5 Tips for a healthy Christmas season

Health and Fitness
The Christmas season is such a wonderful time of the year! It’s more than just one day, it’s weeks of summer excitement and relaxation – whatever you’d prefer.

Holidays, the beach, family meals, day trips, new year parties… I love that there is always something fun happening and always something good to eat. I also love the freedom and hope of knowing that the past year is behind me and the best is yet to come.

A number of years ago, right at the beginning of my career, I was working in a weight loss centre. My boss at the time had a big sign made up that read,“Christmas is a holiday from your work, not your health”. This was placed up on the wall right at the entrance to the centre where the members could see it clearly every time they came to visit. I really connected to the idea of that statement.

Every time the silly season comes around I remember that just because it’s ‘Christmas’, it doesn’t mean I have to become a couch potato and eat every food in sight. 

In the years when I’ve done that, it’s left me returning to work feeling sluggish, bloated and my pants a little tight.

I would have such a large break from my exercise over the holidays that I struggled to find the motivation to get back into it and before I knew it I was back into the swing of life, working and parenting with ‘no time’ on my hands to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Does this sound like you too?

These days, I have a different perspective on Christmas holidays. This is my chance to get back into good habits. Yes, I enjoy good food and relaxation, but this is the time of the year when work and volunteer commitments are taking a break and when life, for me, FINALLY slows down!

I like to take the opportunity of having more time to get back into running if I’ve started to get slack, write up some meal plans and try some new recipes for the family, and my favourite, engage in family activities that involve moving our bodies. Walks, bike rides, swimming, bush walking, rock climbing, running under a sprinkler or kicking a ball around at the oval are all fun, bonding things we can do this holiday season to stay active and unwind, all at the same time.

Here are my 5 tips for making the most of the holiday season:

1. Set realistic new year’s resolutions

Some people believe that resolutions are a waste of time. I disagree. Better to aim for 100 and get 50 then aim for nothing and get nothing. I like to think about the year ahead, what I’d like to achieve and how I’m going to achieve it. However, in years gone by I’ve been too ambitious with my resolutions, striving to change nearly every area of my life. It’s been unrealistic and I’ve often given up by two or three weeks in. My desire for perfection actually stifles any long-term habits that I seek to build. I now know better and my new year’s resolutions are less about striving for perfection and more about setting myself up for success.

2. Try a new sport or activity

During your time off, why not give something a go that you’ve never tried before. You might really enjoy swimming but how would you know if you don’t try it? Maybe you should take the family out to the bush and go for a hike through the national parks or get a group of friends together to play football or another team sport. Maybe it’s just as simple as getting out of bed in the morning and making the time to put on your sneakers and take a brisk walk in the refreshing morning air. You might even like it!

3. 'Waste not, want not' is a myth

Don’t be afraid of throwing excess food away. For some of us growing up, throwing away perfectly good food is a carnal sin and just isn’t done. Let me offer an opinion. Whether you throw out food or just eat it, you are wasting it. How, I here you say? Well… it’s either wasted in the bin or it’s wasted on your bottom. I know where I’d rather it go, and it’s not my bottom. Eating food just because it’s there will not be good for your health and will result in those few extra kilos making that top button on your favourite pair of jeans a little harder to do up.

The aftermath of Christmas and the many social gatherings that occur is oodles of leftover food, drink, chocolate and snacks. Be mindful about what food is left around and if you need to, throw it in the bin or if you truly can’t stand doing that, give it away.

4. Don’t detox

One of the most common things health conscious people like to do after their Christmas/New Year feast and booze up is detox. There is no scientific research to back up this kind of dieting and in some cases, it can be dangerous. Don’t detox, just get back into making healthy food choices again – if you need help to know what this means, use your time off to check in with a qualified nutrition professional and get some good advice.

5. Drink water regularly

There is research to suggest that people who drink 500ml of water before a meal consume less energy than those who don’t. This is a great way to curb your appetite slightly and also ensure you don’t wake up with a nasty hangover from dehydration. A good tip is to alternate an alcoholic drink with a glass of water throughout the night. This will keep you both hydrated and cohesive.

I’d like to wish everyone at HRI and their loyal supporters a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I look forward to chatting about healthy eating and nutrition advice more in 2017.
Kate Freeman is HRI's resident nutritionist. She is a Registered Nutritionist from Canberra, Australia and the creator and managing director of Canberra's largest private nutrition practice in Canberra, The Healthy Eating Hub. Kate Freeman consults, writes, presents and mentors in the field of nutrition and has over 10 years of experience in the industry. 

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