It’s ONE MONTH until Christmas!!! Despite being well on my way to 30, I’m still a massive kid when it comes to Christmas! I love the family feel, the music, the silly films… everything! Much to Jonny’s dismay, I usually wake up at about 4am on Christmas day as I get too excited to sleep (I think my parents were quite relieved when I moved out). Whether or not you celebrate/like Christmas, this time of the year can often be characterised by excess… including excess food and drink. Not to be a party pooper (I seem to be saying that a lot lately…), but I think it’s quite easy to forget that our bodies don’t give us a free pass this time of year! Decisions you make now will have just as much of an impact on your body as they would in, say, May. But on the other hand, for many of us it wouldn’t be sustainable to completely remove ourselves from our celebrations… surely there must be a balance?! I think there is, and have set out some top tips below on how to stay healthy over the festive season while still enjoying yourself!
1. Make sure you eat a good, healthy breakfast
Breakfast is a really great opportunity to make sure you are getting in some good, healthy food. Of all the meals this time of year, breakfast is the one we are least likely to be eating out/with others, so it’s a good idea to make the most of it! Not only will it set you up for the rest of the day, you can make sure you’re including lots of nutrient dense foods. I’d suggest, if you’ve got time, something like scrambled tofu or a chickpea omelette - I like to include mixed seeds and at least one type of dark green leafy vegetable (spinach is a good choice for breakfast, but my current favourite is sprout tops!).
2. Keep a food diary
And be HONEST in it! If you’ve had a sneaky mince pie or glass of mulled wine, record it! It is easy for the little treats to add up without us even realising it. By recording EVERYTHING you eat and drink, you can keep yourself accountable and will be able to notice if you are maybe having a few more treats than you should be. This can also help you keep track of when/where you are having those extra treats and plan ahead – e.g. if you notice you’re having a sugary treat every day at work because a colleague keeps bringing them in, why not bring in a few of your favourite healthy snacks to eat throughout the day so you are less tempted?
3. Explain to friends and family ahead of time
This one can be tricky, and might not be an option for some if their friends and family aren’t supportive. If, however, you’re lucky enough to have supportive friends and family around you, why not have a quiet word with them before the festivities start to explain that you are trying to stay healthy over Christmas, and maybe offer to bring some healthy vegan alternatives to events? That way not only will you know there will be something for you to eat, but you can show everyone how delicious healthy vegan food can be!
One thing I used to struggle with a lot was when I was at work and my lovely colleagues would bring in vegan treats especially for me – how could I refuse? I ended up thanking them but explaining that I don’t tend to eat sugary snacks so I didn’t want them to go to the extra trouble only for me (as much as I wanted to encourage the buying of vegan snacks!). No one was offended, and I wasn’t in a position where I felt I had to eat something I didn’t want to avoid being rude.
4. Eat slowly
It is SO easy to over-indulge when faced with delicious festive food, and often we eat way more than our bodies need. This can be deliberate, or simply because we haven’t given our brains time to register the fact that we’re full. This can be especially problematic this time of year when we might be eating more calorie dense foods than we would otherwise be eating. A good way to avoid accidently over-eating is to just slow down how quickly you eat. I pretty much inhale my food, so this one is tricky for me, but I notice the difference when I remember to do it. Try putting down your knife and fork between bites (feels a bit weird at first, but you get used to it) and maybe having a sip of water before picking them back up again. That way you are giving yourself the best chance to be able to listen to what your body is telling you (you do, of course, then have to listen otherwise it’s a bit pointless!).
5. Drink water!
It is super important for a healthy body to stay hydrated! Hydration is something you should never sacrifice, and it is especially important this time of year when we might be eating a little less healthily than usual and drinking a bit more alcohol. Water not only helps mitigate some of the negative effects of alcohol, it also aids in our digestion (plus many, many other essential functions in the body). Without water we would literally die, so remember to drink plenty all year round, and make a special effort to stay on top of your intake over the festive period!
6. Have healthy snacks
Eating plenty of healthy snacks throughout the day will mean that you are less likely to over-indulge due to hunger. I find this particularly helpful if I’m going to an event that involves a buffet, as vegan options are often limited, and vegan options that are both healthy and filling are extremely rare! Depending on the venue, you could even bring your own healthy snacks with you to make sure you’ve got your bases covered!
7. Make time to move
Most of us are guilty of this – we don’t tend to move as much during the festive period! Try to make some time every day to move around – you’ll really see the benefits! If you can keep up your usual routine that’s great, but for many people this won’t be an option. That might be due to travelling, because your gym is closed, or simply because you have so much going on. Exercise is usually one of the first things to be sacrificed this time of year, but try not to let that happen. Even if your exercise is just a walk after lunch, a quick HIIT workout in the morning, or dancing around the kitchen while cooking/clearing up, just remember to get that body moving! Check out our blog posts if you want some ideas for home workouts (here) or workouts on holiday (here). It might also help to invest in some at-home exercise equipment so you aren’t tied to gym opening hours – for some ideas check out our bog post here.
8. Remember why you started!
It can be really helpful this time of year to remind yourself why you started. Goals are really helpful with this, and if you don’t have specific goals, I suggest it might be a good idea to set some for over the next month! Even if that goal is just to maintain your current bodyweight/body fat %, it should help motivate you to keep yourself accountable. Vague and unspecific goals are less helpful, as it is much easier to tell yourself you’ll pick them up at a later date.
Something you might find helpful is to write yourself a letter/quick note/journal entry to set out all the reasons you started your healthy eating/exercise journey and all the benefits you have seen so far and the benefits you want to see going forwards. Keep this somewhere easily accessible and read it if you feel yourself getting tempted! Basically, do everything you can to set yourself up for success!
9. Enjoy yourself!
I’m not gonna lie, staying healthy this time of year requires some effort. You will benefit from planning ahead and knowing your weaknesses (we all have them), but it will require dedication, determination and discipline (nice use of alliteration there!). That being said, it is really important to enjoy yourself! Your exercise/healthy eating plan needs to be sustainable, so try not to stress yourself out. Follow the tips above, but if you over-indulge on mulled wine or vegan mince pies, don’t beat yourself up or use that as an excuse to throw it all away! Remember, having one or two slip ups doesn’t mean you have failed, and you certainly shouldn’t use it as an excuse to give up! Just get straight back on the wagon! Don’t tell yourself you’ll get back on it after the festive season, do it straight away! Come January, you’ll thank yourself!