by Liberty Stembridge, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 1st December, 2018
It's not uncommon to find the holiday season an unusually difficult time to stick to your diet. Many of us successfully transition to a healthier diet and feel better for it, but trip up when it comes to christmas and thanksgiving. For a lot of people, this is not only demoralizing, but sets them on a path of returning permanently to their bad eating habits.
Unhealthy eating is particularly normalized and glorified during the holiday season, with pictures of roasts and mince pies, cakes and alcohol plastered across shop windows. The colder weather makes us want to cuddle up inside with a hot chocolate, and the presence of friends and family encourages us to eat and drink more than we usually would. All of these factors make it much more difficult than usual to stick to a healthy diet, which is usually quite difficult as it is.
If you're looking to have a healthy holiday season, the most important step you can take is to try and find healthier alternatives for unhealthy foods. This might take a bit of home-cooking or looking around, but they are there. Homemade mince pies are considerably healthier than store bought ones, especially if you use a sugar-free recipe, and there are plenty of ways you can make your christmas or thanksgiving dinner healthier by looking online for recipes. Stores are also starting to catch on, with retailers like Whole Foods starting to provide healthier christmas alternatives.
Having a healthy attitude towards your food is vital all year round. It's easy to feel guilty when we "slip up" during the holidays, but that's not fair to ourselves. The holidays are about eating good food and being with family, so if there's ever a time to eat a little more unhealthy food than you usually would, this is it. Being kind to yourself will ultimately serve you a lot better in the long run than beating yourself up every time you accept a mince pie at the office.
We often associated christmas and thanksgiving with stuffing our faces and then lying on the couch for hours, unable to move because we're just too full. Overeating can make us feel sick and bloated for days, and really doesn't do your digestive system any favours. If we're doing it regularly it often leads to weight gain and fatigue, resulting in us doing less exercise, and this turns into a vicious cycle. Of course, over eating every once in a while is not going to kill you, but try to limit it as much as possible during the holiday season.
Making food yourself is not only very rewarding, but also often a lot healthier. Look up some healthier recipes to your favourite holiday dishes. It might take some more time, but ultimately you will feel better and healthier for it.
When it comes time for those big family meals, try your best to lean more towards the fruits and veggies. Load up your plate with brussel sprouts, potatoes, greens and more. Christmas dinner doesn't have to be unhealthy!
More and more researching is showing that how you eat your food is equally if not more important than what you eat. It can improve your metabolism, prevent snacking, promote healthy eating and keep you fuller for longer.
Making a conscious effort to control your portions, pay attention to what you're eating (ie, no looking at your phone while eating) and practicing gratitude for the food you eat have all been shown to contribute to a healthier relationship with food.
For most places in the northern hemisphere, the holiday period is a time of gloom, darkness and cold. Naturally then, it's easy to skip out on the exercise. Getting up for a run at 6AM is difficult enough when it's light out, even more so when it's pitch black and freezing. If you can, try and sign up for a local gym or start trying indoor workouts with at-home weights. You're much more likely to exercise if you don't have to suffer the weather to do it.
Try as much as possible to keep up a good exercise routine, no matter how many christmas parties stand in your way. Regular exercise doesn't just keep you in good shape, but it's great for your mental health too (which you might need for when extended family visits).
Alcoholic drinks might seem innocent enough, but they're often full of sugar, and the sugar + alcohol combination can be disastrous for your health if consumed too often. If you're trying to stay healthier during the holidays, resist the urge to have that extra glass of mulled wine and find an alternative instead.
Staying healthy during the holidays shouldn't be a stressful experience, but unfortunately it often is. Pressure from the media makes us feel like we need to be losing weight and staying as healthy as possible, while simultaneously telling us to buy a wide variety of "unhealthy" christmas foods. Christmas time is a time for fun and family, and at the end of the day, you're not going to remember if you put on a few pounds over one winter but you're much more likely to remember that incredible christmas dinner you had. Don't let yourself get caught up in the hype, so long as you're not damaging your body, you should be fine!