It’s easy to pack on the pounds during Christmas. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with expert tips on how to stick to your fitness goals.
The holiday season is replete with glorious food – from roasted turkeys and sweet log cakes to Christmas menus and festive takeaways. And just like that, all your sweat and tears from gym workouts and spin classes over the last 11 months will be in vain (okay, we exaggerate, but you know what we mean). Trust us when we say you’re not alone. That’s why we spoke to functional habits coach Bonnie Rogers from The Nutrition Clinic on how to stay fit during the holiday season.
Tips on staying fit during the holidays
1. Optimised living vs peak living
Wondering what types of food you should avoid at the Christmas table? Rogers wants you to think about it in a holistic way: know what you should cut down on, and what gives you digestive and bloating issues. She’s all about the concepts of optimised living and peak living.
The latter is a restrictive approach. “The reality is, most of us will eat foods from time to time we know we don’t want to eat too much of long-term. Mentally, we set these constraints that I call “peak living”: a diet or habit structure we strive for that is perfect 100% of the time,” she says. “When we aren’t able to achieve that level of perfection long-term (because life is messy), we feel like we’ve failed and it’s pretty hard to pick up again.”
On the flip side, the former “is about doing what you can where you can with the tools you have.” Instead of zeroing in on extreme dieting rules, she encourages us to focus on enjoying food within a framework that works for you – one that doesn’t make you fall off the wagon.
“I’m always asking my clients, “Is this sustainable for you?” That’s what matters – what we can do consistently, not a short burst of doing something perfectly at 100% and lapsing afterwards.”
2. What about cheat meals?
December is crammed with gatherings and dinner parties, and in a way, cheat meals become the norm for the month. But Rogers strongly dislikes the term.
“It leads us to this concept that we can eat whatever we like in this window we determine. For most people, it often transcends to a case of Friday night, Saturday, and a brunch on Sunday, so they may as well start again on Monday.”
She believes this train of thought circles back into the concept of peak living. “I know very few people who feel good when they go wild on food and alcohol for a few days, and then go crazy strict for a week, only to jump ship again on the weekend,” she adds.
Instead, she suggests easy tips like skipping the starter, adding an extra portion of veggies to your main, and splitting the dessert with someone. It’s a more sustainable way of food consumption. So plan ahead and make conscious choices. Nobody wants to be on the rollercoaster ride of feeling “good” and later plunging down into guilt when you mess up.
3. Meal prep but make it practical
According to Rogers, meal prep can cause a lot of stress for her clients. “It’s pretty boring to eat the same thing day in and out… that often takes the joy out of food!”
Her hack? Fill the fridge with super quick meals like pre-marinated proteins, pre-cut or frozen vegetables, and frozen soups. If you want a little variety for when you’re pressed for time, there are wholesome and healthy meal delivery services available.
But if you think meal prep isn’t your thing, it’s alright. “Be honest with yourself: what works for you? If you hate meal prep, don’t do it. There are so many paths to eating better; follow one that’s sustainable and joyful – that’s what will stick!”
4. To drink or not to drink?
Booze is a central theme at the end of the year. From festive cocktails to mulled wine, it’s hard to avoid it. And it’s no secret that alcohol is packed with sugar and calories. So if you’re looking to ditch it, you’re on the right track. But how?
Rogers recommends water, soda water, fresh lime juice and kombucha as opposed to sugar-laden mocktails. But for those who want to imbibe, the best options are distilled spirits which remove a lot of toxins so your liver and kidneys don’t have to work as hard.
Clear spirits are better for you: think vodka, gin and tequila. Pair ‘em with soda water or lime juice alongside fresh herbs and fruit. “We really want to be mindful not to add too much sugar to the mix,” she says.
To avoid nasty hangovers, Rogers suggests liposomal glutathione and alpha lipoic acid. Alternatively, you can drink a glass of water for every serving of alcohol you consume.
5. Walk it off
At the end of the day, Rogers advises sticking to what you know. That even includes walking!
“We often look for complex and hard-hitting programs to follow, going back to optimisation versus peak. Just put on those trainers and walk. The best part is, you can do it right now and it’s free. You don’t need to wait for a class or decide which gym to join,” she explains. “A 15- to 20-minute walk at a moderate pace after meals, particularly a heavy dinner, is a habit worth working on.”
Everyone’s journey is different, but there are three important tips Rogers swears by to stay fit during the holiday season: drink two to three litres of water, eat five to six cups of vegetables a day, and walk every single day.