Cheat Your Way Through Christmas Dinners
| Written by Hani Khaursar
If you’ve been working hard to get back in shape, you’re probably dreading the Christmas break. You’ve carefully planned out your meals and worked out religiously all year long. And now, work parties, get togethers and endless family dinners chock full of calories upon calories of sweet and savoury goodness are threatening to undo all your efforts.
Thankfully, you don’t have to throw your health regimen out the window to indulge in the Christmas spirit. Here’s how you can limit the festive damage without turning into Scrooge.
Stressing out is just about the worst thing you could possibly do.
Not only will it ruin the mood and make you unpleasant to be around, it can also make you fat. Obviously, this is something you want to avoid. Stress can also lead to a bunch of other poor decisions, such as overtraining and fasting to “compensate” for the extra calories. This behaviour is unhealthy and incredibly counter-productive.
Overtraining can lead to serious injury, which could keep you out of action for months. Fasting is equally unhealthy, and it puts you in the wrong frame of mind. After all, you’re only human. If you’re holding back in preparation for an upcoming party, it’s likely you’ll start counting down the days and building it up in your head. There’s only one way this can end, and it’s bad news: you’ll overeat.
Limit Your Options
When you eat, your body sends signals to your brain that help it decide whether you’ve had enough. This is what leads to satiation, the feeling of fullness that makes us stop eating.
Exposure to a wide variety of foods sustains your brain’s interest, and delays the development of satiation. This biological quirk was useful in pre-historic times, because it helped us add more nutrients to our diet than we would otherwise have had. But nowadays, it just means that we’re predisposed to overeating at big festive meals where lots of different foods are available.
Luckily, you can beat your brain at its own game by limiting your options. Just stick to the foods you love best and stay away from the rest. You’ll feel fuller faster and you won’t perceive it as a sacrifice.
Foods aren’t all equally filling. Some foods can make you feel full faster than others. You can use this knowledge to your advantage by prioritising certain types of food over others. The idea is to start your meal with what will make you feel full, so you’ll be less likely to indulge in empty calories later.
Protein-rich and carbohydrate-rich foods tend to be the most satisfying, so a good rule of thumb is to start off with meat or fish and to boost your plate’s volume by piling on the vegetables. That way, you’ll be full by the time dessert rolls around, and you won’t be able to manage as much cake.
Stay on track
When all else fails, just forgive yourself and move on. So you’ve tried your best to eat as healthy as possible, but you just couldn’t resist a second helping of Grandma’s Christmas pudding, huh? Big deal.
The truth is, it’s unlikely that an extra helping or two will lead to noticeable weight gain in the short term. What’s important is that you’re consistent in your healthy eating habits. So by all means, go ahead and have some cake. Just don’t pretend it’s Christmas all year round.