Christmas is my absolute favourite time of the year. I love everything about it – Christmas carols playing at the shops, deciding the colour palette for my gift-wrapping, the warm sunny weather, the ‘we must catch up before Christmas’ get-togethers…there is a certain magic in the air that you don’t get at any other time.  But along with all the buzz and festivities, there will often be a few more drinks than normal, a bit more food than you really need and a little less exercise and sleep that what your body is used to. As one of my patient’s told me the other day ‘It can be like the perfect storm for a health disaster’. True, it could be. There is probably more temptation to wander off the healthy path now more than any other time of the year, but with a few simple little tricks and tips, you can enjoy the festivities and keep your health (and waistline) in check!

Have a rock solid foundation

One of the biggest things I see throwing people off being healthy is the idea of perfection. There is a mental tug of war that occurs between being ‘all’ (AKA – green smoothies, salads and superfoods) or ‘nothing’ (AKA – regular take out, too much drinking and the daily raid of the biscuit or lolly jar). What we often need to realise especially this time of year, is that grey is ok. Yes, you may not be ‘perfect’, but it’s what you do most of the time that matters. Think about what your non-negotiables would be for yourself and set these as your foundation. Ensuring good quality protein with each meal, getting 4 – 6 serves of vegetables in per day or ensuring you stay hydrated by drinking 2L of water is a good start. If these don’t suit, think of 3 – 5 things that resonate with you and hold yourself accountable to these.

Don’t deprive yourself

We all have our Christmas thing. For some people it’s alcohol, for some it’s desserts or if you are like me, it’s the antipastos, cheese and crackers. Even though they may not always be the healthiest foods, depriving yourself of these when you really want them will only make you want to have them more. Instead, be realistic with your portion control. Make a small selection of things that you want to indulge in and then mindfully enjoy! Transferring to a smaller plate instead of grazing from a buffet-style selection or finishing a glass of wine completely before you pour another (over ‘topping up’) is a great way to keep tabs on how much you are actually consuming.

Be realistic with your goals

Avoid setting yourself up for failure by being clear about your health and wellness goals from the start. At this time of year, it’s generally better to go for consistency rather than trying to form new habits. Think about what you can realistically achieve and put these things into practice. If you are used to exercising 5 times per week, but your schedule is making that challenging, you might choose a more realistic goal of 3 times and ensure that you get to each session. Instead of beating yourself up for those 2 sessions that you aren’t doing, make sure the 3 that you do are worth it! Work on increasing your incidental activity over the rest of the day. Similarly if you have been working on a weight loss goal, it might be more realistic to go for maintaining your current weight as opposed to trying to lose weight through the festivities. Just bear in mind that being ‘realistic’ is very different to just giving yourself a hall pass from being healthy. Think about what you can actually do rather than just what you would like to do. It might stretch you a little, but it shouldn’t overwhelm you. The second you start to notice you are being a bit flaky, that’s when you need to whip yourself into line!

Keep the tank topped up

The extra-curricular activities of the festive season can slowly take their toll on your body and your energy levels if you are not proactive in making sure you keep your nutrient tank topped up. Alcohol, more refined foods, less sleep and more stress can result in nutrient deficiencies especially B vitamins, zinc and magnesium. If you know your celebrations are likely to involve alcohol, you should consider taking some milk thistle to help protect your liver cells. Let me know if you’d like a recommendation on some good brands and dosages.

Be selective

Go through your Christmas invites and choose the parties you are going to let your guard down a little (or maybe, a lot). Try to keep this to less than once per week or at least try to ensure they are not back to back. Again, think about your ‘thing’ – pick the event that you want to drink or eat freely at and then ensure that you tighten up the other areas in the lead up to these events. So if (as an example) you are having a big catch up where the wine will be flowing and you are making a conscious choice to drink, ensure you make an extra effort to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep in the days leading up to and after (and make sure you take your supplements as your insurance policy).

The festivities associated with Christmas and the New Year can easily derail your health plan if you let them. It’s also easy to let the excuses of ‘it’s Christmas’ start creeping in and taking over. The truth is, Christmas is one day. And one days isn’t going to completely destroy your health plan. It’s when these behaviours start moving from a one off to multiple times per week that things will start going a little haywire. It can be easy to maintain a level of health and wellness following these few tips and tricks. Got some other ideas that help keep your health in check? Share them with us below!