Caitlin Reid explains how to maintain your health without missing out on the things you love or being a party pooper!
21 tips to stay healthy over the festive season
1. P-a-r-t-y wisely
You may have a stack of party invitations but you don’t need to attend them all. Too many of us wear busyness like a badge of honour, when really it just saps our energy. Choose the most important events to attend and only go to these.
2. Sign-up for fitness
Maintain your fitness (and health) throughout December by registering for a fitness event in early 2009. This will motivate you to stay active during the party season.
3. Succeed with salads
US nutritionist Barbara Rolls suggests filling up on low-kilojoule food such as salad to reduce the amount you eat when out.
4. Exchange drinks for kilometres
Make a deal with yourself before you enjoy a drink with friends: for every alcoholic drink you consume, you must walk or run one kilometre the following day. A good incentive not to drink too much!
5. Start eating last
Research shows eating out with seven or more people will see you eat 50% more than if you had eaten on your own. Solve this problem by being the slowest eater – be the last to start eating and the last to stop.
6. Reflect and re-evaluate
The end of the year should be a time to reflect on your achievements throughout 2008 and to conduct a re-evaluation of your goals. This will give you a sense of self-fulfilment, self-worth and purpose, which are both important for a happy and healthy mind.
7. Dance the night away
Put on those dancing shoes! Dancing for one hour burns approximately 1200kJ. Parties can be more than shovelling food and alcohol into your mouth – make it a fun aerobics session with your friends and kids.
8. Be sensible with your weight
December is not the month to focus on weight loss. Focus instead on weight maintenance and you’ll enjoy the festive season without the guilt.
9. Try the slow food revolution
The slow food revolution is about knowing your food – where it has come from and how it is grown. This festive season, head to your local farmers’ markets and stock up on fresh wholefoods.
10. Active catch-up
Nobody said Christmas functions have to revolve around a buffet or a bar, so change your Christmas party to a day of round-robin tennis or even a game of lawn bowls. Get everyone to bring a healthy dish to share.
11. Downsize the plates
Be like Goldilocks and eat off the smallest plate you can find. Research shows the larger the plate, the more food dished up and the more food eaten. If you’re at a buffet, be sure to keep an eye on the serving utensils, too – a larger serving spoon can see you dish up 15% more food that if you had used a smaller spoon.
12. Wear tight clothes
Skinny jeans or other items of clothing that fit you snugly are a great device for avoiding overeating. It’s extremely uncomfortable trying to sit and move in tight clothes when your stomach is almost bursting out. Your waist circumference is also a great indicator of your risk of developing ill health or disease.
13. Cut laps at the shopping centre
Christmas shopping cannot be avoided, so work with it. Throw on the joggers, and pace your way down your shopping list. Bonus points for parking in the furthest spot from the supermarket entrance – in fact, this should be your goal every time you shop.
14. Get enough shut-eye
With all the partying, don’t forget the importance of sleep. Sleep is time for your body to rest and repair, and inadequate sleep can interfere with your internal body clock. Growing research shows a link between a lack of sleep and weight-gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and an increased risk of accidents. Aim for between 7–8 hours sleep each night.
15. Use tall, skinny glasses
Reduce the amount of kilojoules you drink by choosing tall, skinny glasses. A study by Brian Wansink, a US professor in consumer behaviour and nutritional science, found that people pour 20–30% more alcohol into wide, short tumblers than tall slender glasses holding the same volume. Similar results have also been found when pouring breakfast juice.
16. Use (wo)man power
Burn kilojoules in the kitchen by preparing your Christmas meals from scratch. Make your own mince tarts or cranberry sauce. Not only will you burn kilojoules while you cook, you’ll get a fantastic sense of accomplishment and will save money too. For extra fun, involve the whole family.
17. Take some ‘me’ time
Remain sane throughout December by taking time out to relax and revive. Once a week, schedule in some alone time. You’ll feel much better for it.
18. Eat your favourite Christmas foods
Enjoying your favourite Christmas foods is a must! Indulge in the mince tarts, tantalise your taste buds with the trifle and crunch through the crackle. Chocolates, lollies and chips are available all year round so don’t go crazy – limit yourself to 1–2 of your favourites, then leave the rest for someone else.
19. Absorb the fat
If all the finger-food at the party is deep-fried or dripping in oil, grab a few napkins and dab the food dry. Removing some of the excess fat will remove some of the kilojoules, too. Need proof that this works? Have a good look at the napkin when you’re done – all that fat could be in your stomach instead.
20. Be prepared
Go to the party with a plan. Your plan should include the number of drinks you wish to drink, an idea of the food you intend to eat, and the intention of enjoying the company more than the food. You don’t have to be obsessive, but some forward planning can help you manage your weight and control alcohol consumption.
21. Don’t let one bad meal ruin your week
Don’t let one big meal or an over-indulgent party derail your health for the rest of the week (or year!). The key to maintaining good health is to get back on track from the very next meal. If you’ve had a massive lunch, have a salad or omelette for dinner. If you’ve had too much to drink, resist the fry-up for breakfast and get back on track with some wholegrain toast and fruit. One meal isn’t enough to make your clothes tighter, whereas a whole week of bad eating really can have an impact.