As mentioned in last week's post about staying fit in Winter, I think people can be very 'all or nothing' in their approach, especially when it comes to health and fitness.
Diet culture has ingrained this binge/starve cycle in us which is beneficial for them from a marketing perspective. Come January, we're searching for the latest fad to purchase, to undo the damage of 'falling off the wagon'!
When in reality, a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle should make you feel great 24/7. No wagon. No guilt. No 'good' and 'bad' foods. No ridiculous rules. Just listening to your body, striving to FEEL good as well as just LOOK good, being mindful of your choices and feeling at ease around food.
So here are my tips to stay happy, healthy and balanced over the festive season.
Ask yourself - "what will serve me in this moment?"
Most of the time, when you're honest with yourself, you KNOW that choosing certain foods over others is what will serve you best in that moment. It will be the best choice for your health, your energy, everything. Often we ignore these moments, and reject what we know our body needs.
However, there are certain times when what serves us in the moment is something totally different. Especially over Christmas, there are times when certain foods feed your SOUL, not just your body. Enjoying a meal out with colleagues to celebrate Christmas, sharing drinks or dessert together - those moments do serve you, even if those foods aren't what you'd normally like to eat.
Not allowing yourself to have those foods is just as unbalanced as bingeing on them at every opportunity. Listen to your intuition and allow it to guide you to that middle ground.
Enjoy your favourites
Sometimes at this time of year, we can mindlessly munch on anything in sight 'just because'. I am totally guilty of this, and in recent years I've been very selective with what I choose to enjoy.
We all have our favourite festive foods. and you should absolutely indulge yourself with them - whether it's your favourite dishes on the Christmas table or traditional family recipes.
Unlike most people, I'm not a huge cheese lover, even with Vegan cheeses I don't eat a lot. However, there's something about having a cheese board at Christmas I love. You best believe I will be enjoying my (Gary) cheese board on Christmas day and loving life!
Whereas there are certain foods, especially those I can get year round anyway, that I'm just not that bothered about.
What I'm getting at is, embrace your favourite foods guilt-free, and leave the rest.
Don't use exercise as a punishment
You cannot binge on food and view exercise as a 'reset' button.
Yes, we all eat a lot more than normal at Christmas time. But those days are far out numbered by the many, many days of the year we don't.
Going to the gym because you feel guilty is not a great mindset to have. Living in balance also means accepting those days we ate more, and not beating ourselves up over it or feeling guilty.
By all means, workout over Christmas to maintain a balanced lifestyle, let off some steam from family drama or gift shopping stress, or just because you ENJOY it. But don't drag yourself in the gym muttering all sorts of expletives to yourself because of what you ate at the work's do the night before.
Forget 'cheat days'
The very notion of cheating implies that you are A - following strict rules that you constantly want to break, B - not enjoying your everyday food choices, and C - living an unsustainable lifestyle.
If I had my way, nobody would mutter the word 'cheat day' again, and everyone would just eat food that makes them feel good, with a little bit of whatever else they fancy in moderation.
If you feel the need to 'cheat' on your everyday diet, you need to take a long, hard look at it to see why it's so unfulfilling to you.
It might be that you really enjoy certain food groups that you felt forced to cut out. It might be that you're not eating enough and going hungry too often. It might be that you're not experiencing the full potential of how delicious healthy food can be, and you need to get playing in the kitchen with new, tasty recipes.
Whatever it is, I really encourage you to find a sustainable everyday diet that you enjoy to eat - and that includes the odd chocolate bar when the opportunity arises!
Eat to feel good
As much as I love the power of science, technology and social media in changing people's lives for the better, I think many of us are losing touch with our bodies because of it. We focus all our time and energy on inches, pounds, calories, macros, points, 'syns'. And whilst many of these things have strong scientific backing and are an essential educational resource for people, it's not a sustainable way to live to constantly add up calories, or weigh out foods, or stare at the scale everyday.
Once you have a general knowledge of calories, or portion sizes or macros, you can put these things aside. Focusing instead on when you feel full, how certain foods make you feel, and just what you fancy having that day can be a huge stepping stone to being the healthiest, happiest version of yourself.
Particularly at this time of year, intuitive eating is very important. At a time when many are prone to over eating, the best thing you can do for your body is slow down, be mindful of when you're full and stop when you are.
Intuitive eating will allow you to fully enjoy all your festive favourites 100% guilt free, whilst also giving you guidance to know when you've had enough of them. Intuitive eating is savouring a couple homemade cookies, versus mindlessly gobbling up the whole batch.
Because deep down, your body wants to feel good. Not guilty. Not so full you can't move. Not sick. Just satisfied and content.
I hope these tips help you out over the next few months. Don't let any negative vibes around food and health get in the way of your enjoyment. Set yourself free and have a wonderful, balanced festive season!