So we are less than one day away from the first day of summer - YAYYYY!!!!.
This can mean a number of things - warmer days, work Christmas parties, BBQs with friends, more family gatherings, tempting food and drinks on offer and disrupted routines.
I love the warmer months of the year. While December can be a little hit and miss, come January and February you can almost guarantee the temps are warm enough for shorts and singlets, swimming, dinner on the deck and the oven barely gets turned on because it's all about the salads, baby! This time of year everyone seems a little more happier, smilier, carefree and bubbly - there's just something about sunshine and warmth that does that. Perhaps it's the increased levels of Vitamin D being absorbed because people are outside more?
While there are so many things to look forward to at this time of year (cue, Christmas Day!), there can be some challenges to face along the way. Everyone is a bit more social which means more parties and gatherings, and these events may not have the food you're used to eating, or the food that you're trying really hard to avoid because you're learning about the Nourishment component that whole foods provide. I've come up with a few tried and tested tricks that will help you get through the festive season minus the guilt, bloat and yo-yo feeling of being out of routine can bring.
While the festive is only a very small period of the year (perhaps 2-3 weeks), it is never going to have a permanent impact on your results and progress towards self love - UNLESS YOU LET IT!
Have a plan of attack
This is particularly useful if you're going to a cafe/pub/restaurant for the occasion. Most places have their menus online, so look them up and see what will be available. This is a great way to be able to be a little picky, as you will be more prepared and know what to ask for when you get there. An example could be, if you feel like fish and chips, ask to swap the chips for salad and for the fish to be pan fried not deep fried. I like to look out for vegetable salads and ask for the dressing on the side - that way you can put a little on yourself as generally commercial sauces are loaded with sugar and salt. If you know the group will be sharing tapas style food (a style of dining where a few smaller dishes of different things are ordered) then pick at least one (perhaps 2) you know fits into your eating guidelines - opt for vegetable heavy dishes, no batter, "crispy" generally means deep fried, avoid anything with mayonnaise and look for lean cuts of meat. Seafood is generally a great option!
Pot luck meals
Definitely a kiwi favourite, the pot luck lunch or dinner is a great way for people to get together without the host burdening all of the expense of a dinner party.
People will generally take their tried and tested family favourite dishes that are easy to transport and re-heat - think potato bakes, sausages for the BBQ, creamy salads, pasta bakes, potato salads, chicken nibbles or nibble platters. I always struggle a bit with these situations as I don't want to offend the people who brought the lovely food along (I know a lot of effort would have been put in!) but I also know what is the most nourishing food to put into my body.
When I go to a put luck event I always take something that fits into my eating habits. That way I know, when it comes to meal time, I will have at least one thing that I will be comfortable eating. If I bring a dessert I always make it a fruit platter, and then just add a couple of little sweet treat I know most people will like - such as little chocolates - and also something like bliss balls. Although these are high in sugar, they are still a healthy alternative to creamy desserts or processed cakes/slices/pies.
Recipes to try this festive season:
With the festive season comes a lot of opportunities to consume more drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) than regularly. You might have heard a lot in the media about soft drinks being high in sugar and having a crazy impact on your gut health and hormones. Whereas, alcohol doesn't have a good rep in anyones eyes.
While my alcohol consumption has decreased dramatically in the last 2-3 years (I probably have one or two drinks a month now, opposed to a big night out 2-3 weekends of the month!), I do still struggle with being in some social situation without having a drink especially if everyone else is having one. To get around this I always make sure I have a couple of good glasses of water (sometimes with lemon in it) to start with, so I know straight off the bat I'm hydrated. I also opt for soda water if I'm out at a bar, with a wedge of lemon or lime so I don't look out of place :)
Keep some sort of routine
This can be many peoples biggest challenge – during the year you’re in your routine of cooking dinner, packing your gym bag in the evening to take to work, meeting with other parents to go for a walk – that sort of thing. But it’s hard to maintain this over the festive season – work closes down for the break, groups have a break for a few weeks, people go on holiday that would normally be there to keep you accountable – things just HAPPEN that are out of your control, but they can impact how you maintain your healthy lifestyle over this time.
I find it’s helpful to keep at least one consistency in your holiday time – something you usually do that keeps you feeling empowered and healthy. Examples of this could be:
-If you get up and go for a walk every morning then still do this in the festive season – YES even if you had a late night or feel a little seedy from a few too many bevvies.
-WATER!!!! It’s so easy to forget to drink enough for your body to function optimally when you’re out of routine. Even on the weekends it can be hard to maintain, let alone a couple of weeks on holiday. Keep a water bottle with you at all times. Summertime also means lots of fresh berries so cut a couple up and put them in your water for a little flavour.
-Do you have a glass of warm water with lemon in it each morning? Keep doing this – take a supply of lemons with you on holiday so you have no excuse.
-Do you have a personal training session or bootcamp you go to when you’re in your normal-out-of-Christmas routine? Commit to doing a workout on those days that you would normally go to the PT – pack your workout clothes on your holiday or do a little searching for a mobile PT/gym in the area that you might be able to attend for a casual session.
-Do you regularly avoid bread/pasta/white rice? Keep avoiding it over this time. As tempting as it can be, it can make you feel bloated and sluggish – not exactly what you need while on holiday!
-Aim to have one alcohol free day a week. Especially if you don’t usually drink much, your liver will be in overload! Give it a break at least once a week and drink HEAPS of water to make up for it.
This is a biggie - because it could mean the difference in reaching for a bag of store bought crisps or crackers that are actually NUTRITIOUS. Try your hand at making a few snack foods that you know will be cropping up over the festive season but that you also know aren't good for you due to their very little nutritional content. With a bit more time on your hands (hopefully if you're on holiday from work) there's no better time to get adventurous in the kitchen. Try making some seed crackers, hummus, finely sliced baked sweet potato, pesto, cashew aioli, a dressing like THIS or bliss balls. These are all easy to transport, versatile and great, healthy nutritious alternatives to have on those warm balmy nights.
At the end of the day, this is such a short period of time that you may not be focussing on your health goals (or not as much as you would like to be focussed on them) so don't beat yourself up if you veer "off track" at all. Having a healthy relationship with food, your body and your mind is the most important and empowering feeling, so any negative thoughts about yourself and any guilt you might feel can be brushed off and let go.
The negative feelings and thoughts do not need your attention.
Lastly, enjoy the festive season! Eat, drink and be merry!