Indulged over Christmas?

I certainly have!!  Lots of multiple course meals.  Lots of snacks and meals on the road between relatives that live a long way from each other.  Mince pies, presents of chocolate, a few glasses of wine, bowls of nibbles….you know the drill.  Lots of sitting around chatting with relatives and sitting in cars or on trains or on ferries.  A few ‘blow away the cobweb’ bracing walks, including up a big hill in the snow bearing gifts, but really not much activity.

It has been lovely, not having to get up while it is still dark, not having to set an alarm clock, indulging in leisurely breakfasts, lots of rich food.  But I am beginning to feel that maybe I have had too much of a good thing.  I feel a bit sluggish, like the lie-in that went on a bit too long – instead of feeling a bit more energetic after that bit of extra sleep actually feeling a bit lethargic and stuffy.  A portion of Xmas Pud too many!! I feel ready to grab the New Year and have a bit of normality again, feel a bit more energetic.

Everyone is feeling the same way.  The diet companies and gyms are rubbing their hands and preparing to make money out of this feeling of over indulgence. Everyone is maybe feeling a little fatter, a little guilty and so every year we see a big cashing in on this in January, while people want to do good things for themselves, everywhere we look there are adverts.  The time for fad diets and detox programmes and all those things promising immediate results is very much here.  So tempting, especially if you are feeling guilty for those few extra pounds from consuming some yummy food with family and friends.

We may have indulged our mind and soul with festive and social times a lot of that involving food, we shouldn’t feel guilty. January shouldn’t be a time of penance. Rather it should be a time to be enthusiastic about the New Year and have some positive, simple goals that really help us be more healthy, towards feeling better from the inside.  A bit of self care, time to find some routine again, get the activity going again and being more mindful of what we are eating.  Jumping on a ‘detox cleanse’ or believing promises to ‘get you in perfect shape in x weeks’ with some extremely restrictive diet plan or fad regime is not the answer long term.

So what should those simple goals be?  Most of us aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables, eating enough fibre or staying hydrated.  Many of us snack too frequently on things that are high in energy but not that nutritious, or we snack mindlessly while we are busy with other things and eat more than we really need or want.  Many of us could get a bit more activity in our days.  Focusing on these things is a great way to start feeling like you are treating your body a bit better. These things are sustainable, give health benefits over and above helping us to manage weight.

This time of year is perfect for comforting soups or casseroles and stews full of vegetables, pulses and grains, those tasty ingredients that are also foods that most of us could include more of in our day to day meals.  There are lots of seasonal vegetables like all the root vegetables, squash and pumpkins, leeks (lovely steamed with kale or broccoli with a sprinkling of caraway seeds), kaleBrussels Sprouts, swede (delicious mashed with a little butter and plenty black pepper).

Porridge for breakfast on those cold mornings – you don’t have to ban yourself from a drizzle of honey or a light sprinkling of brown sugar (I say brown sugar because it tastes so much better than the plain old white stuff) – although how about adding some fruit instead, semi- dry apricots or raisins.  Personally, thanks to my Scottish mum, I prefer a little bit of salt on mine.  I don’t add salt to anything else.

Get the fruit bowl out on the table – it has been shown that households that put their fruit out in an accessible fruit bowl eat more fruit than when it is hidden away.  The same is true for biscuits and sweets – so put them away out of sight.   Fruit and nuts are good snacks, they are nutritious and are more satiating than sugary or fatty snacks.  If you want one of those delicious biscuits that someone bought you for Christmas, take out one or two and put the tin away.  Make time to enjoy them, make a cup of tea and sit down for a while.  Don’t take the tin or the packet to the chair (or your desk) – you will eat more then.

Time to think about how to get more active and reinstate things that fell by the wayside or try something new.  What do you like doing?  Sport and activity shouldn’t be punishment.  Do you love a good walk?  Do you like to dance?  Do you like to swim?  Do you prefer company?  Team sports your thing but you haven’t played since school?  Who would you like to spend time with ? Talk to friends and find someone to join in something with you.  Involving others and making activity a social thing makes it much more sustainable.  Even just taking a walk at lunchtime, walking between floors at work or climbing the escalators at the underground, getting off the bus a stop early – these things are worth doing too.  Don’t sign up to a gym membership out of guilt when you really are not a gym bunny – come Feb or March the direct debit will carry on and the cost per visit climbs and climbs.  But your fitness stays the same.

Get back some routine.  It is likely that well before Christmas life got busy and a bit more disordered with all the pre Christmas stuff – school plays, shopping trips, work do’s etc.  When life is like that dinner prep can get more and more squeezed.  There is no time to plan meals and it is so much easier to just grab convenience food and takeaways – these are not all evil but it is so much easier to consume more salt, fat and calories and less veg and fibre when relying a lot on ready prepared meals.  Find some time to add some quick store cupboard meals into your repertoire.

Be kind to yourself.  Health and well-being is not solely reliant on weight.  Weight is important but tackling weight in isolation means that we miss out all the other important things.  Food is not just a vehicle for calories but for lots of important nutrients.  Health is not just about food, it is also about exercise, sleep, social interactions – things that downing a few smoothies won’t help with.  Small steps turned into habits are much better than a misguided full on detox!

Yesterday, I followed my advice – veggie fajitas with piles of veg and refried beans after the first pilates class of the year (and for several weeks and my muscles know it).  And it feels good. (And I had a couple of Xmas chocolates too!)

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