Many of us will be thinking of damage limitation during the Christmas period. I am sure we are all looking forward to Christmas and all the celebrations. However, I know that some of you will be quietly dreading it. You have worked so hard over the last few months to shed the weight you put on over the summer. You are feeling great, energy is better, sleeping like a log and you are fitting into your party clothes. Christmas may mean that you put back on half a stone or 3 kilos in just a week if you don’t watch it. So how can you enjoy Christmas, not be perceived as a party pooper and keep to your healthy eating plan?
First of all, relax! Stress makes our blood sugar go up and down just like sugar so let’s get this in perspective – it’s just one week and you can do this! Take time out over Christmas to relax, go for a long walk, breathe deeply and live in the moment.
When your blood sugar gets too high, insulin will either burn excess sugar, store it in your muscles and liver or convert it into fat and store it. Insulin often does too good a job and leads to a blood sugar low a few hours later which means you are then reach for something sweet to lift it back up.
This creates the next blood sugar high and you are on the roller coaster. You are repeatedly converting sugar into fat and storing it.
PROTEIN! Not in excess but have protein with every meal, snack and drink and you will be helping to even out that blood sugar. What is protein you may ask? Nuts, olives, cheese with alcohol; Turkey, lamb, gammon, pigs in blankets with your Christmas lunch; Bacon & eggs for breakfast. It should be around a quarter of your plate or the size of your palm. Protein slows down the release of sugar into your blood stream and reduces the spike.
The right kind of CARBS. You need about 20 to 30% of your plate to be over ground vegetables. So this would be the sprouts, cabbage, broccoli with your Christmas lunch; crudités if at a buffet; spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes with your cooked breakfast. These contain very little carbohydrate in comparison with those that grow underground: potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beetroot, sweet potatoes. These are the ones you want to limit to no more than 15% to 25% of your plate. These are the ones that make you fall asleep after your Christmas lunch because they will spike your blood sugar and crash you a few hours later. The other carbs that convert rapidly into sugar are from grains such as wheat so watch out for the ‘beige’ food at the buffet which invariably is pastry based with very little protein content. Have a chicken leg with crudités and dips instead.
What about FATS? Surely they are fattening? Actually healthy fats are really good at keeping us feeling full and help to stop us overeating. I don’t know anyone who could eat 500g of butter but could eat the same weight in chocolates!! They have more calories in them than carbs but we know that we don’t metabolise them in the same way. Fats and Proteins are often found together such as cheese and nuts. Cook your roast potatoes in goose fat, add butter to your vegetables – sprouts taste less bitter with butter! Buy full fat dips, eat full fat cream and yoghurt. Add half an avocado to your cooked breakfast.
The other way to help your body recover at Christmas is to give your system some time off. This can be achieved through fasting. There are a number of ways to do this. You can limit calorie intake such as with the 5:2 diet but I think you will have more success over Christmas by limiting the window that you eat and drink to 8 to 10 hours a day which gives you 14 to 16 hours of fasting – mainly while you’re asleep.
This is what your day might look like: have a late breakfast/brunch around 11 to 12 and finish eating and drinking by to 8 to 10pm. You would be following the blood sugar guidelines above at the same time.
If your social diary permits have some days off the overeating and drinking. Have some alcohol free days and get back to healthy eating. Do your favourite exercise. Your body will thank you.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water and think you will put it all right in January. It will take you to Easter!
Remember to enjoy what you eat and drink – be present, taste every mouthful and savour the flavours. This actually boosts your immune system. Life is too short to feel guilty.
Have a happy and healthy Christmas!
Specific results are not guaranteed. Results of each nutrition programme may vary.