Survive the festive season – without exploding!

The festive season has arrived!  This is clear by the number of work, social and community invitations we are receiving (and the abundant amounts of tinsel decorations in the stores).

Yesterday I enjoyed a two course lunch with my work team and then later that day I attended a client’s Christmas party.  As I arrived at the party, I noticed that my stomach was still full from the food that I had eaten at lunch.

This got me thinking about the excessive amount of food and drink we tend to consume at this time of year, why we eat so much of it, and what we can do to minimise the impact to our bodies.

So I thought that I would share with you a few of the things that I do to lessen the impact of these events on me at this time of year.

During the festive season

Increase (or at least maintain) your incidental activity.
With the number of events that are scheduled for this time of year, it can become very difficult to keep doing regular physical activity.  Also, if you play team sports, many games will be put on hold until the New Year.

Therefore, where possible, I try to increase the amount of incidental activity that I do each day.  Whilst this does not feel as satisfying to me as working out at the gym, at least I am moving my body and reducing the lazy, sloth-like behaviour that often envelops me at this time of year.

Incidental activity can include such things as: parking your car further away from the shopping centre; using the stairs instead of the elevator; walking to someone’s desk to speak (gasp!) to them in person instead of emailing them; or getting off public transport a stop before your usual one so that you have to walk a bit further to work or home.

Before the event

Decide beforehand how much you are going to drink (and stick to it).
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I don’t tend to count calories, but I do think that it’s important to have a general awareness of how long it will take your body to burn off the calories from the food and drink you consume at these events.  This is easier to do with beverages as you are more likely to predict what drinks might be offered at an event.  There are apps available to help you work this out.

For example, did you know that you need to walk for over 20 minutes to burn off a standard glass of red wine?*  This doesn’t sound too long, however, that’s 40 minutes if you drink two glasses of red, or one hour of walking if you drink three glasses of red.  Are you really going to walk that long so that your body uses all that energy from the wine you drank?  Really?

This suggestion also applies if you are the designated driver and are planning to consume soft drink.  Soft drinks have a lot of calories in them with no nutritional benefit.

Obviously if you are planning to drink alcohol at an event, you need to have a pre-planned, safe way to get home.

(*I used the Burn it Pro app for these calculations)

Eat something healthy.
This tip is nothing new but it is important.  Eat something before you go to an event.

If you arrive ravenous, it is harder to control how much you eat.  By eating something healthy and sustaining beforehand, you are less likely to eat as much at the event where you have no control over what food is provided.

Prior to the event, drink a glass or two of water so that you are not dehydrated on arrival.  This helps to fill your stomach – often dehydration is mistaken for hunger.  Also, once you arrive, drink some water in between your other drinks to maintain your hydration levels and lessen the number of calories you drink from other beverages.

At the event

Wait awhile before you start eating.
Once you start eating at these events, it becomes very hard to stop.  So the longer you can delay eating at these events, the less you will end up consuming.  Obviously this is easier to do if you don’t arrive hungry.

Be mindful.
It can be really easy to get distracted at these events, either by the witty conversations, or by the mental chatter inside your head trying to remember someone’s name or think of something interesting to say.  And when you’re distracted, it is very easy to mindlessly eat the food so generously provided by the host (particularly if they have employed staff to bring the food to you).

So before you automatically reach for that food platter, ask yourself why are you doing so?  Are you hungry?  If yes, help yourself to something but try to choose one of the healthier options.

However, if you aren’t hungry, or just want to eat to ease yourself through an uncomfortable situation (particularly if you find some social events stressful), then that spring roll is better left on the platter.

Adjust the amount you eat during the day.
If you do decide that you will eat at the party tonight, modify the amount of food you consume during the day to accommodate this.   That is, eat less lunch if you know you will be eating at an after-work event, or have a light dinner if you had a large celebratory lunch.  We can often get into habits of eating the same amount of food at our regular meals even though (if we paid attention to our bodies) we really aren’t that hungry.

Wishing you all a happy, safe and healthy festive season with some (but not too much) indulgence!

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