Christmas is almost upon us and there’s a choice to be made: sloth and excess or quality fare and restorative downtime.
Most of my clients lose weight or hold steady over the Christmas period. But how do they do it? Each of them is different so we tend to have a personalised programme but here are a few hot tips:
The planners win out, every single time (see The P-word). Christmas will be less of a free-for-all if you make the time to look ahead: plan what you’ll eat (think quality not quantity), plan your treats (mostly non-food/drink) and plan your exercise (look for slots to squeeze in a walk, diarise any classes/swims etc). We’ve heard it all before but it really is true: fail to plan, and plan to fail.
Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full
This is a such a powerful tool and can be a real game-changer (see NB’s story here). Tune into whether you genuinely need food or not and then eat when fairly hungry rather than ravenous… ravenous is a recipe for overeating and poor choices. By the same token, stop when you are comfortably full… you can always go back for more if you’re hungry later. As one client so beautifully put it: chuffed not stuffed! More on leaving food on your plate and approaching special occasions differently here.
Such an old-fashioned piece of advice, this is incredibly important. Chewing starts off the digestive process (by physically breaking up the food in your mouth and mixing it with the enzymes in your saliva), slows down your eating and helps to extract nutrients. Remember that it takes around 20 minutes for the message to get through from your stomach to your brain that you are full… remember too that you can wolf down a lot of extra food in those 20 minutes if you’re not chewing properly.
Protein helps us to feel fuller for longer, keeps hunger at bay, revs up our metabolism and loses 20-30% of its calories during digestion. It also helps to stabilise blood sugar when eaten with carbs so aim to include it every time you eat, especially at breakfast (eggs, yoghurt, meat, cheese, nuts) to set you up for the day.
Less is more – unless we’re talking about starchy and non-starchy vegetables! Christmas will bring any number of sugary temptations, choose to fill up elsewhere and save the odd temptation as a treat.
Fruit & veg
Eat loads! More veg/salad than fruit, and as much green as you can. As a rough guide, fill half your plate with vegetables whenever possible.
Drink plenty of water (aim for clear or straw-coloured pee please), and alternate any alcoholic drinks with water. Be aware that fizzy drinks are loaded with high-fructose corn syrup which is hard for the liver to process so it gets stored as fat around the middle.
Make the most of any bright and sunny days… just dry days even! Tempting as it is to loaf around inside, plan to get out and about. Catch up with family members and friends for walks, be they out in the countryside or as a tourist in your own town.
If you’re lucky enough to have a fitness tracker in your Christmas stocking, then don’t hold back. Start with step-counting, it’s a great way to get instant feedback as to how active you are… or not. There’s plenty of research into pedometers but the bottom line is that anything below 5,000 steps qualifies as sedentary, 7,500 is fairly active and 10,000+ counts as active. If you want to take things further and hit the dizzy heights of very active, then go for 12,500+.
Be sure to get plenty. Sleep is cropping up repeatedly in research into weight loss, obesity, diabetes and health in general, and the NHS tells us that adults need six to nine hours a night for good health. Some of my clients have benefitted from reducing the amount of screen time they have in the evening, having a warm bath at least an hour before bed (with added lavender oil), drinking chamomile or sleep-promoting herbal tea and going to bed/getting up at roughly the same time each day.
Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, which means that many of us will be taking the full ten days. With quality not quantity in mind, go in with a plan, be mindful around hunger and seize the day… the whole ten days in fact!