For many of us, Christmas and the summer holidays represent a light at the end of the tunnel, with all of New Zealand having contended with pandemic restrictions this year and some regions marking many weeks of lockdown.
It is easy to think about letting loose – any of us could be forgiven for wanting to eschew any restriction at all over the holidays. But if you have health goals that are important to you, or you’ve made progress in fitness or weight management that you want to keep, there are tried-and-true ways to relax and enjoy everything about the festive season, including all the delicious holiday food, without giving that up.
People who maintain consistent health and wellbeing programmes know that summer holidays come every year and are meant to be enjoyed – you do not have to slip into an all-or-nothing mindset and feel that you have to start over completely when regular scheduling resumes.
Here are some top tips you can count on (save them to your phone or print out and attach to the fridge if it helps!):
- Give yourself permission. A lot of people find it easiest to avoid temptation by not having it in the house – no junk food, soft drinks and sugary treats. This can work well 11.5 months of the year, but Christmas is when the scorched almond, fruit cake, pavlova, homemade rocky road deluge comes. Understand that normal rules don’t apply, so have a plan: perhaps you decide that Christmas Day is when you will indulge in all the treat foods you want, or that you will have one special treat a day from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day, and then give everything left over to friends or neighbours. Either way, enjoy stepping out of your usual habits and savouring special foods in the company of your nearest and dearest. It is a moment in time and won’t throw you off-track.
- Be mindful about alcohol. Alcohol lowers inhibitions, often stimulates appetite, and is one of the best sources of empty calories ever invented – so if you want to pick one commonplace food or beverage item to manage mindfully over the holidays, this is a good candidate. As with tempting foods, it may be helpful to set boundaries in advance for your alcohol consumption; perhaps you will stick to one drink a day other than Christmas Day, or you will have alternating alcohol-free days through the holidays. Some people find it helpful to go for lower-calorie options, such as vodka and soda water with lime juice instead of gin and tonic. Check out the supermarket shelves, where you will find a burgeoning number of satisfying alcohol-free beers and other beverages. If you make a plan (and communicate it to others if need be), you will feel more confident about maintaining a structured place for alcohol in your overall holiday health plans.
- Think about what you can add to your diet. With all-or-nothing thinking we often go to how to restrict or cut things out of our diet – but at a time of year when we are busy and stressed and eating outside of our normal patterns, it can be helpful to support health by adding supplements. Think about magnesium for regular sleep, bee pollen to support essential bodily functions and mood, and a multivitamin that can help make up for what you might be missing outside of your normal routine.
- Stay hydrated. Summer in New Zealand can be HOT and if you’re spending a lot of time outdoors, in the water and at the beach, your water consumption must be prioritised. One scientific analysis from the US suggests that the average man living in a temperate climate needs about 3.7 litres of fluids a day, and the average woman 2.7 litres. Make sure you consume this amount daily, and possibly more if you’re active and sweating a lot. Have a good drink 30 minutes or so before a meal so you know you’re not confusing hunger and thirst when you sit down to eat, and to stop you using a cold beer or glass of wine as a thirst-quencher.