Question: It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! All I hear about at this time of year is what not to do and what not to eat. What are the things I can do to ensure I have a good time and promote a sense of well-being over the holiday period?
When it comes to the Christmas holiday period, we are often bombarded with advice on what not to do, and while this advice is helpful, let’s focus on the flip side and consider the things you can and should do.
Enjoy this day! DO eat the foods you love; don’t avoid or deny yourself, however, be mindful of quantity and frequency of food and drink consumption. Christmas day- regarding food and drink- is just like any other day where you apply the rule of ‘everything in moderation’. But if you do over-indulge, don’t punish yourself, it’s just food and tomorrow is a new day.
Diet tips for Christmas Day
- A great tip for Christmas lunch or dinner is to load your plate up with salads/veggies and protein first, then try a little bit of everything else you want to eat.
- Eat slowly, enjoy it, and savour the textures and flavours.
- If when you finish eating your meal and still feel hungry or want to go back for seconds, put your fork down and wait 20 minutes for your stomach to catch up with your brain. If you still feel like eating more after that time, then go for it.
- If your health allows (e.g., alcohol may be contraindicated when on certain medications), and you enjoy an alcoholic drink or two, go for it! Just be mindful that alcohol packs a punch when it comes to calories, as do soft drinks and juices, so you may like to pace yourself. You may like to drink water between drinks, or only bring a certain number of drinks to the celebration. Also, there are great non-alcoholic, low alcohol or cab options out there – so look out for these in your local food and/or liquor store.
Diet tips for the holiday period
The holiday period in general is a time to unwind and relax, and it’s also ok to relax the diet… a little. To ensure you aren’t over-indulging all the time, you may like to consider the timing of meals, reducing the serving sizes of higher calorie foods or consider having healthier meals either side of higher calorie/indulgent foods. While you want to relax, you also still want to fit your pants at the end!
Exercise and Sleep Tips
There’s no secret here, and there’s nothing new to explain; exercise and sleep are both very important ingredients to feeling good over the holiday period.
It’s ok to slow down a little. You may feel physically (and mentally) drained or even burnt out from the year that’s been, and you may not feel motivated or have the energy to exercise -that’s ok. If this is the case, take your time, rest and relax. Do try to keep moving and active but perhaps reduce the frequency, time, type or intensity of your normal exercise habits while you rest your body. For example, instead of a 60min walk, do a 30min walk, or exercise every second day instead of every day. Once you feel restored, return to your normal exercise habits. Bottom line – do try to keep moving throughout the holiday period but ensure you rest your body.
Enjoy not having to get up to the sound of your alarm! Stay up to watch that movie and have a sleep in! Handy tip – if you don’t want to feel too over tired or struggle getting up with your alarm when it’s time to go back to work, do try to stick close to your normal sleep-wake cycle. Sticking close to your normal “non-holiday” sleep-wake cycle will make things easier when you return work or your normal daily return.
Destress, be grateful and merry!
As mentioned above, the end of year holidays can be where we feel physically exhausted and mentally drained. If this is the case, try some selfcare. Here are some tips or things you may like to try to help destress over Christmas and the holiday period
- For some, Christmas is the best, most fun and loving time of year, but others it’s not. Wherever you are on this spectrum, try to practice gratitude; try to feel gratitude for what you have in your life, rather than focusing on what you don’t have.
- Try to avoid excessive negative rumination about your life, instead take action and plan to do interesting and fun things. Take a positive inventory of your achievements, relationships, attributes and resources, and cherish them.
- Presence, not presents: Get absorbed in conversation, drink in that hug, put distractions away, and just be in the moment. It’s not about undivided attention every minute – that’s not realistic. Instead, aim for pockets of presence and see the dividends ripple out broadly.
- Christmas Day, and the events leading up to and around it, can be stressful. If you are the organiser or host, remember – ‘keep is simple stupid’, less is more, delegate and/or ask for help. This is a time to enjoy and feel less stress, not more.
From myself, and everyone here at Arthritis NSW, we wish you a very Merry and safe Christmas, and happy New Year.
Author: Kat Keane, Health Educator ANSW