Wish you could completely indulge this Christmas without putting on weight, feeling bloated and lethargic?
Well, you absolutely can.
The simple steps below will help you avoid the typical Christmas health pitfalls without feeling like you’re missing out.
Actually, you might find you enjoy your day so much more by knowing you’re positively influencing your health, all while eating a three course meal and drinking a few glasses of vino!
The strategies below are designed to ramp up your metabolism, hack your hormones (particularly cortisol and insulin) and work with your body to limit the effects of the extra calories you’re likely to indulge in (An interesting fact I discovered: some people consume 6000-8000 calories on Christmas Day… yikes!).
1. Eat a protein rich breakfast
Eating a breakfast rich in protein and low in carbohydrates will help boost your metabolism and burn more calories.
Having a high protein breakfast can also reduce your appetite, so when it’s time for Christmas dinner, you’ll be less likely to overeat while still feeling completely full and satisfied.
2-3 fried/poached/boiled eggs with 1 cup sautéed spinach, 1/3 cup canned lentils (sautéed and seasoned with salt, pepper, chili etc) and ½ avocado
A protein based smoothie with 1 serve protein powder, 1 cup of spinach, ½ cup raspberries, ½ avocado, 1/3 cup canned cannellini beans and water or coconut water
2. Fast for 5 hours in between meals
When you’re preparing Christmas dinner and snacks during the morning, avoid snacking.
Snacking during the day will cause you to feel sluggish, bloated and ready to unhook that top button of your pants much too early in the day.
Why this happens is the mechanism that stimulates the muscular wave of motion (called the ‘migrating motor complex’) that pushes food through your gastrointestinal tract slows down if there’s food in your stomach.
Your intestines need to be clear of food for at least 90 minutes in order for that motion to happen, otherwise food just sits in your intestines which can cause bloating and gas.
Fasting for 5 hours between your breakfast and Christmas dinner, allowing a few hours for your body to digest your brekky, will help your digestion work better when you eat your main meal.
3. Slow down and savour
The simple act of putting your eating utensils down after each mouthful reaps many benefits when it comes to your weight, energy and health.
The hunger signal from your stomach can take a while to signal to your brain that it’s full, so slowing down the speed at which you eat allows time for this to happen, so you’ll likely feel full before you devour all the food on your plate and then realise you’ve overeaten.
While you’re doing this, imagine you’re eating your first ever Christmas dinner.
Savour each bite. Chew slowly and thoroughly while appreciating the texture, smell and taste of your food.
If you’re used to rushing your meals, you may find it’s the most enjoyable meal you’ve had in a while!
Slowing down and eating mindfully will also improve digestion – so you’ll absorb more nutrients from your food (you may not want to happen with that large helping of Pavlova… if only we could selectively choose which foods to absorb or eliminate… that’s one for the Christmas wish list to Santa!).
4. Go for a stroll after dinner
While you may want to have a nap (especially if you’ve had Turkey, which has tryptophan in it that makes you want to sleep), one of the best things you can do to limit weight gain and keep your energy high is to go for a post dinner walk.
Walking will blunt your blood glucose response so you avoid the typical energy slump, and deliver glucose to your muscles rather than to fat.
Take your family for a nice stroll – about 30 minutes will do.
5. Christmas calm
Of course being healthy isn’t just how you nourish your body. It’s also how you care for your mind, heart and soul – and being in an environment that nurtures you.
Christmas can be a stressful time for many, especially due to strained family member relationships.
When you’re stressed, your body will produce the stress hormone cortisol, which then stimulates glucose production which can lead to weight gain.
So if Christmas stresses you out, here are two ways to protect yourself from external stressors:
1. Create an opening and closing ceremony for the day.
Start the day with 5 minutes of quiet time that includes some deep belly breathing – inhaling slowly for 4 seconds, holding for 7 seconds, then exhaling slowly for 8 seconds.
Continue breathing this way until you feel deeply relaxed.
Next, say or write a mantra to remind yourself to stay calm and centred during the day, like:
‘Today, I choose to deflect others’ draining energies and respond with lightness and love’ or
‘Today, I choose to be happy, calm and free of others’ draining energies.’
Choose a mantra you’ll remember so you can remind yourself of it during the day.
Then at the end of the day, take another 5 minutes of quiet time and deep breathing, followed by thinking about what you were grateful for that day (it could even be things like being grateful that a drama didn’t unfold – or was carefully sidestepped by you or another family member!).
2. You, in a bubble (or maybe a Christmas bauble?!)
Imagine you’re in a bubble or bauble and are totally protected from the energy, thoughts and feelings of any negative people around you.
Anything they say or emit bounces off your bubble/bauble and doesn’t reach you. Your bubble is filled with happiness and love – your happy place.
If you’re feeling the tenseness of a situation, take a few deep breaths.
Remind yourself that how someone reacts to a situation is more about them than you.
For example, if you have a family member who criticises everything, they’re very likely to be hyper critical of themselves.
Judgmental people tend to believe that nothing is ever good enough, so they’re likely never truly happy, which is pretty sad!
So do your best to feel compassion for that person and energetically send them love.
If you can’t find it in you to do that, no worries! Take a few deep breaths, enjoy being in your bubble of happiness and love, and remind yourself of your mantra.
Wishing you a wonderful Christmas day!
PS: Want more stategies to help digest your meal? Go here.
Melissa is a naturopathic nutritionist and health coach who helps exhausted women get their energy back. She consults with people worldwide via the web from her home in Melbourne, Australia.