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10 Tips to Help You Stay in Shape This Christmas

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Christmas is a time to spend with family and catch up with friends. It’s a time to relax and enjoy the festivities. But it’s also a time where parties, indulgence and alcohol could ruin your hard work if you don’t keep an eye on your diet.

It is important to have fun and take a well-earned break from the strict diet you’ve followed all year – but too much enjoyment and you’ll lose track, setting your progress back as you enter into the new year.

This article gives you a guide to making the most of the festive period, whilst still staying trim and healthy.

#1. Plan Ahead

It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of the festive period. Without proper planning you might just find yourself going with the flow and not considering the aftermath of constant junk food, alcohol and parties.

We’re not saying you have to plan your meals and take them with you (although if you do there’s no excuse to keep on track), but thinking about where you set your limits is important.

Mince pies, trifles, liver pâté, Christmas puddings and brandy butter are all surprisingly high in calories and very easy to overeat – and that’s without adding in alcohol. Without setting limits or tracking your intake you might find yourself eating much, much more than you need.

You can either eat these sparingly enough to enjoy without over-indulging, or substitute these foods for healthier alternatives. Either way, just think cleverly about how they fit in with your fat loss goals.


#2. Drink sensibly

At this time of year you’ll see an increase in the warnings about drinking too much alcohol – and there’s a reason for that. Over the festive period we’re much more likely to drink too much, and at 7kcal per gram of alcohol the calories can soon mount up. That’s without adding in the calories from sugars and fats on top.

We’re not saying you can’t enjoy a nice drink but it’s not an excuse to go too far. Don’t be tempted to go over-board. If you don’t want to knock alcohol out of your diet altogether, lower calorie alternatives might be a safe option.

Red wine is a good choice – it contains antioxidants and resveratrol that may have some health benefits when consumed in moderation. It’s far healthier than some other alternatives.

Additionally, the inhibition-loosening effects of alcohol mean you’re much more likely to eat poor-quality, calorie-laden junk foods. You’re obviously less likely to exercise with a massive hangover as well.


#3. Stay Active

With odd opening times and busy schedules it can be difficult to keep your regular gym visits up over Christmas. Does that mean you should stop exercising? No of course not.

Exercise is a great way to offset any high-calorie days and keep you in shape. If you can’t commit to your usual, long gym sessions then try some outdoor or home alternatives – body weight circuits, high-intensity interval training, or even nice short walks are all ways to keep the calorie burning ticking over. Even being slightly active is better than completely inactive.

Alternatively, if you know you just can’t keep active over the holidays, try and plan your rest days around days you know the gym is closed. This way it’ll not get in the way of your training.


#4. Be Aware of Novelty Christmas Drinks

At this time of year we’re overloaded with specialty drinks that contain massive amounts of calories, sugars and fats. Gingerbread, praline and pumpkin spiced lattes, Irish cream coffees and the good old traditional eggnog can contain up to 500kcal per drink – around a quarter of the average person’s daily energy needs.

Whilst a one-off treat won’t set you back too far, drinking these on a regular basis will quickly add up the calories and lead to fat gain. You don’t have to avoid these altogether though – you just need to factor in the calories and cut back elsewhere.


#5. Pack Some Snacks

Part of planning a good diet over the holiday period is preparation. Nuts, fruit and good-quality protein such as eggs, meat or a shake are key when you’re wanting to avoid festive junk foods.

If you know you’re going out for the day – maybe for a Christmas shopping trip or a family day out – take a few pre-prepared snacks with you. If you make them yourself you’ll find it much easier to track your calories and macros.

Christmas is a great time of year to eat festive foods – plan properly you’ll be able to keep up with the spirit, just being clever about the content. Homemade cakes and buns can be made with healthy, wholefood ingredients and festive fruits and spices can be a great treat too as long as you track the calorie content.


#6. Take a Nap

This one might be easier said than done over a busy holiday schedule, but if you find just 20 minutes spare then try a take a recharging, hunger re-setting nap.

Sleep has been found to reduce feelings of hunger and increase satiety signals from the brain. It also helps to boost athletic performance, immune function, brain power and emotional well-being. It’ll also help you recover from intense exercise sessions, or any late night parties you attend.

Ultimately, sleep is an important regulator of not just physical and mental health, but metabolism too.


#7. Get a Good Start to the Day

Whilst studies show that meal frequency or timing isn’t as important as first thought, getting your day off to a nice, healthy start helps you to start as you mean to go on. A hearty porridge with Greek yogurt, honey and cinnamon is a fantastic breakfast to start your day, as are eggs and lean cuts of meat.

These foods help to give you a good protein fix and stabilize your blood sugar with complex carbohydrates. Both of these factors are essential in controlling the hunger signals that’ll appear later in the day.


#8. Shopping Burns Calories

Walking around the shops and picking up food and presents for your loved ones is a great way to increase your non-exercise physical activity levels.

Don’t be surprised if you cover a good few kilometers whilst your’e out and about on your trip. This can be increased by limiting public transport and planning your shop visiting in an order that maximizes the distance you cover. Carrying heavy shopping bags is also a great way to burn calories too.

Combine this with a reduced calorie intake, and low-intensity activity will help you burn fat and keep healthy.


#9. Maintain a Good Mindset

A ‘catastrophe mindset’ means that once you’ve let your diet slide slightly you just give in and all control goes out of the window.

Allow yourself some treats and time away from the diet, but maintain a positive mindset that allows you to jump back on the wagon without feelings of guilt or remorse.

Plan a clear starting point for the festive season to begin and more importantly an end point – don’t let Christmas run into January. The longer you leave it before you return to a stricter diet and exercise regime, the more damage you can do.

This means not buying too much food and balancing bad food choices with better, healthier ones too.


#10. Don’t Completely Deny Yourself

We’ve decided to make this the last point as it’s the most important – whilst you don’t want to let your standards slip too much over the holidays, it is the time of year to have fun.

Life is for living and having fun is important in managing the stress of everyday life. It’s important to let the restrictions slide just a little bit – and Christmas is a perfect time to do this.

Indulge and enjoy, but make sure you don’t go overboard.

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