So this is Christmas... Part 8: Ten ways to maintain healthy eating and exercise over the Christmas season

Every year I joke that my hard work maintaining my weight all year (or losing my baby weight as I've done this year) will be undone in December, when the celebrations begin, and weekends fill up with Christmas parties. And sometimes this isn't far from the truth! I guess this is also why on January 1st, we like to make the same resolutions each year - lose weight, tone up, exercise more, be healthier.

It doesn't have to be like this though! It should be a time to indulge a little more (if you want), especially on Christmas Day, as a big part of culture in Australia is enjoying a meal together and sharing food. The problem is when your indulging begins on December 1st, and carries on into the New Year! Obviously we know that 'treat foods' should be enjoyed in moderation (and we should embrace that word 'enjoy!') so I've put together some tips as to how to maintain healthy eating and exercise over the Christmas season.

1. Avoid going hungry to parties.
Make sure you definitely don't skip meals with the mindset of enjoying Christmas party food more at a Christmas party - this is when I usually overindulge - when I am hungry! Have a small healthy snack before you go, e.g. a piece of fruit, yoghurt or nuts. It is the same principle as not going to the supermarket on an empty stomach - you may end up being the proud owner of the confectionary aisle!

2. If asked to take a plate of food, offer to bring a healthy option.
This way, there will at least be a plate of food you can fill up on. Some examples might be:
 - a healthy green salad
 - a fruit platter (cherries are a necessity at Christmas time anyway!)
 - a plate of sandwiches
 - healthy dips (e.g. homemade hommus) with carrot and celery sticks
Definitely let yourself enjoy the baked goods and treats, but it is always nice to have options!

[Image from here]

3. Don't pressure yourself to try to lose weight over the Christmas period.
Maintain instead! Although losing weight over Christmas can be done (I continued to lose weight in the Christmas of 2008), don't put the pressure on yourself, especially if you have a lot of parties to go to.

4. Watch your portion sizes.
One trick that usually works well for me is to take a plate and place the things I want to eat on there, and then eat off the plate, rather than grazing at a table with lots of food (and therefore you will have no idea what you've eaten). Don't feel you have to finish the plate either!

5. If you are organising a Christmas party, include some incidental activity!
If you are in charge of organising your workplace/group's Christmas party, a cool idea might be hire a tennis court for the night, and enjoy some social tennis! You can still enjoy food, but you are actually getting some incidental activity in as well! Another fun idea could be to have a Wii set up with Wii Sports, or if you have a local bowling alley, to do it there.

6. If you choose to drink, drink in moderation.
And alternate your alcoholic drinks with water (this will keep you hydrated too). Watch your serving sizes if you are pouring your own drinks, and be careful with top-ups. Alcohol has a lot of hidden calories, that you tend to forget about!

[Image from here ]

7. Continue to exercise during December.
There's no reason at all to stop exercising during the 'silly season' and actually, now is a great time to start! With daylight savings in some states providing extra light, after dinner walks with the family are a great activity and provide some exercise and fresh air. You could also ask for a gym membership as a Christmas present to get you motivated for the new year, or set a goal of doing a fun run in the new year, so you have something to work towards. If you are on holidays, utilise the facilities at your accommodation, e.g. the pool, tennis, the gym etc. Have a game of backyard cricket on Christmas Day (exercise and making memories!) Also, enjoy lots of walking at the supermarket and shopping centres as you buy those last-minute gifts!

Here is a cool idea from 'It's Progression, Not Perfection' - 12 Days of Christmas Workout! Use this like an Advent Calendar! Start with Day 1, then do Day 2 & Day 1, then do Days 3, 2 & 1 (just like the song!). Google any exercise you are unsure of!

8. Choose which parties you will attend.
Instead of feeling pressured to attend every party you are invited to, pick the most important ones. December is busy enough as it is without having to drag yourself to party after party!

9. Be prepared! And don't let one bad party ruin the whole month!
Go to each party with a plan of how much you will eat or drink, and try to stick to it. Eat your favourite things, and try not to eat if you aren't really enjoying what you are eating. And even if you overindulge, don't let it ruin your week or month (or the next year!) Just begin the next day with a healthy breakfast.

10. Lastly, make sure you are drinking enough water, and getting enough sleep!
It is especially important in the December heat to keep hydrated, even if it means taking your own drinkbottle to parties. Getting enough sleep each night is also important, especially in the midst of such a busy, hectic time. Take some 'me' time and ensure you relax and rest when you need to!

The most important thing is to enjoy this season, with friends and family, and the people that mean the most to you, remembering too the true meaning of Christmas!

[Top Image from here ]

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