Silly season survival guide

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Keeping true to your diet and fitness regime can be tough at the best of times, so come the silly season, this takes on a whole new meaning. At this busy time of year it is extremely easy to get lost in the excitement, fall prey to overindulgence, skip regular exercise, and neglect your health as busy social engagements, shopping and Christmas preparation fills the calendar.

Add a cocktail of alcohol, high kilojoule snack foods, late nights, constant grazing, and heat induced holiday laziness; it is no surprise that, according to the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), people gain an average of 0.5kg by the end of the festive season.

For many, Christmas is definitely not the best time to be trying to shed excess kilos and no one says that a little overindulgence over the festive season is forbidden, but maintaining your current weight and staying fit and healthy is a good goal and can be achieved by implementing a few simple strategies.

So, before the party season kicks off and you shelve your health priorities until the new year, remember that extra 0.5kg will be a lot harder to lose than it was to gain.

Try these simple survival tips to get you through the season unscathed.

  1. Limit potential damage by planning ahead for social engagements: Being too much of a social butterfly during the silly season can leave you drained of energy, having consumed party food and alcohol on high rotation for weeks on end. Try being selective and only choose attend the most important ones and /or events that cater for healthier lifestyles.Try not to turn up to events on an empty stomach. Have a small meal before you go that includes lean protein and healthy low GI carbohydrates to keep you feeling satiated. This way you are less likely to overconsume on party snacks, and it will help to slow down the effects of alcohol. Decide how much you are going to eat and drink before you go. When at the event, avoid mingling around the food table or bar and keep your hands busy by holding your glass and a napkin, or a help out by walking around with a tray of food. This will help to limit picking tendencies!Meal planning for the month of December will help you to ensure you are eating healthy balanced meals in between your social schedule. It will help you to save time, money, food waste and stress by having the fridge and pantry stocked with healthy ingredients for home prepared meals at every opportunity you have.
  1. No time – no excuse: If you are taking some leave over the Christmas New Year period, then use your time wisely. If you work full time you should have an extra 35+ hours per week up your sleeve. Thirty minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days of the week is recommended for good health. Get outdoors and enjoy the Australian summer. Take long walks along the beach, play a backyard game with the kids, go bushwalking, swimming, surfing or canoeing.
  2. Plan a healthy Christmas lunch: Swap less healthy options for healthier ones e.g. Instead of savoury crisps and creamy dips try vegetables sticks or wholegrain crackers with hummus or beetroot dip. Consider portion control strategies like eating off the smallest plates you can find. Avoid seconds and share dessert. Start with a salad – research suggests that filling up on low kilojoule food reduces the amount you eat at that meal. Eat for the climate and take advantage of fresh summer produce. Fill the menu with fresh tropical fruits, healthy salads, fresh seafood and lean meats.
  3. Sign up for fitness: Going away on holidays? Have you ever considered cycle tours, downhill mountain bike riding, bushwalking, a yoga retreat, surfing lessons or hiking? Set yourself a challenge to train for – register for a community fitness event such as a fun run, aquathon, ocean swim, or cycling event. You could visit a health retreat or take the family to a sport and recreation camp. Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge or take visiting family on a walking tour of the local area.
  4. Drink wisely: Beverages can be a lethal source of hidden and forgotten kilojoules. On a hot summer’s day it is all too easy to lose track of what and how much you have drank. Beer (285ml), wine (120ml), and soft drinks (375ml) each contain approximately 400kJ = more than a slice of bread and not as filling! Be sure to drink enough water to remain hydrated; this will stop you from guzzling calorie laden drinks when thirsty. Also avoid topping up alcoholic drinks as you may lose track of how many you have had. Start drinking alcohol later in the day; swap regular soft drinks for diet / zero versions; alternate alcohol with water and remember to have alcohol free days. Use tall skinny glasses – research shows that people pour 20-30% more alcohol into wide short tumblers than tall glasses that hold the same volume!
  5. Think of movement as an opportunity rather than an inconvenience: There are many hidden opportunities to redeem your unhealthy eating habits come December. Put on your dancing shoes at Christmas parties – one hour of dancing burns approximately 1200kJ! Stride out doing the Christmas shopping and win bonus points by parking the car in the furthest spot from the supermarket entrance. Be the chef or help the chef, offer to be the waiter for the day, clean the house, or wash up. Or better still – offer your services as a ‘slave for a day’ as a Christmas gift with an active twist!
  6. Enjoy yourself! Be sure to include your favourite naughty Christmas foods but don’t let them dominate your diet for the next month. Chocolates, lollies and chips are available all year round so there is no need to go crazy on them – have one or two and share the rest. Don’t let one big meal or overindulgent party derail your efforts for the rest of the week, month, or year. The key is to get back on track at the next meal. Above all have fun and remember to take some ‘me’ time. Use December to reflect on your achievements throughout 2018 and re-evaluate your goals. This way you will have a clear pathway to follow that ends in good health throughout the silly season and into 2019.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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