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Wow, another year has almost passed and the silly season is upon us! Food, family, food, friends, celebration, food, drinking, food, parties, relaxing, food . . . food is always a common theme at Christmas. We should all allow ourselves to break away from routine during this time, so that we feel refreshed and motivated in the New Year, but consider finding a balance between the good stuff and the not so good stuff…and you will thank yourself for it. Here I share six tips to help keep your body in tip top shape over the festive season.

1. Embrace new physical activities
Enjoy the sunshine and long warm days with plenty of outdoor physical activity. How about some beach cricket, body surfing, or taking a paddle boarding lesson? Hire a kayak or a mountain bike, or just pack up a picnic and take the family walking someplace you’ve never been before. Planning your day around physical activities that are outside of your normal routine will help invigorate your mind, body and spirit.

2. Fresh produce comes first
Depriving yourself of the tasty treats on offer at this time of year may make you feel resentful and more likely to binge later. Similarly, if you only opt for the treat foods, you’ll likely end up feeling tired, bloated and disappointed with your choices at the end of the festive season. A simple way to approach meals over the Christmas weeks is to first fill half your plate with salad and/or vegetables. Then fill the remainder of your plate with the other foods you would like to eat.

3. Drink sensibly
If you like a few alcoholic drinks over this time of the year, consider these ideas to help keep your drinking to a sensible level. You’ll feel more energetic, will be less likely to eat too much of the ‘wrong’ foods and will feel great leading into the New Year:

  • Drink a big glass of water after each alcoholic drink, to help you stay hydrated
  • Consider choosing low alcohol beer instead of full strength.
  • If you’re a wine drinker, why not try a spritzer—half wine and half soda water

4. Eat mindfully
The body wasn’t designed to eat the vast quantities we often attempt to fill it with over the silly season, and it also wasn’t designed to eat at lightning speed. When we eat quickly, we’re also more likely to overeat, because in the time that we’ve shovelled everything in sight into our mouths we haven’t yet registered that we’re full. Had we eaten slowly, we would likely have realized we didn’t need to eat so much overall. As well as this, if we stop eating just before we feel full, chances are that 10–20 minutes after the meal we’ll realize we’ve had enough.

So chew, chew, swallow, put down your knife and fork for some conversation, then chew some more! If you need something a bit more concrete to work with other than just eating slowly, then aim to be the last person at the table to finish your meal, rather than the first.

5. Save some for lunch, or even next week!
No matter what your mother told you, you don’t need to eat everything on your plate. You don’t need to waste it either— when you’ve had enough, just put the leftovers in a container for lunch the next day. This is a great principle to follow during the festive season when jumbo sized meals are often created. In fact, it even opens up the opportunity to spend more time relaxing with friends and family because one batch of cooking can often last for a few meals. If you feel like you need to eat everything on your plate for some reason or another, then select appropriate portion sizes to begin with.

6. Start your goal setting early
If you’re feeling motivated, then why wait till 2016 to set your goals for the coming year? What are your goals for next year? When we arrive at December 2016, what will you be able to look back at to tell yourself you’ve had a fantastic year and have made progress towards optimizing your health? What would you like to be able to see, feel, or do?

  • 10 pounds lighter? A dress size smaller? A 6 pack?
  • No more Nanna naps? Waking up feeling rested in the mornings?
  • Sticking to a regular exercise regime?

The first step to achieving something is to write it down and then make a plan to get there. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind up someplace else. Set yourself:

  • 1–3 long term goals (6–12 months)
  • Break each one down to medium term goals (3 months)
  • Break these down to short term goals (4 weeks)
  • Set weekly targets to help you reach your short term goals—one step at a time!
  • Set daily habits and actions that will help you reach your weekly targets.

Elly McGuinness, B PhEd, B Com, ACSM

Elly has been inspiring people to make sustainable changes to their health, fitness and lifestyle for the past 15 years. She offers online solutions for people who are looking to get started on, or improve their health and fitness. She blogs regularly, writes for a number of health and wellbeing publications and is the published author of a holistic weight loss book.

Elly is mum to a spirited three year old girl, and along with her partner Colin they embrace a digital nomad, world schooling lifestyle.

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