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How to survive the holiday season and stay in shape

christmas cookies
(© Svetlana Kolpakova –

The phrases ‘festive season’ and ‘staying in shape’ may not appear to belong in the same galaxy, let alone the same sentence, but – I promise – it is possible to have a Christmas that loves you as much as you love it. Follow these tips to make the holiday season a happy one for you and your health.

Perfect portion sizes

One of the most effective things you can do to stay in shape over the holiday season is to be really aware of portion sizes: this is a brilliant way to keep trim without feeling that you’re missing out.

So, rather than feeling miserable by denying yourself some fabulous festive fare, get portion-wise and enjoy all your favorite treats in smaller quantities. One of the easiest ways to do this is to switch out your dinner plates for smaller versions: this will trick your brain into thinking you’re receiving the same portion as usual, even if, in reality, it’s half the size – and contains half the calories. Try enjoying mini versions of traditional favorites, too, such as bite-size mince pies and miniature Scotch eggs.

You could also imagine your plate divided into quarters to make sure you’re not missing out on the yummy stuff while also loading up on vital nutrients. For this method, fill just a quarter of your plate with protein, a quarter with carbs, and have veggies or salad filling the remaining half. Include just half a tablespoon of high-fat foods, such as cheese, butter, or oils. As well as being an easy way to stay in shape, getting your portion sizes right can also help reduce food waste: read more about other ways to do this in the article, which also discusses ways to use up leftovers and the advantages of meal planning – especially handy over the festive season.

Be alcohol aware

Our unit intake can creep up over the Christmas celebrations, and it can be hard to resist another drink when there just seems to be so much alcohol on offer. But there are a couple of easy tricks to keep your intake under control so that your heart and liver can enjoy the festive period just as much as you do! Firstly, opt for long drinks. If you’re having spirits, ask for a single shot with a double measure of tonic or lemonade, and being a means to cut down on the amount of alcohol you’re consuming, this is a great way to stay hydrated too. Similarly, opt for wine spritzers rather than wine straight up. And try to alternate non-alcoholic drinks with alcoholic drinks, to keep your unit count down.

Second, if you’re drinking out at a pub or restaurant, opt for small drinks servings. It can be easy to forget that three 250ml glasses of wine equal a whole bottle, so stick to 125ml glasses to keep track of how much you’re consuming, and sip and savor your drink rather than knocking it back as quickly as possible.

Enjoy some exercise

Winter can feel like a time to hibernate and snuggle on the sofa, rather than hauling our bones out of the door for a run around the block. But making the effort to get some exercise is great for both our physical and mental health and can be an effective tonic for the sluggishness that the festive season can foster.

If the chill of the December air is just too much, then consider joining an online yoga or aerobic class, which you can partake in from the comfort of your living room. Get the family involved by suggesting a geocaching treasure hunt or heading to your local leisure center for swimming, squash, or climbing sessions to get everyone moving.

The importance of being mindful

The holiday season can be filled with fun and indulgence, but it can also be a cause of stress and anxiety for some, with the planning and financial considerations of Christmas sometimes making us feel overwhelmed and low, Combat this by taking care of yourself: use the tips above to stay as healthy as possible, and be sure to take care of your mental health, too. Be mindful of the real joys of the season, and try not to get caught up in a cycle of spending if this will stretch your budget. Plan ahead as much as possible to ease the pressure of the weeks leading up to the big day, and be sure to build regular time into your daily life for self-care and nurturing. Getting outside for a walk or simply to enjoy the natural world can make a significant difference to your sense of well-being, and be sure to get enough rest: turn off devices a few hours before bed to promote good quality sleep.

Use this guide to make some easy changes to help you stay in shape over the holiday season; by being mindful of what you eat and drink, and savoring smaller portions- as well as incorporating some exercise and general self-care, this could be your healthiest  – and happiest – Christmas ever.

Story by Gavin Gerrard

augusta free press
augusta free press