals stay bubbling in the back of my mind when faced with a Christmas buffet.
My sister and I have started a new tradition of a brisk hour's walk before breakfast on Christmas Day.
Sure, we drink champagne and eat bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese afterwards - but it's all about balance, right?
Happy holidays, everyone!
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