Let it be the turkeys that go ‘gobble gobble’
With Christmas just around the corner, I thought it would not be entirely out of place to write a short blog on festive eating. According to the British Dietetic Association (BDA), it is estimated that we typically consume an additional 500 calories per day over the Christmas period and a whopping 6,000 on Christmas day itself! By the start of the New Year, this amounts to a weight gain of around an extra 5lbs (2.3kg for you metric folk). Sobering, isn’t it?
But Christmas doesn’t have to be a ‘gorge-fest’.
It may help to remind yourself what Christmas was always about for you as a child. What did you focus on, as a child? I recall being mesmerized by the tinsel and lights on the tree. We always had real trees and I used to love the smell of the needles. I still do. We sang carols – all the old favourites. It was a time of excitement waiting for Father Christmas, opening presents, having relatives and friends over, playing silly games, wearing silly hats. It was time off school. I don’t recall the food being of central importance, particularly. Yes I enjoyed the pudding, but I enjoyed more watching the brandy on it burn. I enjoyed a mince pie, but if I had to choose, I would choose playing with my toys over eating a mince pie. I created things, made cards, spent hours licking and linking paper chains to decorate the house. Ahhh, remember those?
I am no longer a child, of course, but I can still employ some of those early memories about Christmas to help me avoid being the best stuffed ‘turkey’ this year. Christmas doesn’t have to be about excess; it never started out that way. Christmas as a child was about feeling good and excited inside, so here are ten tips to avoid piling on the pounds this Christmas:
- Make a list of all the things you loved about Christmas as a child, and create a plan to do as many of the same activities as you can with your grown-up friends and family.
- Instead of inviting folk round for food, arrange a nice long walk. It’s a great way to talk and catch up and if you do end up having something to eat, at least you’ve burnt off a few calories first!
- Remember being stressed about Christmas as a child? Having to comfort-eat to cope? No, of course you don’t, because you never were stressed and you never did comfort-eat! Kids just let things wash over them. So what if the dinner’s not perfect, or the relatives don’t get on or you’re not very good at charades? Who cares? The kids don’t. Your inner child doesn’t give a ‘figgy pudding’, so you too can point blank refuse to get stressed! Choose to let things wash over you instead; you may even find you like it!
- Make a point of eating only when you are hungry. Children are really good at this; try feeding a toddler who’s decided they’ve had enough! And beware people cajoling you to ‘join in’ so they feel better over-indulging themselves. If they want to gorge themselves like leeches, leave them to it, but allow yourself to simply listen to your stomach and ask yourself whether you are hungry or not. It’s so simple, it’s scary!
- Plan ‘light bites’, salads or soups one or two days of the week before and after Christmas day to give your digestive system time to recover.
- Drink at least two litres of water a day and notice how this one simple action reduces and even removes feelings of hunger. If you drink alcohol, then set yourself a limit at the start of each day. Write it down as a reminder if you must, and stick to it. Remember, with alcohol, it is normally the taste that you’re after, rather than volume, and little sips can achieve that as effectively as big gulps.
- Limit the number of boxes of chocolates, biscuits, sweets and other ‘foods of the devil’ that find their way over your threshold! Make a point of avoiding the ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ offers and ask people not to bring or gift sweet items. Resist snacking throughout the day and keep a tally chart of how many chocolates, mince pies and other delights you eat. You’d be surprised how they clock up!
- Aim to have the smallest portion of food on your plate of everyone else. Your stomach is only as big as a clenched fist; anything on your plate that is greater than the size of a fist is not strictly required. If you are lucky enough to be having Christmas dinner cooked for you by a wonderful Christmas fairy this year, then let them know well in advance that you will only be eating a very small portion of their delicious meal, so they are primed not to force, cajole or twist your arm into eating more than you really want to.
- Take your time to eat your meal. It took time to prepare and you should take at least twenty minutes to eat it. If you think you want seconds, then wait a further twenty minutes before you indulge as it takes the brain this amount of time to send signals that you are already full.
- And finally, spend some time planning. It is so much easier to resist if you are prepared to resist. To eat the right things if you don’t have the wrong things in the cupboards. To stop if you know why you want to stop. To feel relaxed if you have already resolved not to feel het up. To know that it’s okay to let the inner child come out to play and the adult to put their feet up and relax for a moment!
And so it just remains for me to wish a Merry Christmas to you all!