Christmas is the one time of year nearly everybody relaxes about what they eat, happily digging into all the turkey, roast potatoes, Quality Street, cheese and everything else that's on offer. And that's all well and good, but when you've been working hard for the rest of the year to lose weight/tone up/get fitter/all of the above, you don't want to completely ruin all your progress in the space of one single, festive week.
So how can you strike the balance between letting go and enjoying yourself, but not opening the floodgates entirely? We asked people who have been there themselves, as well as some experts, for their gems of advice about how to successfully navigate the Christmas period without undoing all your hard work.
1. "On Christmas day, allow yourself to enjoy anything"
Sarah Rumney, 30, lost over 7 stone doing Weight Watchers:
How not to ruin your health and fitness progress this Christmas
Courtesy of Sarah Rumney
"The Christmas season can be a difficult one. Everyone letting their hair down, food and drink everywhere in sight. There are endless parties and meals, and drinks with family and friends. What I found best is to set myself boundaries. Try to be as good as you can sticking to your regime where you can, then enjoy what you have planned - but be reasonable. Choose lighter options, or go out for food or drink, not both. At a meal I would be the designated driver so I wouldn't have too much food and drink together.
But on the big day, I would allow myself to enjoy anything. If you’ve been doing your best you're allowed a treat, so enjoy it. Once the day is over, remove anything that’s left over. Offer sweets to friends with children, take cakes and treats to work or get the girls round one night to finish off the cheese. It’s tough but come January, you'll feel better with the success of not having been beaten by the season."
2. "Make rules about food you SHOULD have rather than things you shouldn't"
Shona Vertue, personal trainer and fitness guru, is working in partnership with The Food Doctor on their latest campaign, Bitesize Positivity:
"According to a recent survey, diet is the most common trigger of everyday guilt for UK women - closely followed by fitness. The biggest problem with guilt is that it can make us feel hopeless and deflated.
Guilt is a terrible motivator and will only lead to a pattern of bingeing and restricting - be that food or exercise. Instead, make some rules around food that involve things you should have rather than things you shouldn't. For example, rather than trying to avoid those delicious, warm mince pies - allow yourself to have them (to nourish your soul!), but also make sure you eat a huge plate of vegetables that day accompanied with your choice of protein or even a handful of seeds sprinkled over your breakfast, salad or soups so that you nourish your body and brain."
When it comes to nutrition, viewing food as 'harmful' can be incredibly dangerous, particularly when we often believe that a single or even a couple of bad meals are going to impede our health or appearance, which isn't necessarily the case - our guilt is often based on inaccurate assumptions. The truth is that a few big delicious Christmas lunches and dinners should be something we look forward to and enjoy and remember they are not going to impact our health in the long term, unless we start to enjoy them every day!"
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3. "Make sure you move"
Melissa Mussington, fitness instructor and creator of MussBeFit.
"Dance! Run! Jump! Whatever you do, just move! It's often easy to fall into reverse with exercise routines when diet goes out the window. However it's not only gym-based workouts that burn calories, or keep those extra pounds from showing up. Christmas is family time - have some fun with the kids, they'll keep you on your toes and that will be burning calories. Music will definitely be playing at most gatherings. Grab a spot on the floor and dance like no-one is watching. There are so many ways to keep that heart rate high, and most of them you can include others in. As long as your butt is anywhere but the couch, you're off to a good start.
4. "Plan ahead"
Dr. Kelly Johnston, head of nutrition and research at LighterLife:
“It’s the time of year when it's so easy to indulge – a mince pie, a glass of wine, a handful of Quality Street – yes, it seems like a lot when you look at it from a calorie point of view. However, to counter this, all you need to do is take some time to think about things and plan ahead. If you know you’re going out for dinner, plan in healthy foods during the day and stick to your plan. If it’s a heavy weekend, eat well and exercise during the week.
So many people beat themselves up over what they’ve eaten at this time of year when, in reality, as long as you’re eating in moderation overall, the odd bit of indulgence isn’t going to impact that much. One of the best tips I can give for maintaining a healthy regime over Christmas is that you don’t need to ‘start again’ – if you’re in a good place mentally about your diet and your health and fitness goals, you’re more likely to carry on and succeed, so one cheat meal, or day, isn’t going to ruin all your hard work."
5. "Make wise alcohol swaps"
Ellie Songu-Mbriwa, 21, lost 2st 9lbs with Slimming World and has maintained her weight loss for 9 months:
How to make sure you don't completely ruin your health and fitness progress this Christmas
Slimming World/Paul Buller
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"My tip for the Christmas party season is to make wise alcohol swaps. Instead of creamy cocktails, I’ll drink vodka and a diet mixer or choose a glass of wine topped up with a flavoured sugar-free sparkling water, such as apple and elderflower. At Christmas time, I think a great incentive for me is to buy a gorgeous dress to wear over the party season. Promising myself I will wear it – and feel great in it! – gives me all the motivation I need to stay on plan."
6. "Don't let your diary get too busy"
Helen Bond, consultant dietitian for Splenda:
"Try not to burn the candle at both ends. We cram in so much over the festive period, going out during the week and hosting family and friends at the weekends; we don't always give our body the rest it needs to recuperate. Too little sleep can reduce the level of the appetite controlling hormone leptin and increase the hormone ghrelin, telling the brain you need to eat – and not always the right healthy food choices. Pace yourself!"
7. "Christmas food is just food!"
Charlotte Mears, 27, lost 5 stone with a healthy diet and exercise:
"I've done the whole 'I don't care, it's Christmas, I will eat what I want' thing, but deep down I do care, so why would I jeopardise my weight loss for it? Christmas food is just food! If we don't eat the mince pies now, I can promise you that they will still be in the shops later if you still desperately want them. It's your choice to make. Same with all the crisps, and all the chocolate...
Christmas is just a day. Enjoy it by all means, but for me it's not an excuse to sabotage all my hard work. Think carefully about what's more important - those few moments of bliss whilst the chocolate cake is in your mouth before you swallow it and it's gone, or the lifetime goal of feeling amazing in your own skin, feeling healthy and having confidence?"
8. "Don't buy your Christmas food too early"
Kim Pearson, nutritionist working with ProLon:
"Shops often stock Christmas foods months before the festive season. It can be tempting to take advantage of offers, but ask yourself – if you buy it now, will it last until Christmas? Or are you likely to get tempted and tuck in before?! I know I don’t have the willpower to resist so I have my shopping delivered just a few days before Christmas."
9. "Eat from smaller plates"
Abby Broell, personal trainer and health coach:
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"I began my health journey just a week before holiday festivities began so I know how difficult this one can be! One easy tip is to use smaller dishes when eating. People tend to fill up their entire plate this time of year for some reason and smaller dishes = smaller portions without much effort!
The best advice I can give anyone on their journey is to adjust their mindset/perspective - you will drastically improve your life! For example: If you attend all of your holiday events with a crap attitude, convinced you’re missing out, you will do just that. We get to choose our perspective and focus. Rather than focusing on what you 'can’t' have, focus on your goals. Take a moment before each gathering to remind yourself what Christmas is really all about. Choose to enjoy this time with family making happy and healthy holiday memories - we always get to choose."
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