Navigating the festive feast: A merry guide to staying healthy over Christmas

Dec 24, 2023
This Christmas, let health and happiness go hand in hand as you celebrate with loved ones, enjoying the best of both worlds. Source: Getty Images.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, and while the twinkling lights, cheerful carols, and the scent of gingerbread fill the air, so too does the temptation to indulge in festive feasting.

For many, the holidays are synonymous with overindulgence, leaving waistlines expanded and energy levels deflated come January.

But fear not, for a healthy and happy holiday season is within reach. Join Starts at 60 as we embark on a journey through the land of candy canes and gingerbread houses, discovering how to revel in the joy of the season without sacrificing your well-being.

While maintaining a commitment to health goals is important, it’s equally important to recognise the joyous spirit of Christmas and allow for a bit of indulgence. The holiday season is a time for celebration, togetherness, and creating cherished memories.

A small deviation from your routine to savour festive delights won’t unravel all the progress you’ve made throughout the year. In fact, a moderate indulgence here and there can be a part of a balanced approach to well-being.

As health and fitness expert Danni Duncan points out, “you haven’t ruined anything by indulging a little more over the festive season.”

“It’s what you do on the other 364 days of the year that counts,” she adds.

However, for those determined to deck the halls without derailing their health journey, Duncan extends a helping hand with a sleigh full of suggestions:

1. Try not to over think it. It’s a time of year to enjoy celebrating with friends and family and food is a big part of socialising and enjoyment.

2. Continue to move your body. Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean you stop moving. You don’t stop brushing your teeth so why stop moving your body which is also essential for your health. Moving will also keep you in a good head space, and help you make more mindful choice, have more clarity and calm.

3. You can still consume the treats – just be mindful of quantities. You don’t need 3 mince pies – have one and enjoy it. Still have the 80/20 rule in the back of your mind. 80 per cent nourishing, thriving foods – fill your plate with lots of veggies so they fill you up too.

4. Stress is a major factor when it comes to our health – so focus on what you can control, which is YOU – your actions and reactions. Christmas usually means multiple different personalities all in one room with their own opinion about everything. How you react will determine your own stress levels. Lower cortisol = more smiles so try and decide if it’s something worth investing your energy in and prioritise yourself.

5. Christmas usually means more alcohol, and as much as I love a glass of bubbles – we know alcohol is terrible for our gut health and our brain health. Set your intention for how much you’re going to consume and have a water in between each drink. When you feel better mentally, you’ll find you’re happier and will enjoy the time more too – and won’t feel sluggish and brain foggy the next day either.

6. You can say no. Often around this time of year, we say yes to everything and then get overwhelmed. Your life, your energy, your choices. Your time is precious, choose where you spend it wisely!

If you find yourself having enjoyed one too many festive feasts and an abundance of sweet treats, fear not! Consider it a jolly detour rather than a derailment. We all have those moments of holiday indulgence where the line between “seconds” and “sixths” becomes a blur.

As mention earlier, Duncan explains that “the state of your health isn’t determined by one day of the year, it’s what you do on all the other days that count.

“I don’t believe in wagons – you don’t fall off anything – you may consume more calories on Christmas Day – but there are 7700 calories in 1kg of fat – and even if you were to consume that many (which is highly unlikely) 1kg of fat isn’t going to determine whether you hit your goals or not moving forward,” Duncan explains.

“Reset the intention and just continue with your 80/20 healthy balanced lifestyle the next day. Set your intention, write it down, and make it happen. I like to set intentions around movement, nutrition and mindset something like. Go for a 30 min walk, choose whole foods, and practice gratitude every day.”

In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to lose sight of our health goals. However, with a mindful approach to eating, staying active, and making smart choices, you can savour the festive season without compromising your well-being. This Christmas, let health and happiness go hand in hand as you celebrate with loved ones, enjoying the best of both worlds. After all, ’tis the season to be merry and healthy!

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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