We know it well, silly season is not for sissies. We always head into it with the best intentions not to give way to the over-indulgence; not to leave our healthy eating plans by the wayside, and to make sure we have the ‘me-time’ for prioritising the physical activity and self-care that we need to maintain our healthy balance. But we can trip up.
No sooner have we got through the swirl of team, company and client lunches, drinks and parties than we’re whirling off on holiday with non-stop plans for spending (well-deserved) time with family and friends. And, you know what? It’s actually, all good.
Our human drive to gather together around food is really not the problem. No matter what is available, what’s on offer and even, what might be pressed upon us, we still remain absolutely in charge of everything that we choose to eat or drink over the upcoming festive season. What’s critically important is how you think and how you decide to act in the moment.
For some, the legendary lavishness of the holidays is an excuse to let go despite the stated aspirations to achieve that bikini body this summer. It’s easy to take an ‘everybody’s doing it, I can’t avoid it’ approach, and lose your balance and your focus on your personal goals.
Or, you can see it for what it is – a highly social time that is good for you in so many ways, but will inevitably be accompanied by loads of food and drink. It’s important to stay mindful of this fact: you are completely in charge of how the holiday unfolds for you. You have all the power to maintain balance and progress on your healthy lifestyle goals – without suffering, and without setting yourself uncomfortably apart from others.
Healthy lifestyles have gained serious traction over the past years. Sure, no one has yet been able to convince Grandma to replace the condensed milk with low-fat yoghurt in her classic Christmas Day potato salad, but the chances are you will still find plenty of others in your social circles who, like you, want to start some new, healthier traditions and eating habits when it comes to the food we share over the festive season. It’s actually so unlikely at any holiday gathering this year that you won’t find some companions who also intend to stay focused on balanced eating in the context of a healthy lifestyle. Find them, band together and forge forward into a festive season that truly recharges mind, body and soul.
We asked Registered Dietitians, Retha Booyens and Mbali Mapholi, spokespeople for ADSA (Association for Dietetics in South Africa) to each give us their top festive season tips for mindful, in charge, healthy eating over the holidays:
- It’s the same packet of chips – “Yes, you’re relaxing on the beach with friends and the context is the holidays – but the packet of chips being offered around is just the same as any other time, so, stick to your same reactions. If you’re not hungry, or if you would prefer a healthier snack, pass it on. This is not different advice from how to choose when waiters at a party are offering trays of canapes – just because it is in front of you, doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Be mindful about what you choose to eat. Sometimes when it comes to food offerings, we go on autopilot and think we need to hoover up everything in our sights just because it is on offer. But, we don’t. It’s just food. There will be more. There will be other contexts. We still have free choice, and we need to keep this in perspective – it is the same packet of chips you could say no to any other day, so say no today.”
- Keep it in perspective – “If you find yourself in Rome on a rare holiday with the chance to enjoy an Italian Gelato alongside the Trevi Fountain – just go right ahead and enjoy it. But if the choice is about yet another third helping of Mom’s peppermint crisp tart, you can probably skip that this time around. If it is a genuine once in a lifetime experience, go for it, but if it’s a holiday habit that just trips you up, let it go.”
- You won’t feel happy if you just over-ride your healthy weight loss or weight management plans – “You can avoid the stress that compromises your enjoyment of the holidays by sticking to your goals and plans in flexible and practical ways. Keep your portion sizes in check at every meal. Cut back on the empty calories of alcohol by consciously reducing your intake and also drinking a glass of water between every glass of wine or beer. Never slake your thirst with an alcoholic beverage. Stick to your exercise regime. If you can’t access your usual classes, sessions and activities, then run, walk, ride or play physical games for a minimum of two and a half hours a week.”
- The devil is in the detail – “It’s not the holiday season that is the pitfall but rather our mindless reactions. Step away from the snack table. When you eat; choose well, chew slowly and be aware of what you are eating. Bring your favourite healthy dish to the family braai. Don’t hesitate to eat well and share that. Keep your eye on portion size and trade the treats you don’t want to miss out on with increased exercise and a more balanced meal before or after.”
For more information about ADSA or to find a dietitian in your area, please visit www.adsa.org.za