Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. Family, friends, celebrations…ridiculous jumpers – what’s not to love? It’s the time of year we all give in to temptation and forget about the consequences of our eating, drinking and activity choices. We put so much pressure on ourselves year round to eat well and exercise regularly that it can be utter bliss to let it all go for a couple of weeks.
I never underestimate the value of occasional treats.
A treat is something that we know is bad for us in excess, but if enjoyed occasionally and in moderation treats can have very positive effects. It implies a mindful and healthy lifestyle context. You know what’s healthy and what’s not, and you stick to healthy choices most of the time. Giving in to temptation can be extremely satisfying and enjoyable, and this can actually help us maintain the discipline to stay healthy in the long term. Treats should be a fun and healthy part of life.
The Christmas and New Year period, on the other hand, can seem more like a mountain of treats laid out before us that we are powerless to resist, until the treats turn into torture! As you get further into the season’s festivities how soon do you find yourself casting aside common sense and piling more and more pressure on the (n)ever miraculous New Year’s Resolution?
By changing our approach slightly and making some better choices I know we can all enjoy everything that’s great about Christmas without digging a hole too deep to climb out of come January.
Here are my top five holiday health mistakes:
1. One bad apple spoils the whole barrel.
Just because you over-indulge one day doesn’t mean you have to lose all self-control until the New Year. Take it one day at a time. You can treat yourself and indulge without over-indulging at every given opportunity. There are plenty of opportunities for that, and there’ll be plenty more.
2. It’s okay…January gym and detox!
This attitude piles on unnecessary pressure onto New Year’s Resolutions, and makes us feel even more guilty when we inevitably can’t live up to our perfect future fantasy selves. My advice is not to make resolutions at all. As long as you return to your healthy lifestyle with less frequent treats there is probably no need to make resolutions. If your lifestyle wasn’t healthy in the first place don’t hide behind a future resolution – learn how to make the improvements you want to make and make the changes now, it’s still okay to treat yourself!
3. Caving into peer pressure.
If you don’t judge other people’s decisions they have no right to judge yours. By saying no when you’ve had enough and sticking by the choices that are right for you, you may even inspire a healthier approach in your friends and family.
4. Tasty treats have to be bad for you.
Healthy food is not some kind of punishment to be inflicted (or self-inflicted) on the overweight. Some of the tastiest meals, snacks and desserts can be seriously healthy, or at the very least not seriously bad for you. If you stick to real food (i.e. stuff you can identify in nature, or stuff that has an ingredients list you can actually understand!) and avoid processed foods with additives such as sugar and salt you don’t need to worry so much about calories and carbs and fat while you’re treating yourself. There are loads of amazing resources on the internet for creating delicious feasts from natural ingredients, and swapping some of the worst offenders for healthier but no-less-tasty options. Get creative and try something new – just try to keep it simple with high quality ingredients.
5. Christmas comes but once a year.
Well, yes…it does, and we should make the most of it. But how long it lasts is up to us. It’s all too easy with the temptations of work parties and social lives to skip your sports and fitness activities, and write off the whole month of December. If you think of Christmas as a couple of days of real indulgence in a normal month you can limit the damage and truly look forward to a healthy new year. If you absolutely can’t escape the endless festivities you’ll have to be a little creative in finding ways to fit in your exercise at different times. Even fitting in three minutes of mobilisation exercises in the morning and evening can help keep you limber and better prepared to get back to your usual routine when the social life allows. And if you’re planning the parties (whether for work, family or friends) why not include some element of fun movement in the event. Merry ping pong anyone?