Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, or is it the most challenging? In my experience, running a Nutrition Consulting Practise in Galway and recently cofounding Ireland’s first Women’s Health & Fitness Event “Body&Kind”, it really is both!.
My work centres around helping high performance women achieve balance in their lives. However, Christmas time can play havoc with our wellness.
Even the healthiest, fittest women I know can fall into a slippery slope of self sabotaging behaviour if they neglect to put the right tools in place.
Its very easy to slip into an overwhelmed state and a habit of emotional eating. Emotional eating is when we use food as comfort and a coping mechanism to feel bette,r as opposed to using food to satisfy hunger and nourish.
Without proper guidance, a little self-indulgence can turn into an all-out binge!
I have compiled Christmas eating survival guide to help avoid this overwhelming state. Allowing you to indulge, rather than binge this holiday season.
There are NO RULES, no unrealistic expectations. This is essentially about self-care. Knowing what you enjoy and ‘allowing’ yourself some of your favourite festive treats without feeling guilty. It’s not about having an iron willpower and saying “no” to everything.
This has been proven to be counterproductive in terms of healthy weight and wellness. We cannot rely on willpower alone.
Instead, we must practice ‘healthy habits’ outlined here. It’s only when we are in this positive space, that we can choose well, choose to indulge and enjoy.
There’s no getting away from it. The more you plan, the better the outcome. Plan the ‘key people’ you want to meet. The ones that are most special to you. The ones that nourish you and make you feel better after being in their company. Make sure you are spending this special time in the way you want to.
Of course we have obligations that we need to meet, but if you feel you are people-pleasing all the time, you will be left feeling drained.
Feeling this way, can encourage the habit of turning to food or alcohol for comfort or high sugar foods to counteract the mental drain and fatigue.
Also, when going out for drinks or to a party be sure to have a substantial snack or mini meal beforehand so you don’t overindulge in the often unhealthy canapés on offer.
This way you are in control and not in starvation mode when the food is served. You have no idea how many women I have shared this information with and who have greatly benefited by adopting this technique. Simple but effective.
Do not get dehydrated! It’s just so easy this time of year, but put every effort in to avoid becoming dehydrated.
Dehydration activates both hunger and thirst centres in the brain’s hypothalamus. If you’re dehydrated you are more likely to snack on the wrong foods. At Christmastime, this is a huge temptation as there is food everywhere.
If you don’t like drinking plain water, try adding cherry-active concentrate to your water. This is a highly anti-inflammatory, antioxidant rich drink. Fantastic for your skin, sport recovery and restful sleep.
You could also stop off and grab a Kombucha drink, which are widely available. Synerchi Kombucha is a super Irish brand, and as Kombucha is a fermented drink it’ll help optimise your digestive system thus optimising your energy.
The same goes for the cultured dairy drink kefir. This is a great probiotic drink that you can grab from the fridge of most retail outlets, and will satisfy, hydrate, balance blood sugars, boost your immune system.
I know, it’s not easy during the holidays, but outside of your key social outings, aim to adhere to your regular sleep pattern.
When we’re sleep-deprived the hormones that stimulate our appetite increase (ghrelin) and the hormone that regulates our appetite is suppressed (leptin).
You’ll greatly increase your chances of eating and craving the wrong foods if you are sleep-deprived, so help yourself by using one of my favourite and most effective sleep aids.
These include magnesium supplement (Mag365 is a great brand), essential oils like lavender, Pukka Sleep Tea, cherry active, and most importantly not having devices in the bedroom or stopping screen-time one hour before going to bed.
5. The Right Foods
To give yourself the best chance of not overindulging and inducing cravings, as well as working on the previous lifestyle behaviours you need to choose the right foods. This is so important if you want to achieve the right balance.
What you should aim for is:
– To feel satisfied from your food, but not ‘stuffed’.
– To keep your blood sugars stable. Low blood sugars can lead to anxiety, mood disruption and sugar cravings.
– To avoid getting too hungry. To look forward to your food, not be in that ‘hangry’ state!
How you can approach this is by including protein in ALL your meals and snacks. Eggs for breakfast, seeds on your porridge (chia, linseeds, sesame), quality protein powder in your breakfast smoothie. I like the Pulsin pea protein as there is no real taste from it and the quality is exceptional.
Eat quality health bars. Pop into your local health store and stock up on quick fixes that will sustain you until your next proper meal. I like nuts and seeds packs, Pulsin protein bar, The Happy Pear health bars, Nairns Oatcakes, Glenisk plain live yoghurt pots, and plenty of berries.
If you’re a little hungrier, seek out places where you can get a good protein salad on the go or choose a soups as a fantastic quick fix. And if you’re feeling depleted, a soup goes a long way than any coffee to go.
Don’t forget about the good fats either – two portions per day to keep your appetite, skin, and mood in check! If you find it difficult to feel satisfied from your food, it may mean your meal is lacking in a portion of good fats.
Think of adding a drizzle of Extra Virgin olive oil over your vegetables or salad, a portion of oily fish like salmon, trout, sardines or mackerel at lunchtime. Nuts and seeds on your yoghurt are a great addition, as is an avocado in your smoothie.
If you feel you’re under pressure and are eating poorly, a supplement can be a good idea to avoid slipping further.
Source of Life Living Gold is a great all-round tonic. It’s a liquid multi-vitamin from which you can feel the difference very quickly – plus it contains high quality ingredients and is very easily absorbed by the body.
This post was written by Nutritional Therapist Sinead Bradbury, who owns Nutrition & Health Clinic, in Co. Galway, and is the co-founder of Body&Kind Events.