Christmas is coming!
We have a rule in our house that Christmas doesn’t really begin until December 1. I get told off by the kids if Michael Bublé makes it out of his musical cave before then.
Secretly though, after my birthday on November 12, I personally think all bets are off. I’ve already snuck out the Christmas doormat and it’s not as if I’m the only one! The annual Christmas tree shortage rumour/panic has begun and festive chocolates are piled from floor to ceiling in almost every pharmacy. The latter always confuses me because aren’t pharmacies places we go to get healthier? Ah well, create the problem and then solve the problem … I suppose that’s the business plan!
Christmas is typically a fairly hard time for some of my clients to navigate. It really depends on whether they have reached what I call “lifestyle gold” yet, ie eating healthy food because they want to, rather than because they have to. When clients get amazing results with a food and supplement plan, the motivation to stick with it becomes self-perpetuating. I’ve experienced further endorsement of this myself lately. I had an issue crop up, it was significant enough for me to really try and fix it, and I feel so much better that there’s no way I’m going back to how I felt before.
I find though that when the ultimate goal is weight-related, it’s much easier to fall off the healthy eating wagon. If you are making changes due to a patch of ill health, then the cause and effect of your nutrition feels immediate and more urgent. Further, people around you tend to be much more supportive of your choices. In contrast, when it comes to weight, we often put off healthy choices until “tomorrow” … especially if we already went off track earlier in the day.
How many of you have thought: “Well I’ve ruined it now … I might as well keep going and start again tomorrow.” And when you try and decline sweets or canapés at parties for weight reasons, how often has someone said to you, “But it’s Christmas!!” (And the reason people need you to enjoy the sweets/canapés at Christmas is because if you don’t, they will feel bad about enjoying them too. If everyone puts on weight together, no one cares, right?)
There is a fundamental flaw with weight-loss motivation when it comes to healthy eating. The power of “tomorrow” (we can always start tomorrow!) means that biologically addictive junk food usually wins in moments of debate. In the moment, the desire for chocolate, for example, overrides the desire to lose weight because we want the chocolate now and we can lose weight tomorrow. Humans love instant gratification. According to Freud’s “pleasure principle”, humans really are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain.
This really throws a spanner in the works when it comes to achieving long-term weight loss goals. The good news is that delayed gratification (resisting short-term gratification in terms of a greater reward later on) can be learnt but it’s a life skill that takes practice. As a side note, this is one of the reasons why some people find fasting so helpful, because they routinely practice delayed gratification. The more they do it, the easier it becomes to control the instant gratification impulse. It’s all so interesting, isn’t it?
But if you’re not yet a master at delayed gratification or if you haven’t yet achieved “lifestyle gold”, where does this leave you now? Christmas is approaching and with it, all the cassava pie, eggnog and tins of Quality Street! Here are my top tips for navigating the difficult Christmas period and staying healthy:
1. If you love it, have it
Don’t torture yourself. If you genuinely love something that’s unhealthy, then have it. Take pleasure in it. Be present with it. Savour it. But don’t devour it in seconds or eat it mindlessly. Hedonistic hunger (eating for pleasure vs biological hunger) is a real thing but you need to slow down if you want to satisfy it!
2. Make sure it’s worth it
Following on from the above, make sure you don’t eat a whole load of unhealthy food and follow it with, “I wish I hadn’t eaten that, it wasn’t that good anyway.” Taste things slowly. Is it delicious and worth it? Yes? Great. Enjoy! But maybe it’s not. In which case ... put your fork down!
3. Avoid the hunger trap
Point 2 will be much easier if you don’t allow yourself to get ravenous. It’s hard to make healthy decisions when you are starving. Pick the events ahead of time where you are going to throw caution to the wind – Christmas brunch, anyone? At other events, eat a healthy meal before you go – and listen to your body. Are you really hungry again? If not, just stick to a drink.
4. Put clothes on your carbs
This tip comes from the Glucose Goddess on Instagram – she is worth a follow! It’s in essence what we have taught all along during Nutrifit – that you can slow down the release of glucose from the carbs you eat if you combine carbs with fibre and protein. She would go further and suggest you line your stomach with fibre and fats first – eg before you eat protein and carbs, have a salad with some olive oil. This helps to steady the release of sugars even further. So if you are going to a drinks party with canapés, have a big salad before you go. At a fancy dinner? Have salad as an appetiser.
5. Remember, weight as a priority, should not be your priority
As much as we fixate on it, weight isn’t the most important thing to focus on. It shines too much light on body image, on our exterior. We are so much more than what we weigh. Rather, make healthy choices because you’ll feel better every single day – more energy, better sleep, improved mood, a resilient immune system. A healthy body feels amazing from the inside out.
• Catherine Burns is a qualified nutritional therapist. For more details: www.natural.bm, 505-4725, Natural Nutrition Bermuda on Facebook and @naturalbda on Instagram