Avoiding excess at Christmas
With the festive season just around the corner, it’s the most difficult time of the year to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I always try to avoid the excess entirely and escape the country, as I feel that Christmas should be about taking some time off and spending it with the people that you love, rather than an exercise in overindulgence!
Here are some of the reasons that we can be easily drawn to excess and some distraction techniques to help you enjoy Christmas in a healthy way.
Reasons for overeating…
Worrying about being the perfect host, organising the perfect meal, or trying to minimise family disagreements can lead to stomach-churning anxiety, which is easy to mistake for hunger. Don’t let the stress pile up; take some time to meditate or to focus on breathing calmly and deeply, imagining everything running smoothly in your mind.
Too much choice makes it harder to keep calories under control. If you are hosting Christmas, try to limit the variety. For example, when offering desserts, provide one traditional pudding, and a fresh fruit salad as the alternative.
Trying to avoid waste
Throwing food away is seen as a dreadful waste. This is true to an extent, but when you are eating something not because you are hungry, but to avoid wasting it, you are literally treating your body as a dustbin. Be kind to your body; it’s the only one you’ve got! Freeze leftovers to avoid wasting them, or blend leftover veggies to make delicious and nutritious soups. Set a ‘no food as gifts’ rule in your family to avoid the endless boxes of chocolates and bottles of wine that often hang around for months after Christmas.
Food is a traditional tool for bonding; many people use food as a way to connect and to show affection, and many people’s childhood memories of Christmas are about overindulgence. Use fun games or a lovely long winter walk as ways to bond instead.
Overeating and overdrinking seem to have become Christmas traditions. Certainly, the media seems to have pervaded this excess; tables are seen on television and in magazines, groaning with unhealthy food. You don’t have to run with the pack; just because others overindulge, doesn’t mean you have to. Something that appears to be the norm isn’t necessarily a good thing. Often people get permission to overindulge themselves by getting others to join in.
Tips to avoid overeating…
Fill up early
If you are having a late lunch, make sure that you aren’t ravenous when the time comes to sit down and eat! This will only lead to overeating. Choose a good-sized, healthy breakfast with slow release energy.
Choose what you like from the lunch table, but choose a small plate, and stop when you have finished. If you feel as if you want more, wait 20 minutes to ascertain if you are genuinely still hungry. Try to avoid ‘grazing’ throughout the day, as being unaware of how many calories you have consumed makes it impossible to control.
Savour the moment
If you really can’t resist the Christmas pudding, keep portions small, and eat slowly, really noticing and enjoying the flavours of your food. Savouring food allows you to notice when you are full up, as it takes a while for the message from the stomach to reach the brain. Set yourself a mini challenge to finish your pudding after everyone else!
Plan for a happy holiday!
Take a moment to sit and visualise your perfect Christmas. Play the images in your mind like a film, enjoying the sights and sounds of people enjoying themselves and getting along with other. See yourself enjoying food in a controlled and sensible way. Now imagine yourself in the film, and notice how satisfying it is to be contentedly full, rather than uncomfortably stuffed with unhealthy food. Replay this film in your mind often in the run up to Christmas, and you will be able to enjoy the fun of Christmas, without the excess!
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