Christmas is a wonderful time of year. It’s the season to catch up with friends and family, and many of us enjoy a much needed break from work. The problem we face is often the aftermath of the Christmas season in January, when the temporary joy of letting our health slide just a little bit too much leaves us feeling sluggish and bloated.

Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way. With a little planning and forethought, even at this busy time of year you can still keep up your healthy living habits whilst enjoying Christmas dinner and a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve. While it can be a little tricky to stay on track, these tips will ensure you don’t regret that extra piece of Pavlova once the silly season is over.

1. Be realistic

As Catherine Saxelby writes on her Foodwatch site, Christmas is a time of year to be conscious of what you are putting into your body, but to also be realistic at the same time. It’s obviously not the best time of year, for example, to try to lose weight. Instead, if you are conscious about weight gain, make it your goal to simply maintain your weight and make choices wherever you can to ensure this.

2. Limit the ‘all you can eat’ mentality

Catherine also recommends limiting the amount of times throughout the Christmas season that you let yourself completely ‘pig out.’ She suggests that while overeating on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve won’t be detrimental, a whole month of indulging in festive gorging will guarantee you’ll gain excess weight. To balance out the days that you do enjoy some overindulging, simply eat a little less and watch what you eat the following day.

3. Eat a healthy breakfast

Delicious Ella suggests one of the most effective ways to keep on track over Christmas is to eat a breakfast that is nourishing and packed with nutrients. Most of the meals we eat over the festive season centre around lunch and dinner, so if you can get a good amount of healthy vegetables and fruit into your breakfast, this will give you the energy you need for the day while also helping you to feel your best.

4. Sneak in some exercise and try to keep moving

In an article for Health, Anna Kaiser, founder of AKT InMotionStudio (and trainer of Sarah Jessica Parker), suggests waking up early each day to get a workout in. “That way no one will be surprised and no one will bother you,” says Kaiser. She also suggests that keeping the time you workout consistent and remaining committed to doing it is essential.

Exercise is not only important for your physical health, but it’s also an important mood booster and helps us manage stress. If you’re finding it difficult to work in training sessions or workouts during this busy time of year, try to work in incidental exercise wherever you can. Get off the bus or train a stop earlier and walk to your destination. If you need to grab something last minute at the shops, try to walk there if you can, or park as far away from the shop as possible. This may not sound like much but it all adds up and will help you increase your activity levels.

5. Get enough shuteye

Getting enough rest is very important, even when your social calendar is bursting at the seams. According to Bell Wellness, the average adult requires between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Bell also cites one study in which it’s showed that people who get 8 hours of sleep regularly are less likely to contract a cold or flu. This is because getting enough sleep means your immune system can function at full capacity. Even if you are struggling to get to bed at a decent hour because of an array of Christmas functions and events, try to rest during the day to up your sleep bank and get to bed on a regular schedule whenever possible.

6. Be kind to yourself and take time to unwind

Many people find Christmas time especially stressful. There’s not only all of the additional events and wrapping up projects at work to consider but there’s also the financial stress of purchasing gifts and possibly the stress of interpersonal conflicts. Try to take time to look after yourself and anticipate the sources of stress you may feel during this time of year. Leana Wen at the Huffington Post suggests setting a tight budget and sticking to it or even committing to fewer engagements over the Christmas period. It’s important not to feel guilty, but to acknowledge that it’s important to take care of yourself.

7. Avoid overdoing it with alcohol

When it comes down to it, alcohol is one thing many people don’t consider when counting their calories at Christmas time. Not only does overindulging in alcohol mean you are drinking away empty calories, but it also means that you’re more likely to reach for those fried starters and devour much more than you usually would. To limit your alcohol intake, Catherine Saxelby suggests diluting wine and spirits with ice or mineral water or drinking light beer instead of full strength. It’s also a good idea to break up alcoholic beverages by sipping something non-alcoholic between each drink. Eating before you drink alcohol will also help to slow down the absorption into your system.

8. Be choosey with what you decide to eat and drink

Survey what’s on offer at a lunch or dinner function and decide what you can do without. You can still enjoy your food and have a good time without having to sample everything on the table.

Help others be merry in moderation

It can be easy for a healthy eating and lifestyle plan to go out the window during the festive season. But if you’ve worked hard all year long on getting your health in check, this is the very last thing you want. With some careful planning and thoughtful decision-making, you can enjoy a fantastic festive season and still feel fit and fabulous once the new year rolls in. If someone you know is trying to keep in shape over the festive season, consider getting them a productive gift for Christmas. A Spa and Wellness Gift Card can be used for a range of health and fitness purposes around Australia.

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Sophie Deans

Sophie Deans

As a Certified Personal Trainer & Fitness Instructor, Sophie is the true definition of a fitness fanatic and avid gym-goer. She is passionate about everything that comes hand in hand with leading a healthy lifestyle, from nutrition and fitness to mental wellbeing. With a love of promoting a healthy and active lifestyle to others, Sophie now works as part of the team, supporting the participating Health & Fitness providers across Australia.