Health

17 ways to eat healthy this Christmas

BY FITZ-GEORGE
RATTRAY

Sunday, December 24, 2017

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CHRISTMAS festivities often come with foods high in calories and in great portions, especially at family dinners and Christmas parties. Researchers have found that people who have weight issues, even those who have successfully lost and maintained, often experience a gain of seven to 10 pounds of weight over the holidays.

Eating healthy during this time is intimidating, but with these tips, courtesy of Intekai Academy (ITK), it is very possible.

Having identified the holiday challenges, how can you maintain your healthy eating plan? Well, here are the top guides:

1. Stick with your solutions

You know your reasons for choosing a healthier, leaner and fitter lifestyle. There is never a good excuse to throw those better choices away, not for a day, a vacation, and certainly not for a season.

When you focus on your wellness each day, you are building habits that should last you for a lifetime. Saying I will wait until next year or after the season is reinforcing your habits to put off your wellness for the future. So, don't take breaks or jump ship. Anything else is working against your goals.

2. Mental coaching

In order to fight these habits and addictions, mental coaching is essential. ITK tries to provide that coaching, but during this period you must make the extra effort to tell yourself that you will stick to your plans. Say it out loud and write it down. Let yourself know you will not slip up, not this time.

3. Focus on the company not the food

If you are organising the festivities, include games. Let it be more about sharing the experience.

4. Avoid hunger

Starving yourself before an eating occasion is not a good idea. Your hunger will be at its absolute peak if you do this. Leading up to an event, make sure that you get some food during the day. This way you ensure that your blood sugar levels and hunger levels are more manageable so you won't eat everything in sight when you get to the office party or family dinner.

5. Choose wisely

Try to apply the ITK principles by choosing healthy foods first, then portion size. Choose a smaller plate and 50 per cent vegetables. Make it a habit to always go for the proteins, vegetables and healthier foods before going for the snacks, the macaroni and cheese, or the pastry. This way your hunger will decrease by the time you reach the more sugary and floury meal options as protein helps to curb hunger.

6. 100% ideal doesn't mean 100% strict

Special occasions are not the time to be hard on yourself. Sometimes going easier on yourself gets you further. If you deny yourself everything that you have found pleasant before, then your craving may shoot through the roof and become unmanageable, even if you don't eat everything in sight.

ITK assignments do not usually contain these, but the coaches understand that you may slip from time to time because the stress alone may work against your weight-loss goals. So, follow your guidelines and have just a little of what you may enjoy.

7. Eat mindfully, chew slowly and thoroughly

Cutting and swallowing your food without proper chewing is a sure way to not even realise how many calories you have already had, leading you back for seconds and thirds.

8. Embrace support and intervention

Don't hide from support and accountability. It is never easy to do it all alone. Having the right support system, such as an ITK coach, has proven to be a great asset for many people who have set their wellness goals. Bounce your options off them at every opportunity to make sure that you stay on target and not compromise your wellness throughout the Christmas season.

9. Keep your environment controlled

When you have eaten out and have sampled cheese and sugary products, your system will be craving for them even more than usual. It is always important, but especially now during the holidays, to make sure that your house is free of temptations. If you are hosting, give away leftovers (making use of Boxing Day), and if you are a guest, do not bring home leftovers.

10. Restrict late-night eating

Eating late at night, especially after eating normally during the day, will pack on extra pounds. Of course, the type of food eaten at night can determine how much the late-night eating will affect you, but during celebrations and holidays when you are already taking in extra calories, it is an especially bad idea as your weight management will be highly disrupted.

11. Drink lots of water before, during and after

Avoid juices and sodas and limit yourself to one glass of alcoholic drink. Practically every party, dinner or other gathering will have sugar-heavy drinks and juices available to you. Drink lots of water before, during and after to try and minimise the effect of the extra sugar and extra calories.

12. Wear fitted clothes at every occasion

Wear comfortable but fitted clothing so they can remind you when you have had enough.

13. Plan, purchase, prepare, package, and partake

As always, maintain the 5P ITK principles: Plan, purchase, prepare, package, and partake. Stick to the five ITK principles, plan your meals for each day, including weekends, and the party or dinner days, purchase what you need and prepare them ahead of time, package the meals that you have prepared and partake of them when you are supposed to have them.

14. Prepare for failure/have a back-up plan

We have to accept the possibility of the plan falling apart. To make sure that we don't snowball about falling off the wagon, we have to create a back-up plan. What do we do if we have overeaten? What do we do if we fail to prepare our meals for the day before or after eating out? A solution to this may be an intermittent fast day, having a stack of protein bars to compensate for the missed meals, or talking to your ITK coach about solutions.

15. Sugar-free mint

Keep a sugar-free mint on you to have at the point you planned to stop eating. In the same way that some restaurants give out mints when your meal is finished, go ahead and have a sugar-free mint, preferably a strong one. Intekai has found that this prevents going back for an extra piece of cake.

16. Post-meal evaluation

Similar to a football match, the coach and players have to do their post-game evaluation. You will have to do your post-meal evaluation to see what worked, what didn't, where your strengths and weaknesses were, and what you will have to do to compensate for any “injuries” and losses (well in your case, it will be more like gains).

17. Get as much sleep as possible

As a general rule, make a concerted effort to get as much sleep as possible. The lack of sleep will increase stress, weight retention and hunger, so rest well.

Does this seem like a lot? The 'everything in moderation' mantra will not work for us during the very tempting Christmas season because we have proven that we are horrible at moderation.

Conscious planning and the extra effort must be made to keep our health and wellness lifestyle on track. It may seem like a lot but eating healthy during this time is very possible once you follow these tips and drop the self-doubt.

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