Have you been working hard to get in shape and eat a healthier diet this year? If so, Christmas is likely to be a time of mixed feelings.
On one hand, you want to enjoy yourself and join in fully with the festivities. On the other hand, you've worked hard to establish healthy eating habits, lose excess weight and generally improve your health all year, and you don't want to undo all that good work, or worse, awaken the binge monster within you in a manner that will leave you struggling to get back on the healthy eating wagon, long after Christmas has passed.
Let's get real. Christmas is the one time of year that resistance is futile. There's no point insisting you'll be eating quinoa and kale while everyone else is feasting on yule log, stollen and Christmas pudding. So rather than trying to stick to a healthy diet and then beating yourself up over the five helpings of Christmas cake you had in one sitting, here's how to enjoy Christmas without undoing all your good work.
Don't feast solidly from the week before Christmas until New Year's Day
It may be the festive period, but while one day of overeating won't do anything to your waistline, two weeks of continuous feasting will. Instead, mark out key days where you'll let lose and eat what you want when you want. These days could be your work Christmas party, Christmas Day, Boxing day and New Year's Eve. That doesn't mean you shouldn't have the odd mince pie, slice of cake and glass of champagne on other days, just remember to apply a little moderation.
Eat mindfully on your selected 'splurge' days
We all eat to excess at Christmas. Think back to last Christmas... bet you found yourself continuing to eat long after you were full, felt sick, could no longer taste the food etc. When you reach this point, you need to stop. There's absolutely no point in carrying on: you're not enjoying the food and you're just piling excess calories into your body. Remind yourself the food isn't running away - you can always put some aside to eat later... when you're actually hungry again.
Focus on the foods you really want and pass on the so-so high-calorie foods
No one loves all the foods that appear on the Christmas lunch table, but a feeling of 'life is too short' can drive you to pile your plate high with foods you love and foods you'd never ordinarily look twice at. If you're a sucker for egg nog and chocolate bombe, but don't really care for mince pies and mulled wine, simply say yes to the former and no to latter, rather than having it all. Doing so will cut the calories you eat by half, without affecting your enjoyment level at all.
Serve a little portion first and go back for seconds if you have the urge
Most of us eat to clear our plates, whether we're still enjoying the meal or not. If you start with a small portion and take stock of your hunger or craving levels after you've finished, you can decide if you truly want more or not. Doing this will prevent you from consuming thousands of extra calories that you didn't even enjoy.
Add a little goodness to proceedings
Just because it's a time for enjoyment, doesn't mean that you have to ditch all your good habits. Fit in some exercise where possible (e.g. go for a run on Christmas Eve or go for a long walk after Christmas lunch), start Christmas day with a nutrient-rich breakfast (e.g. a veg-packed omelette) and add any healthy foods you enjoy to your Christmas dinner table.
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