Christmas: Food, Training, Alcohol – what to do before, during and after.

Just two more days until the big day!

Christmas is such a lovely time of the year. People travel within the country or fly overseas to spend time with their loved ones; others fly in from abroad to visit family and friends. However, when it comes to food and drink, Christmas has a big problem: there’s just too much of everything. This is where we tend to trip up since the majority of dishes are only consumed once w year, it’s like going to a new all-you-can-eat restaurant: you’re going to want to try a bit of everything.

Over the last two weeks I have been asked for healthy eating tips for the festive period. Without telling you exactly what to eat, I will give you a few handy pointers on how to make better food choices over the next few days.

Most importantly, I would like to say please do not stress yourself out too much about how many calories you’re going to be consuming. We don’t want it to take the joy out of Christmas. Enjoy the time with your family and friends and make the most of it.

However, here are a few tried and tested methods.

My advice for clients before big dinners or events is to prepare by leaving “calories in the bank”. This means increasing the intake of healthy, highly nutritious food beforehand to be able to enjoy the time off without overly worrying about calories and the ratio of macros. By consuming highly satiating, low calorie foods, which provide quality nutrients, you can improve your digestion. Plus, should you have time for a workout or two beforehand, you will also boost your metabolism and increase your body’s ability to process the energy consumed.

Here’s what to do today and tomorrow:

FOOD:

In the run up to Christmas Dinner, eat an abundance of green vegetables and lean protein. Per meal, I recommend at least 2 servings (160g) of vegetables and 125g of lean protein such as chicken or turkey or about 200g of white fish or seafood such as prawns, scallops, mussels etc. Out of green vegetables I recommend broccoli, asparagus, all types of green beans, courgette and cauliflower (although not green, it acts like a green vegetable when it comes to satiety and fat loss) and of course Brussels sprouts are ideal on Christmas Day. If you like kale and spinach, aim for up to 200-300g in the same meal. On top of that, add some rainbow coloured vegetables for a variety of vitamins and minerals.

TRAINING:

I highly recommend at least one whole body resistance training session: one exercise per muscle group with 2 sets of 12-15 repetitions each. This workout could include lunges, squats, press-ups, tricep dips, bent-over or seated rows, shoulder press and some abdominal work followed by a lovely stretch. Should you have time for two sessions, do upper body and core today and leave lower body training for tomorrow.

Either option will increase your body’s insulin sensitivity and uptake of glycogen (carbohydrates). This way you’ll ensure the energy consumed on Christmas Day goes to good use.

On Christmas Day:

ALCOHOL:

Refer to my previous blog post or YouTube/IGTV video on alcohol and all facts on its consumption.

FOOD:

First and foremost, enjoy yourself and remember that no food is inherently bad or good. The problem is the quantity, so go by “everything in moderation”. If you are a healthy eater who trains regularly throughout the year then a single meal will not tip the scales. It’s been scientifically proven that the amount of body fat stored from a single overindulgent meal is negligible and following a phase of dieting and training can actually boost your weight loss and improve performance in the gym the next day. Still, I would encourage you to listen to your body and not to force yourself to eat more should you feel stuffed up to the eyebrows. 🙂

TRAINING:

Maybe grab a smaller relative and do a couple of squats if that makes you feel better. Otherwise, don’t worry about it.

From Boxing Day onwards:

FOOD:

Reverse dieting – repeat what you did before Christmas Day. Lots of greens, lean protein and an increased water intake. Do not restrict your food intake to “balance out” the calories – our bodies don’t work like that. If you feel a bit heavy, reduce your starchy carbohydrate intake for a couple of days or until you start to feel lighter again. Allow yourself to feel hungry before eating and savour your meals. Do not weigh yourself as it’s pointless. The scales will simply reflect the total of your bodyweight plus gross weight of all foods and drinks consumed. It’s helpful to remember that your body will store 3 grams of water per every gram of carbohydrate consumed, which can lead to bloating and water retention. If you must, please allow yourself 2-4 days before weighing. If you had been following a calorie controlled diet beforehand, you’ll still stand a good chance at having lost some weight by your next weigh in.

TRAINING:

Do not punish yourself with exercise. However, to improve both mental and physical wellbeing, you have two options. Either opt for a light cardio session (cycling, running, swimming) or go to the sauna to sweat out the toxins from alcohol. Or do another whole body session to utilise the excess energy from carbs and fats. As a bonus you will feel a lot stronger, so I do encourage you to put that to good use.

I hope this handy little guide will have given you some peace of mind before the festivities and you feel better prepared.

Once more, please don’t forget to have a great time!

Merry Christmas!

Rahel x

Why I don’t support exclusion diets.

My 6 week challenge group is already making great progress and I couldn’t be more proud. Everybody is involved, asking questions and encouraging one another. This morning they brought a challenge to my attention – J-Lo has announced a 10 day no sugar, no carbs challenge and my first thought was: “Oh no!” 😳

My very first diet was a “no starchy carb” diet back in 2010. I had no idea what I was doing at the time so I followed it religiously and didn’t touch anything that even resembled a carbohydrate. Due to lack of explanation from anyone and lack of knowledge on nutrition and nutrients, it got out of hand. It got to the point where I was scared to even eat yogurt (just to bring one example) without feeling guilty. But yoghurt is dairy and dairy contains naturally occurring milk sugars (yes, even Total 0%; it just doesn’t have any fats). It also contains valuable calcium. So you can imagine what removing such a valuable food group would do to one’s body and health. That is just one example as I know at the time my list of foods I would eat was shorter than the list with things I couldn’t/didn’t dare eat. My cravings started getting out of control as I was becoming deficient in minerals and vitamins that I was no longer receiving from the banned food sources. 

As soon as I stopped the diet I went on a mad sugar binge and started eating cakes and chocolate bars and incredible amounts of fruit because I had forbidden it so long that I could no longer stop myself. It took me about 6 months or more afterwards to turn around the mental damage and to learn to “trust” carbs and sugars again. 

You might think “oh relax Rahel, it’s just a challenge” – but I can’t support diets like this as my motto is “everything in moderation”. I am a Nutritionist and I know that there is no reason for any individual to seclude certain food groups unless they have a medical condition that would require this. I’d like to hope J-Lo is encouraging the 10 day challenge to get people to be more healthy and lose a bit of weight while they’re at it. However, a sufficient calorie deficit can be created by simply eating fewer calories across the board without completely excluding any macronutrient groups. If you are already eating for optimal health, you don’t need to worry about a bit of sugar in your tea or in a yoghurt like I did. 

My goal is to leave everyone better than I left them so please be careful if you still wish to try this. If you feel that, like me back in 2010, you currently don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to dieting, please get in touch and I’ll point you in the right direction! 😊