Food, Fitness and Fun

It is time for all those parties, events, & foods that play havoc with both our usual routine and our waistlines. The average person gains about 2-3 kilograms over the Christmas period, and the media tells us there is no escaping our forthcoming excesses – but is there really no way to avoid undoing the last 11 months of good work?

We could be cynical and say that this is quite deliberate so that come January we will be buying products, books & magazines that promise instant and easy weight loss.  So, let’s be realistic – we are probably not going to lose any weight over the period, but we can certainly aim to keep the status quo by adopting a few sensible principles:

Diary Planner:

Make a list of all social events from early December onwards, including plans over the Christmas and New Year period. This will show how different this period will be from the normal routine. Denote the following:

  • Days or events where eating or drinking out, highlighting those with large amounts of (free) food and drink available, and easy to go to excess. Additionally, mark the days before and after as priority time for balancing out the impact of these events.

  • Days you plan to exercise and/or get to the gym, and what you plan to do. Additionally, mark days the gym is closed, and between Christmas and New Year, make a plan to get some physical activity – even if just daily walk (particularly beneficial after large meals)

  • Remember that between Christmas & New Year you are likely to use less energy than usual – no trips to/from work, less gym, more time at home, more television, more time with friends & family – so your body has a reduced energy need.

Party Preparation:

Plan to go out and enjoy yourself. Deprivation generates resentment; instead accept that the evening will be one of moderation regardless of what colleagues or friends get up to.

  • Consume a largish snack high in protein, with some slow release carbohydrate and fats, about two hours before. Also drink a few glasses of water.

  • Find a friend or colleague who also plans to have an evening of moderation, agree a plan, and support each other through the evening.

  • If the event clashes with a time where you would normally be in the gym, make an alternative plan for fitting in the gym session.

At the Party:

  • At a buffet, fill half the plate with the likes of chopped carrots, celery, cucumber, tomatoes, and lean protein sources such as chicken drumsticks (skin removed), prawns, lean beef and ham. Avoid French & garlic bread, sausage rolls, quiches, and handfuls of nuts & dried fruits.

  • For drinks, have a glass of water between every alcoholic drink, and set a sensible limit before you go out which you will be able to adhere to. If drinking alcohol stick to the white wine & champagne as these tend to be the lowest in calories.

  • Avoid mulled wine and creamy liquors which are the highest; a cup of eggnog will contain over 300 calories.

Christmas Day & Lunches

The average person consumes the equivalent of 2 to 3 days’ worth of calories on Christmas Day, partly by snacking excessively before & after the big meal. It is these that do the damage rather than the meal; chocolates, nuts, shortbreads, mince pies, crisps etc.

  • Start the day with a filling breakfast, use eggs and some lean cooked meat, as well as some wholemeal toast. Drink plenty of water – brain often mistakes dehydration for hunger, encouraging further snacking

  • The traditional turkey & Brussels sprouts are quite healthy, so fill the plate with these. Minimise the traditional extras of mini sausages wrapped in bacon (approx. 150 calories each), Yorkshire pudding (100 calories), Stuffing & Roast potatoes (each about 200 calories)

  • For other meals out, avoid the breads and pastries for starters and choose a soup, salad, or cold meats. For main meals, avoid the creamy sauces: anything grilled, boiled or steamed is usually a good option, and fill up with green vegetables rather than pastas and rice. Salad is a good choice; though avoid potato salad and a lot of dressing.

  • And be wary of pudding – Cheesecake, fruitcake & Christmas pudding will be approximately 300 calories per slice, and only a little less in each mince pie consumed. The pudding with custard and brandy butter will contain at least 25% of daily energy needs

Shopping:

  • Remember that the shops are only shut for 2 days. Avoid buying excess on the off chance it will be needed  – there is nothing more tempting than excess food sitting at home, our brain starts to use the rationale that ‘it needs finishing’, or ‘it must not be wasted’

  • Avoid buying festively packaged products or ‘Large Christmas Family Packs’; we are usually paying excess just for the packaging, and buying a quantity far in excess of our needs.

  • For any shopping trips, particularly those lengthy ‘days at the sales’, make sure you are well fed and hydrated before you commence – this will reduce the temptation to succumb to fast food whilst shopping.

And Finally:

Above all, enjoy!! Remember if we get our eating regime right about 80% or so of the time, we can enjoy a combination of Food, Fitness, Festivity & Fun….

  • We should plan for a little indulgence, just in moderation. Moderation is far healthier than All or Nothing. If we deprive ourselves whilst everyone else is having fun, we feel resentful.

  • And don’t forget the basics of a good diet – Christmas snacks, foods & the subsequent leftovers certainly give us more than enough protein, carbohydrates and fats but we often leave ourselves of short of the vital vitamins & minerals.

  • Rectify this by aiming to consume fruit & vegetables from all the different colours of the rainbow; aim for 7 to 8 portions per day, and remember sugar coated dried fruit does not count…..

A few more ideas:

  • Plan in some walks with family and friends.

  • Remember that the supermarkets are only shut for 2 days

  • Freeze lots of leftover frozen food rather than feeling obliged to eat it at the time

  • Budget:

    • Retailers know that you are more tempted to buy at this time, and try to shift larger volumes with tempting offers. However, is it really value for money if the ‘free’ amount goes to waste, or if it encourages you to eat in excess of what you need.

    • Things like nuts are often packaged as special festive mixes. You are paying for the packaging for a mix that it is just as easy to make yourself. Buy the standard ingredients at half the price and make the mix yourself

    • Fruit and vegetable costs can be kept reasonable by keeping seasonal. Avoid the exotic, the expensively packaged, the peeled, and the well -travelled. Loose, in season, unprepared and of varying shapes usually provides the best value.

    • In season from the UK or near continent at present are: Brussels sprouts, parsnips, swede, kale, turnips, carrots, onions, winter cabbage, leeks, celeriac, apples & pears

    • However, the one area of indulgence I would recommend is meat – avoid the cheap factory farmed meats – which are fatty and of poor quality, and reared under intensive conditions pumped with antibiotics and growth hormones.

And if you want to put some calorie values on a few of the usual Christmas items; here goes:

Mince Pie, Sausage Roll, Vol au vent, Cup of Eggnog, Glass of Bailey’s, Irish coffee, Glass of wine, Beer, Mulled Wine, Large handful of mixed nuts, Handful of Pringles, Small piece of fudge/chocolate, Slice of cheesecake, Slice of Christmas Cake, Roast Potatoes...