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Surviving the festive spread

The January detox is inevitable for most of us but why not kick start your New Year diet by adding less pounds in the first place? Nobody really enjoys dieting and it’s even tougher in January when the long nights and cold days really set in. Comfort food usually seems far more inviting than salad and steamed vegetables.

Balancing your usual healthy habits with the festive season’s delicious indulgence can be easier than you think and may help to keep the stress of a busy social schedule and gift shopping at bay. Here are some tips to help motivate you into a guilt free New Year.

Day to day

Keep exercising! It will be easier to keep the extra pounds from piling on if you keep those calories burning. Opt for short bursts of exertion of around 20 minutes such as getting off the bus a stop earlier, parking further away from shops or taking the stairs to get to work. Studies have shown that several short bursts of exertion have the same effect as longer, less frequent spells of exercise. i

Short bursts of exercise aren’t just good for keeping your weight in check, studies have also shown that 10-20 minutes of regular exercise can result in temporarily improved mood or a reduction in anxiety.

Don’t skip breakfast to treat yourself to sweets later in the day, rather start the day with a good, healthy breakfast. Snack on heavy foods like fruit and vegetables rather than crisps and rice cakes as these will make you feel fuller for longer.

Keep the whole family involved by taking a walk in your local park or heading to the nearest indoor swimming pool. Not only will you squeeze in some exercise, the kids can expel some of the excess energy they got from the extra sweet treats.

If you are planning to travel, build in gentle exercises into your activities. Choose a hotel with a gym and or swimming pool. Try out the classes or find a quiet time to swim a few lengths before tucking into your evening meal.

Far from the madding crowd

Rather than turning around the isles at your local supermarket for pre-packaged festive food, find some recipes for healthier holiday treats and spend some quiet time in the kitchen. Not only will the healthy home-made options be kinder to your waistline, the process of creating and baking may prove more enjoyable than simply eating too much.

Make exercising feel good by choosing activities that are gentler such as Pilates or Yoga. You are more likely to stick to your weekly schedule if you look forward to the sessions. Combine your exercise with extra socialising and invite your friends to join you at your exercise class or pop out for a brisk walk before catching up over a glass of your favourite holiday fizz and warmed sweet treats.

Don’t deny yourself the treats but aim not to over indulge. Take smaller portions of your favourite foods and keep alcoholic drinks at a sensible number.

Boogy Nights

If you are planning on hitting the dance floor for the office Christmas party, dust off those stilettoes as they will give your calves a much better workout than lower wedges and you’ll need better core muscle engagement too. Dancing is a great exercise and will keep those calories burning too.

If you know you are heading out in the evening, make sure you start your day with a good breakfast, something that releases energy slowly such as porridge.

When you’re at a party, eat the canapes or nibbles as they will help you to avoid the late night trip to the chippie on the way home.

Schedule one or two evenings during the week to get an early night during the party season. Sleep issues have been linked with obesity. A study undertaken at the Kaiser Permanente Centre for Health Research in Portland, USA ii showed that those who regularly get 6-8 hours of sleep a night are more likely to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. When lack of sleep is combined with high stress levels, those who participated in the study were about half as likely to be successful at weight loss.

So don’t let exercise drop off the bottom of your festive season schedule, aim to put it at the top of the list as it will help you to accomplish everything else in a much more relaxed and ever indulgent manner.

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