Staying Fit, Healthy & Happy During the Festive Season

December has arrived and with it comes a host of invitations for parties, meals out, long lunches, and get-togethers. People you’ve hardly seen all year suddenly want to catch-up over coffee and there are impromptu after-work drinks to attend.  Add to this the shopping trips, family visits and household preparations and your diary is sure to be bulging without a ‘me-day’ in sight.
It’s a difficult time of year for even the most dedicated gym junkie to stick to a regular training routine and those counting the calories need a will of iron to resist all the rich food and treats on offer (not to mention the booze).  I have lost count of the number of tins of chocolate passed round my office in the last few days and despite the pile of fruit on my desk, I still find myself reaching into the tin each time it comes round.
There is the odd person who seems to manage it all, juggling all the commitments in their schedule, whizzing through a to-list and still finding time to exercise and eat well.  They are the ones who have burned out by Christmas Day and spend the bank holiday comatose on the sofa whilst the good times happen around them.So how can you stay fit, healthy and happy at this time of year without being a calorie counting, party pooper? Here are a few suggestions for you to try:
1. Party smarter not harder
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the number of invites for nights out, amalgamate some of them (saves on outfit choices as well as time).  Your best friend could be your ‘date’ to the office party, your in-laws may consider joining in with your family’s celebrations and your mates from various circles may welcome the chance to meet new people by having one big get-together.  Do not feel obliged to accept every invitation either. Be selective and spend time only with those you really want to.  That way you will have plenty of energy for the events you do attend and will not have suffered your way through the ones that you didn’t really want to go to. If you are struggling to say “no” just be honest and say that your diary is already incredibly full and you cannot make it.  Don’t lie or procrastinate with your RSVP, you’ll just cause yourself to feel stressed delaying the inevitable and then fee guilty when you decline at the last minute.  Make sure that you catch up on your sleep too after the late nights by having a least one night a week where you hit the sheets early.  Sleep debt builds up and will impair your ability to function properly during the day, reduce your endurance and strength in the gym and can also cause you to eat more as your ‘hunger hormones’ leptin and ghrelin are regulated through sleep.
2. Eat drink and be merry…Just not every day
If there is one thing to remember from this blog it is this “If you put on weight over Christmas, it won’t be one meal that’s done it!”  One zipper-popping meal does not make you fat but a whole holiday period of over eating….well you don’t need this blog to tell you what to expect.  Food is to be enjoyed and I would never suggest that you abstain from the delicious meals on offer at Christmas time.  I would suggest though that you do things in moderation.  Have a huge meal on a Friday, go easy on the Saturday – simple.  If you really can’t resist or you are that much of a socialite that you are eating out every night, try to make sensible menu choices as much as you can.  Swap the creamy sauces for tomato based ones, go veggie for a change and alternate the nights when you drink alcohol (and don’t make up for the quantities on the nights you do drink!) If you don’t fancy any of this, by all means eat to your hearts content, put on weight and suffer the consequences in the New Year.  Just please don’t complain about it, no one forced those profiteroles down your neck.
3. Move it
Personally I don’t believe when people say that they don’t have time to exercise.  A full body kettlebell workout takes just 20 minutes and will burn 300 calories.  Watching the soap-opera omnibuses however is half a day and burns ZERO calories.  I know you’re at home on Sundays catching up on Eastenders, right after you’ve updated your Facebook status about the night of debauchery you’re recovering from….but you don’t have time to exercise right?  Many gyms are now offering ‘Fast Classes’ to accommodate our busy lifestyles, workouts that target the whole body in just half an hour.  There are numerous home-workouts you can do be it on your games console, DVDs or from magazines and the internet.  I have some great free apps on my iPad for 10 minute workouts that each targets a different body part.  When all else fails… WALK.  It’s a great low impact exercise you can do anywhere, it’s free and it’s environmentally friendly.  Try and incorporate walking into your day as much as you can, it all adds up and you will feel better for it if ypu don’t manage to make it to the gym.
You read correctly. My last bit of advice is to stop, take stock and reprioritise if you need to.  How many times have you run yourself ragged throughout December, trying to get everything done and be all things to all people only for Christmas Day itself to pass by in a blur?  By the 27th you’re asking yourself “was that it?”.  Don’t do it this year.  Stop right now and take a moment to remind yourself of what is most important to about this time of year. It could be having family time, seeing friends, religious observation, partying, exchanging gifts, watching repeats on TV or just simply having a few days off work.  Whatever it is that is special to you about Christmas, focus on it, the other stuff just doesn’t matter.
Enjoy the season folks

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