5 essential steps to avoiding holiday weight gain

Dec 4, 2014

If your office is anything like the ones I’ve been visiting these past couple of weeks, office mince pies and yule logs are already doing the rounds with post lunch cups of teas, edible chocolate thank you gifts are accumulating in office kitchens and lunchtime and post work calendars are filling up with client drink and Christmas lunches. This is before all of the extra socializing with friends, late night shopping and bursting family schedules…and then there’s Christmas day itself. For even the most dedicated foodists & health advocates, these upcoming weeks test one’s willpower and organisation!

This post isn’t going to tell you not to enjoy all of the above, as life should be amazing & filled with things that make you happy without constantly depriving yourself, so instead, and I hope more helpfully, I will share with you some of the rules I stick to throughout the year which help me to keep my healthstyle more or less on track, even during holidays and festive periods. The other positive thing I’ve found about this plan which I will now share with you, is it also means you don’t have to spend the first few weeks or months of the year making amends for an unconscious decision to just ‘go with the flow’ in December, without reflecting on the bigger picture – i.e. your body. So here’s to entering 2015 with some amazing habits set & not too many wobbly bits!

1). TIGHT UP YOUR “EVERYDAY HABITS”

During busy times when immune systems are low and sugar & alcohol are in abundance, I make extra sure that I continue doing the day to day easy habits that I know help to keep my health and weight in check. These habits are my non-negotiables, i.e. I do them no matter what, as they make me feel awesome. For me, these include having breakfast, drinking 2 litres of water, taking my vitamins twice a day, going to the farmers market Saturday mornings and going to the gym 3-4 times a week. These are a set of habits, which I find really easy to do because I enjoy them all! I’ve crept them all in slowly over the years and I do them on auto-pilot now but I’ll show you how I make sure I do them as they’re so simple to do, but equally so simple NOT to do!

I make sure I’ve always got smoothie ingredients in the house so I can make a smoothie in the morning as this only takes 2-3 minutes. The fresh smoothie ingredients are covered by my market shop on Saturdays and I use Amazon for my nuts, seeds, cacao, desiccated coconut etc. so I’ll replenish my supplies with an Amazon re-order when I notice I’m running low of any ingredients. I fill up my 2 litre bottle of water before leaving the house in the morning so I can have water throughout the day which is easy to forget to do, especially when it’s cold outside and I book myself into my gym classes on Sunday morning for the week ahead and put them into my iCalendar so it’s done. I block out Saturday mornings with a recurring ‘Market shop’ hour blocked out in my iCalendar so nothing gets in the way of my market shop and I order my supplements on a recurring monthly order so I never run out before a busy period or before a holiday. These are all now automated habits which require no thought and I find if they’re easy, you don’t have to think twice about doing them. I will talk about all these in the New Year as habit forming is something I’m really big on and I work a lot with my clients using this technique to help them engrain new positive habits.

You can choose habits that are personal to you as there may be other habits that you normally always do anyway, so these would be your “everyday habits”. My top tip is to make sure you enjoy them, as it requires zero willpower to do things you enjoy and if they make you feel great, then that’s an even better reason to do them! If you are new to habit forming and would like to know which habits I’d recommend for someone new to healthy eating, I’d go for: drinking 2 litres of water, ensuring you have a great breakfast and exercising/ getting the body moving 3-4 times a week with a gym class or even just long walk or some Christmas ice-skating!

I find if I do all of my everyday habits, then there’s more room for movement to enjoy a mince pie or two without feeling run down or in any way guilty!

2). PICK YOUR BATTLES

I recommend going through your diary and taking a look at all the events coming up over the next month so you can evaluate which events are worth a food and drink splurge and which ones aren’t. Some events will be more special and sentimental than others events and if you are a foodie, you’ll know the events which are likely to have awesome food, so work out which ones matter to you.

Once you’ve highlighted them, enjoy them guilt free! Two events a week tops is a good number, depending on your health goals, otherwise you will likely have to do a little compensating to make up for the extra indulgence.

To give you an example of my calendar, some events I’ve been invited to I know the food isn’t going to be that great, though I wouldn’t tell the host that 😉 so rather than mindlessly eat the food on offer, I’ll eat beforehand so I’ve had a nutrition packed dinner and I don’t default to buffet times, which will inevitably happen if I haven’t eaten. Personally I’ve decided I’m not going to have any shop bought mince pies because I’m not crazy about them but if a friend has made them then I’ll have a home made mince pie as I know I’ll enjoy the experience far more. These battles are totally doable and I don’t feel I’m missing out in either of these situations, in fact, I feel the total opposite.

3). PLAN AHEAD

Planning ahead before events prevents you from having to make a decision in the heat of the moment and reduces your reliance on willpower. If you don’t know much about the party or the social gathering and you don’t know what type of food will be on offer, then try to find out in advance so you can anticipate potential obstacles and work around them. This will lead to a lot of better decisions being made.

For example, if you know you are going to a drinks party and there’s only finger food going to be offered, then ensuring you work in a dinner beforehand or make concrete dinner plans for afterwards will ensure you get a good meal in the evening. Having a fridge well stocked with ready homemade creations can also be a winner as you can tuck into a feast when you get home which will help you to feel perky the next day!

4). MAKE THE BEST CHOICES

When navigating your way around a buffet table, take a moment to look at everything on offer so you know what all your edible options are. I recommend filling up half your plate with leaves or greens and then locating your best source of protein; fish, chicken, eggs, beans or pulses are all great sources. Protein and greens will fill you up, whilst also being a great source of nutrients. If you fill yourself up with the best choices, you’re less likely to want any uninspiring desserts that come out later.

When it comes to making the best drinks choice, I tend to steer clear of the cocktails, as they can often be very sugary. Instead, I either go for a vodka & soda with fresh lime or a small glass of wine, followed by a glass of water to re-hydrate and help dilute the alcohol sugars.

Sometimes the perfect meal or drink isn’t on offer but when in doubt, go for greens, keep the sugar down and befriend protein and this is perfect damage limitation!

5). BE COMPASSIONATE

Christmas is a time which should be filled with so many happy memories with friends, family, deliciously nourishing food and ‘me time’ so you can self reflect on the past year. If you go off piste with your food and drinking then don’t feel guilty and spend hours wishing you had more self-control or compare yourself to others as you are YOU! Sure, self-reflect for a moment so you don’t make a habit of not sticking to your plan but then swiftly move on and do something positively healthy, like drinking a big glass of water and give someone a compliment. Giving someone a genuine compliment and watching their reaction when they register that you’ve acknowledged something positive about them is one of those things that gives you instant happiness, and it’s free!

If you like this post and found any bits particularly useful, then share your thoughts below. Or if you have any of your own top tips, then share them below also, the more the merrier!

Wishing you a health and happy December.

All the healthy best,

Jess x

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Hi, I’m Jess! Nutritional Therapist  & Personal Trainer, sharing workouts & nutrition made simple from my island home in Menorca. My mission? To educate & inspire people to achieve & sustain their personal health & body shape goals. I love to hike, cook, and bring inspiring people together.

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