The holidays… we all love and look forward to a nice long (or short!) break. And with good reason! Most of us work darned hard so we can take some well-deserved time off. But let’s reevaluate. What is it exactly that we are taking ‘time off’ from?
We have a caravan and almost every chance we get; we head off … for 2 nights or even 5 weeks at a time. For me that’s time away from the stresses of everyday life; running a household, kids schooling and running my business. It’s definitely not a time when I’m ‘inactive’!
Our truck is loaded with mountain bikes, stand up paddle boards, surfboards, long boards and scooters, and the back of the caravan holds the kids BMX bikes. We head to the hinterland and explore the rainforests and waterfalls, or find amazing waterholes. We love seeing new towns and beaches and exploring many of the amazing places we discover while we are at home, planning our next trip away. It’s amazing how many ‘hidden gems’ you can come across on Instagram! We also relax in our hammock, taking in the scenery; read books and play board games. We have a wonderful balance of Yin (energy ‘in’ activities) and Yang (energy ‘out’ activities).
When we are away, I still squeeze workouts in. I get up early and go for a (HiiT) bike ride, or I might do a few rounds of tabata or laps of the pool. I try and keep up with my pushups and strength work. I just cant handle the thought of having to start back at square one in the New Year! Exercise is definitely not done as often as when I’m home, but I find I’m happier, more motivated and I sleep much better when I exercise. This makes for a much happier mummy and partner for all involved!
I also plan WELL ahead and buy healthy food to stock the freezer and pantry in the van. I pack the hand beater so I can make ice cream, and if there’s enough room I even take my beloved food processor! I pre-cook snacks where I can (crackers, slices, boiled eggs, mini meatballs, beef jerky, protein bars etc.). I have a semi-meal plan sorted, and make sure that it’s the minority of meal times where we grab something on the run.
But it turns out that our family is the exception, as most people tend to do, well, not much at all during the holidays. And while I encourage everyone to get enough R&R, there has to be a balance.
The holidays tend to be when people gain weight. Did you know that adults gain an average of half a kilo between the middle of November and the middle of January? And that is a very modest statistic. Most of my clients gain much more than that if they ‘let themselves indulge’. Indulge in what? Too much of anything is never good. Too much: food, rest, exercise, drink, sleep … (I think you get the idea!) can all wreak havoc on not only your body, but your brain as well.
Here are some tips to help you get through this Christmas break without gaining weight.
- Get active with the family. Something as simple as going for a walk with the family is a much better option than sitting on the couch and watching a movie together.
- Get enough sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body will release a hormone that tells you to eat more food! Inadequate sleep also leads to a decrease in your metabolism.
- Reduce Stress Levels. Stress can lead you to crave junk food. People who are stressed often have high levels of cortisol, a hormone that is released when we get stressed out. Chronically high cortisol levels may cause weight gain, as they have been linked to greater food intake. Stress can be caused by anything – exercise that is too intense can even cause this! Exercise, meditation, yoga and deep breathing are all great ways to combat stress.
- Snack smart! At home, keep unhealthy snacks hidden (or best, keep them out of the house!) Be aware of what you are snacking on and why. Choose real foods instead of processed junk food and sweets.
- Portion Control! You’re far more likely to gain weight if you eat larger-than-recommended portion sizes. Read labels, and do your best to be sensible. Wait for 15 or so minutes before going back for seconds, and only eat more if you are still HUNGRY. Using a smaller plate can help too.
- Practice Mindful Eating. Take a few deep breaths before you start eating, and while you are eating, do so without distractions (not in front of the TV!). Focus on the taste and texture of your food and chew slowly.
- Eat more healthy fats. Healthy fats make us feel full, and they also make our food taste great! We can’t get fat by eating fat. We gain weight by eating too many carbohydrates or too much protein. Healthy fats include olive oil, butter, avocado, pure cream, nuts (not peanuts), and animal fats (lamb fat, pork belly etc.)
- Don’t lick the spoon! If you are the cook, try not to ‘taste test’ too often! A small tsp. is probably enough to know that your meal is delicious and ready to share with your guests.
- Take your own. When you attend gatherings and are unsure if there will be healthy options, simply take your own! That way you know you will have something to eat regardless of what the others bring.
- Be selective with your sweets. We know desserts are absolutely everywhere at Christmas! Choose wisely. Only eat the ones you love, and savour each mouthful! Put you mindful eating into practice with every bite you take.
- Drinks count too! Sugary drinks and alcohol can contribute a significant amount of sugar and empty calories to your diet, which can cause weight gain. And alcohol can make you want to nibble… on anything and everything! It’s best all round to limit your intake of anything other than water where you can.
- Find someone to hold you accountable. Call your best mate and let them know you are NOT gaining weight this holiday season. Weigh and measure yourself and let them know your numbers. Check in with them every few days to keep on top of things.
- Put your foot down. Decide right now what is worth more to you. Which foods are worth sacrificing your goals (maybe Nan’s pavlova?) and which ones aren’t (a Macca’s thick shake); what activities contribute towards reaching your goals (like walking or drinking sparkling water), and which ones will set you back (like lying on the couch all day with pizza and wine). Set goals and stick to them. And remember if you slip up, don’t stress. Just get back on track. Don’t let one bad meal turn into a bad day, turn into a bad week!
And here is a picture of my partner surfing on the stand-up paddle board while wearing a Santa hat!