Surviving the Festive Season: Your Essential 4-Step Guide | My Vital Health

Surviving the Festive Season: Your Essential 4-Step Guide

You can indulge in a bit of extra eating and drinking without developing Santa’s waistline, as long as you prepare for it. It all comes down to balance.

If you are going to drink every night and overeat your way through the festive season without a corresponding increase in physical activity – you will put on weight! It’s not rocket science.

Try this 4 Step Plan to get through the festive season in the best shape you can.

1. No Guilt

There is no need to abstain from celebrating – you have earned it.

If you are alive, still have a job and a few plants left in the garden you’re doing well. Indeed you are miles ahead of others in the community who are finding it pretty tough.

Enjoy what you have got.

Try and tolerate the annoying family members (you probably won’t see them for another year anyway).

Chill out and enjoy your break. Take the time to rekindle your relationship with your family, friends, partner &/or your kids.

2. Pace Yourself

Whether you’re having breakfast with friends, attending an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch or enjoying dinner at an expensive, swanky restaurant, remember that you’re in control: you choose what to put on your plate.

Eat to be satisfied – not be stuffed. Remember it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is full.

I guarantee that there will be food left over. Put smaller portions on your plate and come back for more if you are not satisfied. We are training ourselves to eat larger and larger portion sizes. Change your thinking from finishing everything on your plate to eating just enough to satisfy your hunger.

Here is a bit of food for thought:

At Breakfast:

  • Avoid fatty meats such as sausages and bacon.
  • Instead of the usual fried or scrambled eggs, order poached.
  • Say no to butter and margarine; spread your bread with Rice Bran Oil.
  • Choose hot cereal (such as oats) over cold (generally higher in sugar).
  • Forget cream; top pancakes or fruit salad with reduced-fat natural yoghurt.
  • Ditch juice and hot drinks in favour of water. It will help you feel fuller, save on kilojoules – and it’s good for you.


At the Buffet:

  • Be wise about size – choose a smaller plate rather than the largest on offer.
  • Fill two-quarters of it with vegetables and/or salad (but steer clear of those with creamy dressings), one quarter with lean meats or fish, and one-quarter with grains. You’ll feel more satisfied and, therefore, less tempted to go back for seconds.
  • Avoid fatty meats. Select baked or roasted cuts, but remove the skin before you tuck in.
  • Say no to deep-fried seafood – remember grilled is the way to go.
  • Walk past the pastries; for dessert, choose fresh fruit instead.
  • Once you’re done, step away from the buffet!


At the Table:

  • In general, avoid creamy, stewed or stuffed dishes; select those that are steamed, broiled, baked or roasted.
  • Have a bowl of soup as an entree. It’s nutritious and will help fill you up.
  • Pick a tomato-based pasta or risotto dish.
  • Instead of the traditional roast ham or pork why not try a whole fish on the barbeque, or baking a salmon? Not only does fish taste great but it is also provides the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids. Fish also contains reduced amounts of saturated fats compared to their red meat counterparts.
  • Skip raves and rich sauces; ask for dressings to be served on the side, then drizzle only half over your salad.
  • If you plan to order dessert, order an entree sized main meal instead of a regular main-course portion.


Party Tricks:

  • You don’t have to be a party pooper. What is important, however, is to stick to your meal plan throughout the day of the event.
  • By eating regularly, you’ll ensure you’re not famished by the time you get there, so you won’t be tempted to scoff everything in sight.
  • Offer to donate a plate of nibbles. That way, if you are hungry, you’ll have something healthy to snack on.
  • If lots of treats are constantly on offer, keep your hands full to avoid temptation – a glass in one hand and a serviette in the other should do the trick.
  • Steer clear of excess nuts. While they’re good for you in small amounts, too many give you a lot of fat to process – salted nuts are the worst.
  • Skip the junk items like chips. Instead, go for the healthiest option on offer: fruit, pretzels, air-popped popcorn or even olives.


3. Drink in Moderation

I am the first to advocate a few drinks at this time of year – but be aware of how much you drink and how often you are drinking.

A couple of champagnes or pre-mixes are great to loosen up, but too many through the “festive season” will see you stack on the kilos. If you are going to drink make sure you have plenty of water before you start – particularly on hot days. Two or three cool glasses of water, even some sparkling mineral water, will help to keep you hydrated and stop you “downing a couple of beers” because you’re thirsty.

Mix white wine with soda water or sparkling natural mineral water, and say no to cider and beer. Try sipping on a glass of dry red wine instead. Choose cocktails with care. Avoid any that contain cream, coconut or syrupy juices, and use diet cola or diet lemonade to mix your drinks. (Not that I am a big fan of diet drinks).

If you really don’t want to be tempted, offer to be the designated driver. Your friends – and your body – will love you.

In Chinese Medicine we talk about protecting the spleen and stomach by having food before drinking alcohol and I think this is a pretty good idea. There is no question that having a little food and water prior to hitting the grog will reduce your overall alcohol intake. And you will be able to metabolise the alcohol better with less impact on your liver and digestive system.

Finally, try to mentally allocate the days that you are going to drink ahead of time. This may sound a little retentive but it does work well.

Pick the days or events that you want to have a drink, but give your body a break in between. Do not settle in “chardy’o’clock” (or beer’o’clock) every day. There is no way you can burn that many kilojules. Do this and you will be listing “detox” and “weight loss” high on your new years resolution list.

Alcohol inhibits your body’s ability to burn fat. And a night of heavy drinking can affect your energy levels for days after, ruining any chance of doing some exercise. Aim to have no more than a few alcoholic drinks – and be sure to dance till you drop to burn extra kilojoules.

4. Map Out Your Exercise

It sounds a bit organised I know but this is a great time of year to re-kindle your exercise program. It is the party season, but it is also a great time to get outdoors and get fit.

If you have a spinal problem or you are recovering from an injury this is a great time to commence (or continue) your rehab. What you do outside the clinic is just as important as what we do to help you inside the practice. Your health is your responsibility.

Allocate some time to go for a walk each day. Heck, walk morning and night if you can! Make sure you are doing your stretches they are as important as brushing your teeth.

One of the best things you can do for your spine is swimming. And swimming doesn’t get any better than in summer. You don’t have to pump out 10 laps of freestyle (if you can though, great), just grab a noodle, float on your back and do a couple of lazy laps. It is perhaps the best activity you can do to relieve back pain and help strengthen your spine!

Here are a few suggestions in no particular order:

  • Take advantage of daylight savings; Go for a half hour walk after dinner before your retire for bed. You’ll sleep a lot better and burn some of the kilojules from dinner.
  • Try an activity that you would not normally do like going for a bike ride, kayaking or rock climbing. Yep, you might be a little sore the next day – but you will have done something different!
  • Swim along the beach for 100 metres a few times if you can, even walking in the water at waist depth can be a great workout.
  • Walk with your partner along the beach and watch the sunrise.
  • Try a new machine or exercise at the gym. Increase your reps and lower the weight. Take some of the stress off the joints and increase your cardiovascular output.

Final Thoughts and a Few Tips

The holidays are meant to be fun, so cut yourself some slack. Plan ahead, measure your pleasure and, above all, keep active.

Use these tips to stay on track:

  1. Know your body. It takes approximately 20 minutes for your mind to recognise that your tummy is full, so be aware of this whenever you pile up your plate.
  2. Enjoy every bite. Eat slowly – studies show you’ll be more inclined to eat less if you do so, and you’ll digest your food better.
  3. Practise saying no. You don’t have to give in to peer pressure. True friends will respect your decision to lose weight and will admire your self control.
  4. Plan your exercise. Use this time to go to the gym, head to the pool, or take those walks.
  5. Realise no one is perfect. It’s okay to have a ‘bad-eating’ day now and then – but that’s no reason to give in to a week-long binge. Re-focus the very next day.

Natural Medicine for Festive Season Survival

Don’t let the holiday season become a reason to slack off on your natural medicine regime. As well as exercising, attempting to eat well and drinking plenty of water, there are a few different natural medicines you should take to get yourself back into the best shape possible:

  • Take a probiotic. Lots of good food, alcohol, a lack of exercise and less-than-desirable dessert choices can leave your stomach feeling a little worse for wear. All of these factors, as well as antibiotics and illness, can create havoc in your gastrointestinal system and throw off the balance of good and bad bacteria. Avoid sickness, diarrhoea, fatigue and nausea with the use of a good probiotic. A great probiotic, like the ones found a true health, will restore the levels of good bacteria in the GIT system and reduce your chances of illness.
  • Keep up your vitamin and mineral levels. Christmas is a time for indulgence, so eating your five serves of vegies, two of fruit and SMALL serves of the other food groups can go flying out the window. Using a good multivitamin everyday will ensure optimal health, well being and importantly – energy. 
  • Use magnesium. Exercising less? Eating more? Join the club. If you suffer from muscle cramps, spasms, pain or any joint, nerve or muscle dysfunction, Christmas can mean a world of pain. Keep muscle pain at bay by using a magnesium supplement. Magnesium is vital for the correct function and health of muscles and nerves. For fast and effective magnesium muscle relaxants,
  • Love your liver with protective herbs. When you overindulge you create an extra burden on your liver. Silymarin found in Milk Thistle, has been shown to have beneficial effects for the management of alcohol related symptoms and for liver protection while consuming a rich, high fat diet. A little bit of thought for your major detoxification organ goes a long way at this time of year.
  • Consider digestive enzymes to help lighten the load. Give your gastrointestinal system a helping hand to break down the extra fats, carbs and proteins with a supplement like metagest. Take a tablet with your heavier meals to ensure proper digestion.
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Domenic Pisanelli

Domenic Pisanelli is a qualified Naturopath and has helped hundreds of people regain their health back as an experienced naturopath with over 18 years of clinical experience.