Yeah, it is almost this time of the year again. My favourite time actually. Those festive days around Xmas when everyone seems to be in their best mood, happy and enjoying themselves. However, for many of us those festive days mean also gaining some serious weight.
To help you enjoy your festive season without weighty side-effects, I have created this quick list of my top 10 tips on how to make sure you stay slim and feeling your best self this Xmas.
- Start your day with a glass of fresh lemon water
For me there is no better way to start my day. A glass of freshly squeezed lukewarm lemon water gives my body the perfect boost to kick-start its metabolism and get the process of detoxification rolling after a good night’s sleep.
In addition, lemons help to alkalise your blood pH which is so important for good, vibrant health, a flat stomach and glowing skin. And what’s best, I find that if I start my day with such a simple but super healthful and self-nurturing ritual, I am so much more likely to continue along this pathway for the rest of my day.
- Don’t skip breakfast Ever.
I know, it might sound like an easy way to reduce a few calories by not having breakfast and saving them for later in the day when you are feeling more tired and more stressed. But exchanging a nourishing and balanced breakfast with more snacks, a bigger dinner, a few extra pieces of chocolate or an extra glass of wine later on, does not work. This equation is faulty. Our precious bodies are no robot-like machines and foods are so much more to our bodies than simply calories.
Skipping breakfast will work against your waistline because it will have the following 3 effects on you and your body.
Firstly, it will put a big damper on your metabolism…ouch, which means you will be burning fewer calories and your body will try to hold on to every little gram of fat instead of burning it off…yuk.
Secondly, skipping breakfast will send your blood sugar into a serious plunge. As a physiological response to low blood sugar you will end up feeling absolute ravenous and then find that you cannot control your food choices nor the urge to over-eat.
Thirdly, eating more calories towards the end of the day gives you less of a chance to use those calories…so they are more likely to end up on your midsection. Earlier in the day, however, your body can use those delicious wholefoods more efficiently, and turn them into much appreciated energy, while you are running around and keeping busy with your many daily chores.
- Turn your meals into nutritious feasts rather than calorie bombs
I will be honest with you. I love food. I really do. And counting calories is not for me. In my opinion it only leads to an unhealthy, over-obsessive and controlling relationship with foods and eating. On top of it, it does not even work because not every calorie in the body is created equal.
What I do believe in, though, is that foods are not only there to taste great and bring us pleasure but also to nurture our beautiful bodies. So, whenever I cook up a nutritious, delicious storm, I simply make sure that most of the ingredients I use help my body to look and feel amazing. So, taking this into practice means that instead of opting for packaged and processed foods, I cook with fresh, real whole-foods. Wholegrains, beans, pulses, fruit, fatty fish, nuts and seeds, lean meat, fruit and lots and lots of vegetables in all of the colours of the rainbow make up my dishes.
Besides from tasting amazing, dishes cooked with wholefoods also have a slimming effect on your waist line, they add much appreciated toning touches to your body and provide an irresistible glow to your skin and hair. So instead of buying your Xmas pudding this year, make one yourself, which is much more fun anyway. And while you are at it re-invent all of your favourite Xmas dishes by easy swaps such as exchanging table sugar for Medjool dates, cream for coconut milk, white pastry for nuts, seeds, wholegrains or even black beans, salt and added sugar for herbs and spices, and milk chocolate for raw cacao powder or nibs.
Get creative, beautiful friends, the only limitation here is your imagination.
- Drink more water
This is probably the easiest tweak of all. So ridiculously simple and without costing you much of your precious time or money…And all of this with amazing effects.
When we do not re-hydrate our bodies enough, we start to experience cravings or confuse the feeling of thirst with hunger. So, if we can only make it a habit of always drinking a big glass of filtered H2O first whenever we feel any signs of hunger, appetite, cravings, headaches, tiredness or moodiness, we could save ourselves so much stress around trying to lose those unnecessary kilos by avoiding them piling on in the first place.
Drinking more water will also help your body to eliminate waste material and toxins better from your body and reduce digestive issues such as constipation.
However, funnily enough, it is my experience that making it a habit to drink more water is not that easy to integrate into your stay-healthy-slim-and-happy-life after all. So, to make it more fun and appealing buy yourself a beautiful glass jar or water bottle that you will from now on proudly carry with you everywhere you go. In addition, jam up your water with fresh lemon, lime, orange, mint, ginger or berries to make it taste more delicious and harder to go without this re-hydrating liquid.
- Keep moving
Plunging into those joyful days of Xmas holidays, usually also means turning your usual routines upside down. Or not having a routine at all. This also includes not doing your usual body pump classes, not seeing your personal trainer or getting your weekly sweat up in your favourite Vinyasa Yoga Class.
That is alright. However, not so alright is to stop keep moving and being active altogether. Use this extra time you got given over your Xmas holidays and invest it into lots of fun and sweaty activities with your beloved ones.
How about little morning run-walks, push-up or plank competitions with the kids, a bike tour before the heat kicks in, dancing together, playing beach volleyball, body surfing, swim races or make up your own fun water ball games where you are not allowed to stand still. Your options are endless. And yes this of course also includes your most functional activities such as walking to the shops or close-by deli, doing some gardening, helping your kids build those gigantic sand castles and to of course not use the lift but instead sprint, hop or – alright – walk up the stairs.
- Learn to say no
No to things and situations that you know will not serve you but leave you feeling guilty and unhappy about yourself.
If you have a favourite Xmas indulgence, no problem, have a little of it and fully and utterly savour it, with all your senses. As you do so, keep in mind that it is your very first bite which will bring you the most pleasure, so re-consider how many bites will be following this ah so special first one.
As for the rest of all the Xmas foods: it might be time to practice saying a polite but clear and determined no. Say no to foods that don’t really serve your health and wellbeing well and you know you will regret having eaten. To foods that you are eating more out of politeness or boredom than because you really want them. To foods that will trigger over-eating, cravings and headaches. To situations that make you falter, slip and stumble and bring you further away from the healthy you that you desire and so deserve to be. Unfortunately, not everyone is so ready to make positive changes to their health and lifestyle as you are. And for some people the Xmas holidays serves as the perfect excuse to over-indulge in too much of the bad guys: too much alcohol, too much sugar, too much junk foods. Don’t let yourself be drawn into this.
Saying no to foods you know are not good for you, you don’t really like anyway or saying no to second helpings or big over-sized portions, creates a lot of room for a big pronounced YES to living and loving life in a healthy, happy body, mind and soul.
- Practice mindfulness
With so much Xmas joy in the air, I know it can get all too easy to fall into the trap of mindless eating. We might eat without really being hungry or eat more than good for us. In order to help you get back in sync with your natural cues and only eat when your body really needs more food and to stop eating when it had enough, writing a food journal can be really helpful.
I certainly know for myself that I am always really surprised by how many things actually somehow end up in my mouth and then stomach without me really noticing. Writing it all down makes it very real and helps you to understand and bring more attention to your own eating behaviour. You will notice that at certain times you might have simply been snacking out of boredom or habit instead of really needing this food.
I am also a big believer in shutting off all distractions when sitting down to enjoy your meal. This way you can fully honour all the beautiful colours and divine aroma of your amazing dish you have created and that you are going to enjoy. Take some time before you actually start eating to appreciate and be grateful for all the nourishment and nurturing your meal will give you, this will help you switch on your parasympathetic system (your relaxation and digestion nervous system) and in doing so aid your digestion.
All of this will help you to eat less and enjoy your Xmas meals more.
- Fill yourself up with the good stuff first
Never turn up to any of your Xmas parties feeling hungry. Unless you know for sure there will be plenty of healthy food choices available. Instead, be sure to nurture your beautiful body with a lovely fresh wholesome salad first before you go and enjoy all those parties of the season.
This way you are less likely to succumb to less healthier food choices simply because you are starving. Let’s face it everything starts to look so much more appealing the lower your blood sugar sinks and the louder the rumbling in your stomach gets. Having already set a healthy tone at home will also encourage you to stay in control of your healthy eating habits and you will feel more determined to stick to it.
Also, having yourself filled up with some healthy good stuff first, will make it much more possible and likely for you to leave it at little helpings of those promising Xmas dishes. This will leave you with a sense of divine control instead of self-guilt which in turn does not spike unkind thinking patterns, negative self-talk and more unhealthy behaviour.
This Xmas you have chosen to say no to all the unkind stuff that could work against creating the best version of yourself. Instead you have chosen kind self-nurture which will leave you feel empowered and creates a lovely balance in your healthy life.
- Keep your macro-nutrients in balance
I am mostly talking about the common craze of banning all carbs out of our happy eating lives. Unfortunately, those poor carbs have a very bad reputation: they are being hold responsible as the main culprit of our ever-growing bellies.
Let me shed some light in all this carb confusion. Not all carbs are bad for you. In fact, for you to stay slim this Xmas it is essential to incorporate some healthful carbs. Those carbs I am talking about are wholegrains, beans, pulses and fruit and they help us to feel full for longer, keep our blood sugar levels stable and cravings in check.
Despite all the crazy discussions about avoiding all sorts of fruit because of its high fructose content, research clearly shows that people who do have their 2-3 portions of fruit per day tend to be slimmer than those who don’t. To me this is not surprising at all but makes perfect sense. We do need a certain percentage of healthy carbohydrates per day to feel at the top of the world, for carbs are our preferred source of energy and the only fuel for our brains.
So, if we cut every kind of carbohydrate out of our diet or cutting them too low, they cannot fulfil the tasks they are meant to do and we are creating an imbalance of macronutrients. While making up for this imbalance by eating more fat and protein rich foods can be beneficial for a short period of time, it almost always will result in more snacking and sweet cravings, low energy and fatigue and yes, you may have guessed it, leaves a hefty mark on our midsection on the long term.
Fruits and healthy carbohydrates are filled with fibre and other health and beauty boosting micro-nutrients and antioxidants while at the same time being low in calories. Therefore, not avoiding an entire food group but instead satisfying our inborn love for sweet foods and tastes with healthful options instead of empty calories will end up working in your favour and keep this beautiful belly of yours nice and flat.
- Satisfy your sweet tooth early in the day
My favourite breakfast is porridge with raw cacao powder, banana, fresh berries, kiwi-fruit, lots of seeds and a little yoghurt (dairy or coconut both are great options, just make sure they contain lots of health-boosting stomach-flattening probiotics).
I know, I was not joking when saying I am big on breakfasts. But what this breakfast does for me in addition to supplying me with lots of energy and amazing beauty and health boosting nutrients: it gets rid of all my cravings. And this early in the day. Just like this.
I am both a bit of a sweet tooth and a chocolate lover and I do not feel energised and get cravings for sweet stuff if I do not eat enough healthy carbohydrates. By incorporating all these foods, that I know can very much get into my way of feeling and looking fantastic, into my first meal of the day, I avoid succumbing to any forms of cravings later.
Also, my metabolism is burning high in the morning and I am feeding this flame with such a nutritious breakfast further, so I know I will have enough time to burn all those calories. Come the evening I am happy with a lighter meal, no or very little carbs and I do not feel deprived without having a sweet treat, dessert or a glass of wine when slowing down and hitting the more comfortable part of my day or evening.
So here you have them: my 10 top tips on how to make little adjustments or changes this Xmas so you can stay looking and feeling your best self without any deprivation or restriction, counting calories or going onto a diet that you know is not sustainable. Thus, Xmas can stay what it is for most of us, a time full of fun and pleasure without a guild-loaded, unhappy aftermath of not feeling great in your beautiful body and precious self. It works for me, so I know it will work for you too.