The month of November to December is often a veritable calorie minefield for those looking to watch their waistline and stay in shape. Work parties, family gatherings and even cosy Sunday evenings are often laced with indulgently rich treats, liquid calories and non-stop eating - good for the soul, but bad for our bums.
However, nobody wants to turn up to the party and be ‘that girl’ who refuses to touch a morsel and remains stone cold sober as her colleagues, friends and family get lost in the festive merriment.
How then do we find the right mix of enjoying Christmas time treats without well and truly falling off the wagon (or being an insufferably healthy bore)? We caught up with Nutritionist and GTG expert, Jenna Zoe , to help us answer this very question.
It's so tempting to 'eat light' throughout the day before a big party, in the hope that it will balance out the indulgence we're about to partake in. However this plan is guaranteed to backfire, because under fuelling is like priming your body to binge and make up for lost calories at the next possible opportunity. In that under fuelled state our bodies will drive us to make up for that lost energy in the quickest ways possible - refined sugars, fatty foods and alcohol.
A much better tactic is to feed yourself healthily but sufficiently that day - make breakfast and lunch full of good protein and fats. When you're satiated, you'll arrive at the dinner party in charge of the indulgent choices you want to make, rather than being desperate to shove anything and everything in your mouth (we've all been there!). You'll be more likely to actually taste and enjoy the treats that way too.
Prioritise your festive favourites
I truly believe there is room for your favourite food in a healthy diet, no matter what it is. The best indulgence strategy is to put some thought into it: Smart indulging is about getting clear on what treats are worth it to you and which ones aren't. Say yes to what's actually going to delight your taste buds rather than mindlessly accepting everything on offer.
A good exercise for the long term is figuring out which 'fun' foods you really love, because knowing yourself is key. If you look forward to the champagne but could take or leave the dessert, use that as directive. Similarly, if you absolutely love mince pies, maybe skip the bread that doesn't do much for you. Get conscious.
Eat, drink, avoid
We've established that you can have any food you truly love now and again. If you want to manoeuvre social eating whilst still feeling great, stick to this rule: locate the simple, easy to digest foods, and then throw in one 'fun food'.
At a traditional Christmas feast for example, you want to fill most of your plate with vegetables and either turkey or root vegetables like parsnips, if they're plainly cooked (i.e. not slathered in goose fat). Then add one extra thing such as stuffing, chipolatas, or save room for a little Christmas pudding. It can be whichever is most 'worth it' to you, but choose just one. Eating too many of these denser foods in combination is what usually makes us feel horrible the next day.
On a year round basis, alcohol would ideally count as your one fun food. But during the festive season, being too restrictive with yourself compared to others can backfire. So, try to choose a couple of nights where you have two fun foods, with a glass of wine or bubbly being one of them (but again, only if it's worth it to you). Where possible, try to avoid drinking before dinner because it will make you want to throw all your sensible intentions out the window once you get round to eating.
How to beat the post-party bloat
If you still get home from a party feeling stuffed and uncomfortable, take one or two digestive enzymes before bed, which will help your body break down the meal.
It's tempting to skip breakfast the next day to 'save' on calories, but try to have at least a small snack if you can. Eating in the morning primes your body's fat burning hormones to switch on for the day, which will help negate the effects of overconsumption the night before.
There is one caveat to all of this though, and that's December 25th itself. If you've eaten sensibly in the build up to it, there's no reason why you can't go all out for one meal. A single blowout isn't going to ruin your whole year's efforts and in fact you should enjoy it because eating feeds our soul too. So enjoy it, guilt-free.
To find out any more tips and tricks from Jenna head to her website www.foodstolove.co.uk