Christmas is a time of joy, of celebration and giving. Equally, it is a time of hangovers, over indulging and sleep deprivation for many.
With social and work Christmas parties coming out your ears, how do you combat the crazy with a little side of health at this time of year?
Keeping balanced throughout December doesn't mean you have to be a wet towel and stay in instead of enjoying time out with friends and family. Rather, keeping your balance is about having a game plan and sticking to it. It's the little decisions we make during the night that unpin our sane sounding plans. Don't miss the fun, simply follow these tips and let your health role smoothly into 2017.
So how is it done?
Deciding on your game plan is the first step. Do you want an indulgent night, a quiet night or something in between? Bear in mind the decision you make comes with consequences. It is up to you to decide.
Secondly, it is about sticking to that decision. There are many opportunities throughout the day or night that allow you to stick to your game plan, whatever it may be. Be mindful of the small decisions that you make. eg. saying yes or know to another drink or picking up a piece of cake that you really don’t even feel like. If you are mindful in these moments it makes it easier to keep on track and therefore balanced in the festive season.
Jacqui has three Christmas parties per week in the lead up to Christmas. She chooses not to really think about any of them, doesn't have a game plan and ends up feeling pretty bad after week one. Too much food and drinks and not enough sleep. Jacqui then decides to just ride off December leaving future Jacqui to worry about picking up the pieces in January. The Christmas parties roll in, Jacqui indulges, has fun but regrets not holding back at least a little. Come January and work picks back up. The 'picking up the pieces' doesn't end up happening. Ever.
Dan knows he has a whole bunch of parties coming up. He cares about his health but equally cares about having fun and socialising. So he works out a game plan for himself. Well done Dan. He is mindful to eat modestly and mostly healthy foods and drink slowly and not too much. Even though Dan stays out later than he usually would he still gets up the next morning for a run.
Dan didn't have to give up much to keep his balance and the best part of his plan is that no one even noticed he had a plan. Dan didn't have to turn up and announce he is having a quiet night to which I am sure he would not receive a good response. He just rolled it out. Dan knew his game plan and was mindful to stick to it.
Dan got it right for him. So how do you get it right for you?
Here are some tips that will help you when it comes to deciding on food, booze and sleep. Give them a go, see what works for you and always remember to be mindful because the moment we aren't, the indulgence switch clicks on.
3:1 Rule When Eating
Look at the spread available, what does it include? Usually you will find a mix of the good and the bad. By being conscious of the ratio of good to bad food you are consuming over the course of the night you are putting yourself in the position to feel better in the morning while not really reducing the enjoyment of the night.
I recommend the ratio of 3:1. So that is three parts healthy food and one part indulgent.
You do not need to be calculated to the point of measuring the food out and feeling guilty if you tip the ratio slightly but rather just be aware of what is on your plate.
Tips to leave with a flat belly
Choose to fill your plate with salads, fresh vegetables and fruit and compliment with the more indulgent foods.
Graciously decline seconds as they are offered to you (unless it's your Grandma).
Have a lemon water or something bitter (Like an aperitif) before eating. It helps you digest your food.
Bring a healthy dish to a dinner party. That way you know there is at least on healthy dish on the table.
Choose a restaurant if you are eating out that serves quality, healthy meals (like COOH in Alexandria).
Take breaks while eating for conversation. This gives you time to feel full and slow down on the eating.
Know Your 'Booze Number'
Most people know their sweet spot when it comes to drinking. The amount they can have without over doing it. At Christmas time this becomes a good number to know to keep you on track. Manage your consumption by deciding on 'your number' before the night begins. Being mindful during the night of how many drinks you have had will help to keep you on target and not go over your number for the night. It's likely this will not ruin your night being aware and sticking to this number and I am sure you will be high fiving yourself the next day when the 6am alarm goes off.
Tips to Combat Over-Drinking:
Choose quality over quantity when it comes to alcohol.
Enjoy a aperitif before your meal.
Drink a big glass of water or two before your first alcoholic drink so you are not guzzling down your beer out of thirst.
Focus on conversations with the people you are with rather than the drink in your hand. It's not a race to finish it before the next person.
If you are drinking beer, no one will notice if it's a light beer ;)
Invest in the next day
Sleep seems to go out the window at this time of year. By investing in the following day you can help to keep sleep hours up and energy levels strong. Commit to an early morning run, or cycle what ever it is you do to move your body. This way you are subconscious or consciously going to be mindful of how long you stay out. You don't have to ruin the fun by going home after half a conversation and a bite of sashimi. Instead, this will keep you from staying out till the ungodly hour that leads to a fairly dramatic drop in productivity the next day. Early morning exercise will also provide you with sustained energy throughout the day.
Tips to combat the fatigue:
Don't go crazy on caffeine the morning after, it will have the reverse effect and make you more tired by mid afternoon
Go to that morning yoga class, it will give you sustained energy and focus all day
Use a meditation app like Headspace for 10 minutes the next day. It will balance out any slumps that may creep up.
Eat a protein rich breakfast (heme and non-heme), this will stabilise your energy throughout the day.
Drink lemon in water to wake up the liver. This will give you a hit of energy during the day.
What you may have noticed is that the common thread is to be in control of your decisions by having a game plan and to be mindful of how it unfolds. This Christmas have fun, go out and socialise but remember to manage yourself, be mindful of your decisions and use some or all of the tips above (I promise no one will even notice you are doing it) to keep your cool this Christmas and role into 2017 like a pro!
Jennifer Ward Adv Dip Nat, Bcom Econ
Jennifer is a leading naturopath trained in herbal medicine, nutritional medicine and health coaching. Consultations available by appointment at www.jenniferwardnaturopath.com.au.
For speaking and workshop engagement enquiries or to collaborate email email@example.com.