Christmas is coming….and we’re all getting fat … unless we choose not to!…..
I am not being all bah humbug about Christmas, I love it, but increasingly I am coaching my clients not to switch on the self-destruct, eat to excess gear at this time. The festive season is long, potentially weeks, with more invites and opportunities to indulge than any other time of the year. Therefore, the potential to massively over-indulge is huge, which will not only, almost inevitably result in significant weight gain (or more specifically fat gain), but it is such a colossal slippery slope once you decide you are letting go for the holiday season because the impact on your brain and body of repeated rich, sweet, alcoholic hits, literally drives the desire for more.
We are hard-wired to love sugar and fat combinations because as infants we need to love out mother’s milk – very sweet and very rich in cholesterol. But once weened, we should not be consuming the endless combinations of fat and sugar that we are surrounded by thanks to the food industry. Fat and sugar drives growth(in a bad way once we’re fully grown), while being clinically addictive – think milk chocolate, mince pies and Christmas cake, crisps and most other snack foods, virtually all canapes, cakes & pastries, bread & cheese, burger & fries – all of these foods hit the part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, our addictive centre, lighting it up and driving the desire for more. Meanwhile excessive alcohol, sugar, wheat, trans fats etc. can kill of our beneficial microbes in the gut, which help manage our weight, brain health, digestion and pretty much every other system in the body, while feeding and stimulating growth of the sugar and yeast loving pathogenic microbes, that also drive the desire for more.
Overeating and excess alcohol also impairs sleep. Just one bad night of sleep will make it so much harder to have any degree of discipline and control of sweet foods and so the cycle goes on. So try and think about damage limitation. Be selective about when and what you choose to overload with because do you really want to face the new year with yet another set of impossibly ambitious new year’s resolutions that fill you with dread? Make it a positive choice to not overdo it rather than a punitive one as the cumulative toll on your mental and physical energy and well-being is enormous and is it really worth it?
There is a middle ground. You can have a jolly time, celebrating, socialising and treating yourself without it all going belly-up, or belly-out as the case may be. So maybe, just maybe, plan for some of your social events to be alcohol free. Nominate yourself to be the driver and find a non-alcoholic drink that satisfies and has some health benefits like Kombucha or water kefir, increasingly now served in pubs, bars and restaurants and easy to find in supermarkets.
If you have a big eating event coming up, such as on Christmas day, don’t ‘save’ yourself by not eating beforehand, otherwise you’ll be so ravenous you will eat too quickly and far too much once you do sit down to eat. But do avoid all the classic pre-meal snacking. Have something tasty, filling and nourishing to eat mid-morning and then clean your teeth or even chew some gum (sweetened with Xylitol or Stevia not sugar or artificial sweeteners), to stop the nibbling until it’s time for your main meal.
Try and get in some exercise before the feasting begins. Just 10 minutes of something vigorous can rev you up to increase calorie-burn while you’re eating and then take yourself and any other willing participants for a post-prandial stroll to help digestion and reduce blood sugar levels. Nothing overly exertive with a full tummy, but a gentle walk for 30 minutes can make a big difference rather than falling in to a food-coma and trying to sleep it off. Or how about getting some fun tunes on and having a gentle boogie – also a good idea.
Spend a moment in gratitude for what you have before ploughing in. A bit of reverence for your food is not only good for the soul but also allows a moments preparation time for the digestive system to kick in.
Eat slowly – sooooooo important; savor every mouthful; chew thoroughly and stop before that overly stuffed feeling forces you to stop. Think comfortably full rather than about to burst.
Always match volume of alcohol with volume of water.
If having dessert, make it small, rich and satisfying and rather than the stodge of dried fruit-filled puddings with brandy cream and ice-cream, a sugar and fat bomb extraordinaire, why not have a fresh-fruit crumble, using minimal sugar, some unctuous Greek yogurt and a cheeky dark chocolate truffle or two.
And then … don’t eat until you are hungry again. That will probably be lunch the next day at the earliest. Don’t eat just because of the time on the clock, eat because you are truly in need of re-fueling. You will find you enjoy your food much more if you eat only when hungry and your body will thank you in so many ways if you give your digestive system a proper break of at least 12 hours, and ideally longer.
This is not about missing out and deprivation, it’s about respecting yourself, your health and saving yourself from the inevitable dreaded weigh-in on January 1st to cries of ‘oh no, how on earth??????? …I’m never eating again …where’s the nearest gym?????’
Happy, healthy holidays everyone.