By Chris Walton – Director of Personal Training

This time of the year is often seen as a write-off, what with Christmas parties, travel, visiting relatives and the ready availability of alcohol and sugar and fat laden foods!  It’s no wonder that people, in the past, have decided to put off their health and fitness goals until the New Year, but we’ve seen an increasing trend in the last few years towards damage limitation and an attitude of ‘having your cake and eating it’ towards the Holiday period.

We’ve seen record numbers of clients joining, and training, right through December, when previously they would have given up and given themselves a mammoth task in the New Year.  When we asked these clients what had changed the response was, more often than not, they didn’t see why they couldn’t keep things going during December and still enjoy themselves at parties and when they had time off.  The beauty of this approach, they said, was they were ahead of all those people starting from scratch in the New Year, plus they discovered they actually felt pretty good by moderating their food and alcohol intake and continuing to exercise rather than stopping dead with the subsequent slowdown in energy levels and brain function!

We asked our clients what helped them, and we’ve come up with the following tips:

  • Just eat the ‘Real Thing’. Don’t mess around with cake made from Kale and Avocado with 100% dark chocolate. Instead, just eat the real thing and savour it! By denying yourself you demonise some of these foods, which helps to create an unhealthy relationship with what you determine are ‘bad’ foods. Eat some of the foods you like, in moderation, and make sure you savour every mouthful by eating mindfully! This way you will become more satisfied on less food and can enjoy food guilt free and without feeling it may be the last time you can ever eat these foods!
  • Eat slowly. The general rule with meals is to eat until you are satisfied (80% full) rather than full to the brim. By eating slowly you are allowing your physiology to catch up as the brain takes 15-20 mins to register how full the stomach is. A good tip is to take at least 10 chews per mouthful and put your cutlery down between mouthfuls.
  • Continue to use the Embody portion guidelines. Often the biggest issue is not what people eat but the amount they consume. We are really good at overeating at Christmas time and by sticking to the portion control guide you can ensure you don’t overdo it and end up falling asleep after each meal!
  • Go for a walk straight after eating. It’s a bit of a myth that you should let your food digest before moving and most people, provided they haven’t totally overeaten, are perfectly capable of going for a walk after a meal. By doing this you are reducing your blood sugar levels (walking absolutely eats up blood sugar) which will mean you release less insulin. This lowered amount of insulin will lead to less fat storage and, in fact, research has shown that walking after every meal can contribute significantly to fat loss. Blood sugar reaches it’s peak 30-60 mins after feeding so walking immediately after eating will reduce this peak and lessen any effect of high sugars/carbohydrates from the meal.
  • Eat plenty of veggies. By consuming lots of vegetables you will fill up on these things and eat less of the foods that may not be most conducive to fat loss. Another tip is to leave the carbohydrates on your plate until last. This will, again, reduce the level of sugar in your blood and the corresponding increase in insulin.
  • Don’t drink alcohol before meals. Research has shown that alcohol consumed before eating led to an 11% increase in total food intake during the meal. By drinking only with a meal you will reduce the effect of the alcohol, as it’s absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream, and reduce the amount of food you consume. Less absorption of alcohol will likely mean you won’t feel as bad the next day and will find it easier to stay on track with your nutrition.
  • Schedule in some exercise. Walking, as discussed earlier, can be hugely beneficial during this time but it would also be a good idea to do some more intense exercise. Often clients won’t have access to a gym but this shouldn’t stop you from performing some intense exercise. Here is a workout some of our clients have performed while staying at relatives houses or in a hotel room:

    Method: Perform each exercise for 20s, rest 20s before moving onto the next exercise and rest for 60s once you’ve completed all 5 exercises before repeating up to 6 times.

    Push Ups
    Plank Walkups
    Mountain climbers or burpees

The holiday period is clearly a time to enjoy yourself, and we are not advocating abstaining from all the foods and drinks on offer at this time.  Rather, we, and our clients, believe it’s possible to enjoy yourself and attain some level of balance with your lifestyle by following these tips.  The key word is ‘moderation’.  It’s difficult to define exactly what it means when it comes to nutrition but trying to stick to your nutrition plan 80% of the time, with a 20% allowance for this holiday period is a good start point.  By continuing to exercise you are increasing your chances of ‘maintaining’ what you’ve achieved so far and not starting from scratch in the New Year.

So, with that in mind – we wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.