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How To Stay Lean Over Christmas Holidays
Do you puzzle over How To Stay Lean Over Christmas Holidays?
Well you are not alone!
This post came about from a coaching session, where I was asked by a client for advice on how best to approach the Christmas holiday season and how they could stay on track with their diet during it.
They had specific concerns around staying away from home for an extended period of time and being a guest in relatives' houses.
It’s natural to feel slightly anxious about the pressure to over indulge in food at this time of year, especially if you’ve been putting in the effort to make good progress with your diet up to this point.
Time catching up with loved ones is precious but can be seen as a green light to overindulge whilst enjoying each other’s company.
This article covers advice, options and tips for how best to deal with being a guest and keeping to your diet as well as covering how best to cope when you are hosting and have guests visit you.
So let’s dig in and cover the approach and tips on How To Stay Lean Over Christmas Holidays.
Plan Leading Up To Christmas Holidays
There are a number of steps you can take in the build up to Christmas day to ensure you tackle the Christmas period with the least impact to your diet. So let's have a look at How To Stay Lean Over Christmas Holidays :
- Minimise the stress you are under: Cortisol (the stress hormone) plays a large part in our ability to successfully control our weight.
If Cortisol levels are elevated, your body will resist the process of fat burning and make fat storage from excess calories a priority.
Look to minimise your negative stress during the holiday period by planning activities appropriately with realistic timelines.
Ask yourself if something doesn’t get achieved – will it really matter?
Most people will just be glad to see you fit and well rather than be concerned that the ribbon on their present doesn’t match the wrapping paper!
- Ensure you’re well rested and are getting good quality sleep.
You don’t want to be on the roller coaster of being tired and relying on caffeine and simple carbs as stimulants to allow you to get through the day to function.
- Make a clear plan of action for the Christmas period. This should include deciding what will be and won’t be acceptable for you to eat and notifying hosts of your requirements (more below).
E.g. Will you have a small piece of dessert to join in the spirit and be ‘sociable’ but still limit the total calorie count?
Decide upfront what is going to be your approach - THEN STICK TO IT.
It’s better to have a rough idea in your head before the occasion rather than leaving it until the sticky toffee pudding arrives to make a decision!
- If you have decided that you will be treating Christmas Day as a single day off from your diet but want to minimise the impact, then you can proactively work towards accommodating this approach in the days before.
By reducing carbohydrate intake in your meals for the 3 days leading up to Christmas day, you will enter Christmas day with depleted glycogen stores. This will cause the majority of the excess carbohydrates consumed to be used to refill your glycogen stores with only the remainder being stored as fat.
This approach can really help to minimise any damage from over-eating on Christmas Day or any other special occasion.
- Explore whether there is anyone else on the invite list that is also on a diet and can become A Christmas Day Diet Buddy!
You could approach them to see if they would be willing to offer you support on the day so that you have mutual accountability and both stick to your plans.
- Consider making healthy snacks, desserts or main meals to take with you.
This may or may not be appropriate, depending on the relationship you have with your host.
If you think it will work, then it's courteous to inform them of your intentions up front.
- Again, based on your relationship with the host, if you are able to influence the ingredients they will use in the meals, look to suggest healthy alternatives to common high calorie items.
Substituting low fat yoghurt for cream, grilling over frying etc.
Letting Hosts Know Of Your Requirements
Having a conversation with your hosts early on to cover dietary requirements is the best approach. There is nothing to be gained by leaving the conversation until close to the event.
The earlier this is covered, the more opportunity there is for your hosts to: accommodate your wishes, plan and shop appropriately.
People will be less supportive of your goals if you leave it until you are sat at the dinner table to announce you no longer eat X, Y or Z!
It is much better to initiate a chat with your hosts in good time. Outline to them that you are engaged in a weight loss programme and wish to avoid excess calories during your stay or visit.
As these are likely to be relatives and loved ones they should be fully supportive of your goals.
If they are receptive, you can even provide some easy alternatives to common foods and snacks for them to incorporate into the occasion - or even offer to make and bring some healthy options for all to share.
Approach For How To Stay Lean Over Christmas Holidays
For Christmas Day itself, I would recommend one of two approaches:
1. You've Been Strict Leading Up To Christmas Day:
If you have been strict on adherence to your programme leading up to the day, then my advice for Christmas Day itself is to just relax, enjoy the day and eat as you like.
Relax on your diet for the day and enjoy some treats. This approach works extremely well if you’ve managed to avoid overdoing things in the build-up.
Going over your normal calorie total for a single day will have very little impact to your weekly progress. Where issues typically arise is if the single day of overeating turns into several days. By over eating on a single day you will typically feel fuller the next day and naturally not want to eat so much.
You may jump on the scales on Boxing Day and be alarmed by the reading but in reality most of this weight will be water weight that has resulted from the excess carbohydrate and salt intake.
Remember - it simply isn’t possible for your body to synthesize 5lbs of body fat from excess calories in that timescale!
2. Non-compliant On Approach To Christmas Day:
If your compliance has been less than perfect in the days leading up to the big day, then you would be best adopting a different strategy:
- Eat a low carb, high protein, high fat breakfast. This will keep you full until the main meal arrives and allow you to abstain from snacks and nibbles that are provided whilst waiting for the big bird to cook right through!
- Try to incorporate some activity into the day. Whether it’s a pre-dinner walk to the park with the dog or a post dinner stroll. Either of these will get you moving, promote calorie burn and reduce uncontrolled snacking.
- Control your overall calorie intake and eat at the set meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.
You are likely to be eating or drinking extra calories, so avoiding the:- snacks, sweets and nibbles allows a bit of wiggle room for these extra calories and avoids the daily total going into the stratosphere!
- If you feel the need to snack, try to incorporate smart snacking. Take your own snacks to a venue or select good choices from your hosts selection such as unprocessed nuts and low calorie fruits.
- Make the Christmas dinner a compliant meal. Regardless of which dietary approach you are following, it should be very simple to do this with what is predominantly a meat and vegetable meal.
- Select sensible portion sizes. Using a smaller plate from the set being used can help here.
Psychologically we feel the need to fill a large plate with food.
If you think that you are likely to be tempted by poor choices then increase the size of the main meal (meat and vegetables - a great way to provide volume without excess calories) this will help to ensure you are pleasantly full when the high calorie desserts and biscuits inevitably appear.
- Reduce the excess calories by avoiding the sugar loaded sauces.
- Concentrate on the whole, single ingredient foods on offer. Avoid processed foods which are likely to have unwanted added ingredients.
- Stick to single helpings. Give your stomach time to send the I AM FULL signals to your brain.
If you rush high calorie foods you can easily consume a large number of calories in one sitting before you find that you are completely over full and uncomfortable!
- If you have been dieting successfully for a period of time, then you want to avoid going at the meal like a 'bull in a China shop'.
Your body won’t be used to the extra calories and simple carbs and you will likely feel pretty rotten if you over indulge.
Try to control the pace and have a little rather than overdoing it.
- If you drink alcohol, you should ideally look to adopt low calorie alcoholic drinks.
Drinking high calorie drinks such as beer, cider, alcopops and cocktails will increase your calorie total significantly and also drive up your hunger for snacks.
Review this article how to make alcohol work with your diet for tips on which drinks to go for and how to avoid high calorie drinks.
Boxing Day On A Diet
- It’s likely that you will feel a little uncomfortable the next day – especially if you’ve been ‘tight’ on your diet in the lead up.
Any bloating and inflammation should subside quickly and will hopefully be a reminder of why it’s not healthy to over indulge!
Use it as ammunition to spur you back into action of eating correctly.
- Avoid weighing yourself on Boxing day and the day after. Simply accept that Christmas Day was a single day on the yearly calendar.
- Re-establish your healthy habits on Boxing Day and if you’ve managed this correctly, the single day weight gain will easily be averaged out over the week.
The majority of the scale weight will be water and by re-establishing your good habits your body will burn excess calories during the remainder of the week.
If the steps above are implemented successfully, you should be able to fully enjoy the Christmas celebrations and come out the other side with little or no damage done to your progress. Hopefully these tips have answered the annual question of How To Stay Lean Over Christmas Holidays !
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As mentioned at the start of this article, it was 'born' from a coaching session discussion.
This is typical of the real-life situations that we work with clients to plan and resolve.
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