I love the holidays. Although there is Christmas buzz everywhere you go, everything also seems so much quieter. There are fewer things open, no deadlines to worry about, and a pull to just snuggle in with the family on snowy days. And of course, my other favourite part: consuming copious amounts of delicious food.
Unfortunately, all of the indulging can often lead to a feeling of full-until-it-hurts, and the infamous food (or other) hangover the next morning. So how can you indulge without losing sight of your goals or feeling like you have to deprive yourself for weeks, post-Christmas? Well, with these challenges in mind, I decided to share my tips for surviving the holidays without sacrificing your waistline:
1. Backload your day
This is my favourite trick of the season. If I know I have a holiday event in the evening or afternoon, I will plan my meals accordingly. This might mean a light breakfast that is higher in protein and fats (knowing I will be having a meal wuite high in carbohydrates later), or I may even remain in a fasted state until late morning or lunch, if that feels right. Fasting during the first half of the day not only sets you to eat more in the evening, but it also puts your blood sugar in a good position for eating more insulin-inducing foods (think shortbread, assorted chocolates, and sausage rolls. Oh my). These practices can also support your energy levels. By keeping sugar low during the first part of the day, you encourage healthy cortisol levels (providing energy), and limit your insulin response. Later in the day, when you are indulging in some yummy holiday treats, cortisol levels decrease as insulin levels are heightened. This is also helpful for our hormone levels, as the pattern supports a natural sleep cycle. Have you ever noticed how you become a bit sluggish after a large meal? That’s the power of a high insulin response. So keeping insulin levels low in the morning, can help aid in supporting a natural sleep cycle. Ultimately saving your calories for the afternoon/evening will allow you to really enjoy the holiday treats without worrying about limiting yourself.
2. Find time for activity
So you ate until you couldn’t move last night and washed it down with four glasses of eggnog. So what? You had a blast and laughed with friends and family until your sides hurt. Sounds like an evening well spent. But now is a really awesome opportunity to put that food to work. Once you awake from your food coma, engage in some resistance training. You might as well turn those carbs into muscle, am I right? You are stocked up on glycogen stores and your body can use those to help you hit new PRs. I like to focus on large muscle groups on these days (such as legs or back) to ensure I get the biggest bang for my buck. I will also incorporate some full-body movements, just because… it can’t hurt. My bet is you have a great workout!
3. Show you body's systems some love when you can
After a bit of an indulgent meal, I like to fill the following day with lots of detoxifying foods, like lemon and greens. In fact, I generally start my morning with a green smoothie, incorporating lots of mixed greens (or greens powder) and lemon juice, usually with a fruit of some sort. Grab my free smoothie guide here to get your hands on some fresh recipes! Get lots of vegetables in during the rest of the day, and drink plenty of water and herbal teas so encourage your body to move things along…
4. Ditch the crap
It never fails that, during the holidays, my counter top and refrigerator become filled with a variety of Christmas treats. But let’s be honest: there’s enough of these items at the 17 get-togethers we all inevitably have (other than in the year 2020). So get rid of the extras. There’s no need to pick at a plate of Aunt Carol's traditional Christmas baked goods every day of the week (sorry, Aunt Carol). Save the treats for social gatherings and your regular diet the rest of the time. I may keep my favourite dark chocolate in the freezer, but I usually chuck the rest after a day or two. I have a sweet tooth myself, and definitely don’t need Christmas cookies taunting me 24-7, because I know overindulging doesn't make me feel well. I become low-energy and foggy. So you can wait until Boxing Day or January 1st for the traditional trashing-of-the-treats, but I recommend just doing it now. You’ll be thankful you did.
Last but not least: enjoy. The Christmas season comes around once a year. There is no reason why yours should be filled with endless moments of temptation, post-binge guilt, and social gathering avoidance (again.. unless it's 2020). Set yourself up for success using the tips listed above, and enjoy time spent with family and friends, while eating delicious meals. Food is one of the great pleasures in life. Why deprive yourself of something so wonderful? I am a huge proponent of balance, and believe that the holidays are meant to be enjoyed, whatever that may mean for you. So indulge. Eat and drink until your heart desires, but plan accordingly and put strategies in place that allow you to do so with minimal damage.
From my family to yours, happy celebrating, and Merry Christmas!
Dave and I at our own family Christmas celebration. Matching by accident, I swear.