101: Maintain your health and fitness in the silly season

Image of weights and christmas decorations
Barbara Wilson
Sun 08 Dec

Yes, the festive season is upon us! The chaos has already erupted in shopping centres: Christmas decorations and treats galore. Puddings, mince pies, shortbread, candy canes, turkey, alcoholic beverages and all the rest. It is not only the time of shopping, giving, receiving,  celebrating with family and friends but it’s also the time of overindulging ... a little too much.

Try and not let it impede your life and exercise routine.

I was shocked to read a newspaper report which indicated: an unhealthy Christmas of over-eating, over-drinking and zero exercise was catastrophic for your health and life. A medical journal outlined that this behaviour at any time of the year was serious, but there is a definitive increase of said behaviour during the Christmas period. On average Australians gain 0.8-1.5kg over the Christmas period. It may not sound like much but research has established this weight is hardly ever lost. Studies have revealed weight gained during this period is usually around the mid section. This can lead to a greater risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Well, its definitely not the time where we munch on a carrot stick is it? But, the only thing that should be stuffed during this time is the turkey and not you!

So here's the 101 on maintaining your snack like appearance over the Christmas period.

Buffet etiquette: 

  • Select the smaller plate at the buffet - then you can try an assortment of foods in moderation.
  • Try foods like vegetables, sushi, fruits, grains, quiches, sandwiches, fruit salads, hummus, avocado dips, vegetable sticks, etc.
  • Limit the pies, sausage rolls, chips, cakes, slices, creamy dips etc (i.e. processed foods). 

Studies indicate that when we are exposed to smaller portions we consume about 15 percent less. Never overload your plate. Recent research suggests that we consume around 3,000 calories at our Christmas day feast.The interesting thing is that it takes the brain a while to register we are FULL! So, relax and enjoy your food slowly. Enjoy and pace yourself by eating slowly - this isn’t only good for your digestion but it takes 15-20 minutes for your body to register its fullness.

Work events and functions:

  • Don’t attend functions or events hungry. Eat before and be well hydrated so you don’t head straight to the deep-fried foods or the shortbread or the pudding with custard, or the most dasterdly of things: the champagne!
  • Enter into a conversation first up. Let yourself be distracted and social first. 
  • Don’t just hang at the buffet table grazing and grazing and grazing. Move away from the buffet table people!

Whilst in the kitchen (the hidden danger zone):

  • Watch the picking or grazing when you are in the kitchen cooking. Ever thought, what you eat in the kitchen doesn't count? Trust me, it does!
  • Wait to enjoy the meal with the rest of your family and friends. 

The booze:

Drinking 1 or 2 standard drinks may add to the festive events, but over-consuming can lead to weight gain. Watch the booze - and a great tip: a US Professor who studies nutritional science revealed that people pour 20-30% more alcohol into wide, short tumblers than long slender glasses. Go the longer, slender glasses - and watch the refills.

If you decide to have a drink (and you don’t have to drink at every function you attend!) watch the servings sizes. Watch the top ups as it makes it difficult to ascertain how many you have had. Alternate with water or another non alcoholic drink.

Being hydrated and staying hydrated is easy to forget. Remind yourself to drink water. Remember they do have water at these functions. Water will help with digestion and recovery. Avoid mixing drinks: mixing drinks will only make you fell worse the next day. Rehydrate particularly as its summer. Watch the surgery drinks - not just soft drinks but sugary alcoholic mixed drinks. This is where learning to read food labels is a must.

Exercise:

Some gyms are still open during the festive season but some may have reduced times. However: the beach, walkways and the park are all still open! Check out social media for family-oriented sports events to attend during this time. Stay active!

Try to stick to your fitness routine or training timetable as scheduled if you can. It should be part of your lifestyle. Don't let events stop you from your fitness goals and routines. Swap sessions: start early or train later in the day or evening. Remember its better to so something, anything, than doing nothing at all. Set aside some time every day for training. It can be walking, yoga, swimming, weights…Get your metabolism going. Its summer - play outdoor cricket with family and friends, throw a frisbee in the park, fly a kite at the beach, body board in the surf, bike ride….

When I’m on holidays my day always starts with a walk. Its great to become orientated and to explore your holiday location. Take your partner, take the kids, walk the dog. So many things to see, discover and do. Use the holiday destination facilities such as the gym, hire the tennis court for a game of tennis, go hiking, do the resort orienteering course, join the morning aqua aerobics class. Adapt and change with your new surroundings.

Sleep (it's more important than you think!):

Get enough sleep at this crazy time of the year. We all know its part of a healthy body and mind, along with maintaining positive stress levels. The interesting thing is that if your over stressed then this produces cortisol which can affect how you digest food. Try and relax during this time - I know its hard but extremely important. ‘Tis the season to be jolly’ but it’s a time of high stress too. Christmas shopping, cooking the turkey, relatives coming to stay, cleaning the house, high spending, the endless to do lists. Sound familiar? Laugh. Yes, laugh, so what? If everything is not perfect, who cares? Is anyone perfect? It’s one day!

Also, getting sick at Christmas does happen as we travel around. Colds! Minimise these by eating well, drinking well and sleeping well. Make your immune system strong.

Don’t forget to eat your fruits! Tis the season of watermelon, rockmelon and mango. Add fruit platters for your guests and you. Always have a fruit bowl ready on the kitchen bench.

'Tis the season to be nice:

Also, tis the season to be nice. Smile, sing those carols, give to someone in need. Visit your neighbours, finally make contact and chat to that person you always see at Monday night boxing. Catch up with your friends. Keep active with your mind too. Card games, monopoly etc. Set up those new gadgets you or kids just got for Christmas.

Final word of warning:

Beware of the leftovers. Have a yogurt, a piece of fruit or a smoothie instead. Keep an eye on how long leftovers have been in the fridge. Recently I read that December is one of the most common months for people to get food poisoning. Minimise risks, don’t leave food out all day. Fridge left over foods asap. Put out small amounts at a time and don’t leave food out all day. Wash your hands before and after food prep and having a meal. 

Team fitness; have a happy festive season. Enjoy this time whether at home, some else’s home, travelling or working. You can eat and maintain your fitness. Just look after your body. 

Happy Christmas!