Do you intend to overindulge during the festive season? Or do you find it too difficult to stick to your normal/healthy eating habits?  If so, you’re not alone. The internal monologue people usually have are “I’ve been really good this past month so I deserve a blow out.” Or, “I’ve already blown my diet, so what’s the point?” Either one of these thought processes can have negative consequences on your health goals, and lead to feelings of guilt, which may trigger a downward spiral of events. Once, in this mindset, it is challenging to get out of unless you have set yourself some boundaries and goals.

Tips for staying healthy during the silly season

The most common issues with unhealthy behaviours during the silly season are: over consumption of alcohol, over consumption of food and poor food choices. These practices are usually exacerbated and a result of multiple functions and parties with work, family and friends around this time of year.

Healthy tips for surviving work functions:

  • Eat a big lunch during the day, so that you don’t have an empty stomach when you hit the party.
  • Keep a bottle of water on your desk, and drink from it all day so that you don’t hit the party already dehydrated. Aim to drink at least 1.5 litres during the day.
  • Steer clear of the punch bowl – even if it claims to be non-alcoholic. Punches are notorious for containing a concoction of booze that surprisingly tastes great but is impossible to gauge how much you have actually drunk.
  • To avoid over-indulging, eat a plate of food and then put it down – rather than standing near the buffet and picking all night long.
  • If it’s finger food, keep your canapé sticks (if used) to remind you how many you’ve eaten.
  • Only eat what you actually like – not just what you are offered. Eating is not compulsory!
  • Pace yourself. A few festive cocktails to get merry is fine, but if you start to feel drunk and disorderly – stop!
  • If you are nervous meeting new people, be conscious of not eating and drinking too quickly for something to do with your hands.
  • Have a healthy, low GI snack (fruit, yoghurt, smoothie) during the afternoon to reduce hunger.
  • Avoid foods that are deep-fried.

Tips to help reduce the amount of alcohol you consume at a party:

  • Limit how much you drink and pace yourself with mineral water.
  • When you refill your wine glass, alternate water with wine.
  • When you go to the fridge or chilly bin for another beer, grab a glass of water too.
  • Offer to drive sometimes – you’ll sure to be popular.
  • Use diet mixers and soft drinks to keep the kilojoules down but not the flavour.
  • Enjoy an alcohol-free punch for a change. You might find a gem for a future party of your own.
  • Always ask for water with a meal in addition to a drink.
  • Choose a tall, thin glass rather than a short, wide one.  We focus on the height of a glass, not the width, so the tall one always looks fuller!
  • Try and put your glass down between sips; you’ll drink more slowly.

Festive fitness

If your regular fitness routine goes out the window come Christmas time, there are lots of ways to build some exercise into the festivities.

  • Do it early –Planning exercise when you first get out of bed helps you focus on your fitness and set it as a priority. Leave it until later and you probably won’t get around to it.
  • Team sport – Get the whole family involved in a cricket or soccer game. Whatever you choose, the more often you get moving, the better.
  • Get outside – Take family and friends out for a short beach or bush walk. You’ll boost your mood and give the host or hostess a well-deserved break from relatives and kids in the kitchen. Or, take the whole family ice-skating or ten-pin bowling; fun for kids of all ages.

If you find yourself in the midst of an overeating pattern, what should you do?

The best thing you can do is acknowledge it, first. Once you are aware of this behaviour you can implement some strategies to overcome it. One strategy is to be more prepared and organised with your meals. Get back into a routine and do some menu planning. The more control you have over your food choices, the more control you will have of what and how much goes into your mouth.

Another good strategy is to eat to 80% fullness. Be in tune with your hunger cues, remember that it takes approximately 20-minutes for you to feel full after you consume food. If you eat to approximately 80% fullness, you are less likely to overeat. Remember that you can always go back for more, so start with a smaller portion, finish it and wait 20-minutes.