It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also full to the brim with calories and cholesterol. I’ve just had the annual newsletter from my long-suffering doctor (who has looked after me for over 20 years). I’m something of a hypochondriac and at times he despairs of me. But his newsletter was full of helpful tips on staying as slim and healthy as possible over the festive period. Considering we will all gorge on roughly 6,000 calories in barely a 24-48 hour period, here are some of his suggestions regarding we should be doing to make the best of an unhealthy situation.
In general, adults put on 1kg a year – much of which is gained at Christmas – which accumulates year-on-year.
The scales don’t dictate how healthy you are – how can a simple number accurately reflect how one feels every day? Health is better defined by how well you sleep, your mood, energy, plus of course the nourishing things you feed yourself.
I think the idea of telling people how much exercise they need to do to burn off certain Christmas foods is a little unhealthy in itself.Telling people that they have to exercise for 21 minutes if they want to eat a mince pie will induce panic. It’s so inaccurate. Every day we have different energy requirements – no one number will ever be reflective of that.
While balance and weight maintenance might be important in general (accumulate too much belly fat, for example, and you run the risk of diabetes, heart problems and more), I believe that Christmas is the one time when we shouldn’t be worrying.
We all have a baseline of calories, depending on our height, age and activity level – which for most people will be well over 1,000kcals a day. Your brain alone needs around 600kcals to function, and again, that amount changes according to how much you think and do.
Food plays such a huge role. Enjoy it for what it is, but just don’t go overboard. You don’t have to put yourself into a cheese coma just because it’s December.
Slowing down the speed at which you eat, getting at least five portions of fruit and veg a day and becoming more active are the obvious tips – and the ones which genuinely work.
Go for a walk in between main and pudding, and that’ll help with digestion as well as overall energy burn.
A few tips…
- Try to eat roughly the same time each festive day, whether this is two or five times a day.
- Choose reduced fat foods (e.g. xmas cheese) where you can. Use high fat food sparingly (e.g. butter and oils) if at all.
- Walk 10,000 steps each festive day (equivalent to 60-90 minutes moderate activity).
- If you snack, choose a healthy option such as fresh fruit instead of mince pies.
- Be careful about food claims on labels. Check the fat and sugar on labels when shopping and preparing food.
- Do not heap food on your plate, except vegetables. Think twice before having second helpings.
- Break up your afternoon sofa time. Stand up for ten minutes of every hour.
- Alcohol is high in calories so limit to a couple of units per day for women and 3 or 4 for men. Try diluting drinks with ice cubes, soda or low-calorie mixers.
- Slow down. Do not eat on the go or while watching TV. Eat at a table if possible.
- Do this regularly throughout December and you could avoid the belly come January.