SHOP THE POST
The holiday season, particularly Christmas, brings joy, celebration, and an abundance of calorific temptation. I’m rather partial to a mince pie washed down with some form of cream liquor myself. I recommend Amarula, a little taste of my homeland (I’m South African if you don’t know), but that isn’t the point of this post! Helping you find new ways to continually overindulge is the polar opposite of the message I’m trying to portray but I’m not suggesting cancelling Christmas either!
So, what am I saying? Let’s begin by addressing the elephant in the room! The aftermath of the festive excess often leaves many of us, especially women, facing challenges related to weight gain and a struggle to regain motivation to get back to healthier habits. Understanding why weight gain occurs during Christmas, acknowledging the post-festivity motivation dip, and adopting a strategic and mindful approach to our behaviour throughout will leave us in a far better place when we reach the New Year.
Why We Gain Weight Over Christmas
The festive period is synonymous with indulgence. I don’t know about you but I don’t have the willpower not to succumb to all the culinary temptations and regularly overconsume. Most events and gatherings I attend revolve around food and wine, making it easy to lose track of portion sizes and to make unbalanced nutritional choices. Additionally, the cold weather makes it far less likely I will leave the house, as I grew up in South Africa and crave heat – these single-digit temperatures are not for me! This more sedentary winter lifestyle also means I am burning less fuel or calories.
Post-Festivity Motivation Dip
Once everything is over, the anti-climax sets in and whether you want to admit it or not most of us have developed a mild sugar dependency. I now need to find the motivation to kick the habit and transition from sedentary to active. It’s always easier said than done. The transition from the festive, carefree atmosphere to the routine of everyday life can be mentally and emotionally taxing, leading to a reluctance to engage in physical activity and make mindful dietary choices.
Better Preparation for the Christmas Period
A key strategy to mitigate the challenges women face after the excess of Christmas is better preparation. Instead of waiting until January to kickstart a healthy lifestyle, adopting proactive measures during the holiday season can set the stage for a smoother transition into the New Year. Planning balanced meals, incorporating healthier alternatives to traditional recipes, and maintaining regular exercise routines during the festive period can help prevent excessive weight gain. This will also help you to wear all your festive season outfits with more confidence.
What I’m doing
For starters don’t beat yourself up when you do overindulge. It doesn’t help you! Something I’m trying this year is to accept that when I attend events or parties I will consume a few too many calories. On the days around those events, I will attempt to eat a little less than usual to offer some form of counterbalance.
Here’s my ‘very scientific’ strategy!
I choose to look at my calorie consumption in terms of the week or a 10 day period as a whole.
For example, let’s look at the average female daily maintenance calories at around 2,000. If I eat 1 500 calories on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, that allows me an extra 1 500 calories on Friday. That gives me a guilt-free 3,500 to eat freely and enjoy a couple of festive drinks.
It prevents the negative emotion attached to having a ‘bad day’ by helping me to keep perspective. It also prevents the downward spiral which causes you to give up altogether and adopt the dangerous ‘who cares it’s Christmas’ mindset.
HERE ARE A FEW OTHER EASY IDEAS TO HELP YOU STAY ON TRACK THROUGHOUT THE FESTIVE PERIOD:
Short, Easy-to-Follow At-Home Exercise
I’ve given an approximate calorie output for each but the most important thing is to try to remain active in some way. Retaining this habit will help with energy levels and motivation at the end of the festive period.
- Bodyweight Workouts: Engage in simple yet effective bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, and planks to maintain muscle tone. (Approximately 150 calories for 20 minutes) – Try this
- HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training): Incorporate short bursts of high-intensity exercises followed by brief periods of rest to boost metabolism and burn calories efficiently. This really gets the heart rate up, so this is sensibly reserved for those with a higher level of cardiovascular fitness. (Approximately 100 calories for every 10 minutes.) – Try this
- Yoga or Pilates: Focus on flexibility and core strength through Yoga or Pilates sessions, providing a mindful approach to exercise. (30 minutes of yoga is roughly 100-200 calories.) Try this YouTube account – Click here for beginner yoga
- Brisk Walks: Take advantage of the crisp winter air with brisk walks, promoting cardiovascular health. (A 30-minute walk is around 150 calories back in the bank!)
SHOP THE POST
Again for reasons already discussed, there will be days when you allow yourself to cast aside your worries and indulge. I know I will be! These tips will help to mitigate the excess and have some healthy habits already in place after the festivities.
- Whole Foods: Prioritise whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains to maximise nutritional intake. For carbohydrates, I’ll be eating more potatoes and rice and less pasta and noodles. I also stay away from sauces in a jar, as they contain huge amounts of sugar and additives.
- Hydration: Drink an adequate amount of water daily to support metabolism and overall well-being. A simple habit I follow is a glass of water with a meal or alcoholic drink.
- Mindful Eating: Pay attention to portion sizes and savour each bite, allowing the body to signal fullness. As somebody who suffered from an eating disorder when I was younger, I have trained my brain to recognise when I am overeating and to never deny myself when I’m hungry. My goal is to maintain a balanced approach.
- Limit Added Sugars: Limit the consumption of sugary treats and beverages, opting for natural sweeteners like honey or fresh fruits. I am setting myself a maximum of one mince pie per day this year! It sounds like a small goal but I swear they alone have caused me to gain an entire clothing size in years gone by!
- Meal Prep: Prepare balanced meals in advance to avoid impulsive and unhealthy food choices during the holiday season. Or, as I do, get my husband to do it!
- Don’t beat yourself up: Something I’m trying this year is to accept that when I’m attending events I will overindulge a little. If you are forming other good habits they will counteract these days somewhat. And besides all of that, denying and punishing yourself is simply not in the best interests of your mental well-being.
Most of all, enjoy yourself!
As I hope you can see, I’m not suggesting you cancel Christmas. I will be celebrating guilt-free! This strategy is about minimising anxiety and negative self-talk by controlling the things you can.
Choosing a proactive and balanced approach to health during the festive period not only helps minimise weight gain but also sets the foundation for sustainable habits in the new year. I don’t know about you but I hate crash diets with a passion!
Remember, the key is not perfection but progress. Small, consistent changes can lead to significant long-term benefits, way beyond January!
All that remains is for me to wish you well over the party season! Enjoy!
Let me know if you found this helpful. I’d love to hear your thoughts.