How To Stay On Track During Christmas & The Festive Season - The BEST Nutrition & Mindset Tips & Tricks Revealed
The festive season is a time of joy, fun, and good food. However, for dieters and those focusing on their nutrition and fitness, it can be a time of overwhelm & stress - with the issue of juggling nutrition with the festivities becoming an obstacle needing addressing.
In today’s blog post, using my Sports Dietitian experience & my own strategies I share with you the key tips and tricks that can help you approach the Christmas period more effectively. I want to help you enjoy the festive season while still feeling in control of your nutrition. Use these effective tips and mindset reframes to help you stay on track while enjoying the Christmas food you desire.
Christmas time is full of indulgent, good food which presents an issue for the nutrition-conscious if they are not equipped with the right mindset as well as the right tools to navigate it with effectiveness and stay on track. Time and time and again, I have people reach out or my very own clients express concern around losing their progress during the Christmas period. There is also the added issue of feeling of guilt post-Christmas feasting - where perhaps you are feeling you made a mistake.
I am a firm believer that you should not be trying to fit your life around your nutrition, but rather try and fit your nutrition around your life in a flexible but STILL strategic way. That is how I approach the festive season myself and what I walk my clients through during this time. Now it is your turn to learn some of the fundamental tips and tricks I have developed over the years to make Christmas a flexible dieting experience for those who want to stay on track during this time WITHOUT obsessing and fixating on their nutrition.
So without further ado, here are the mindset and nutrition tips for you to consider!
Mindset Tips & Reframes
Experience First mentality
The Experience First mentality is something I dialed in on for myself and my clients a few years ago when I realized that a lot of people let over-obsession around their goals get in the way of enjoying life and creating experiences. You should be thinking about the experience first when it comes to events such as Christmas, holidays, social gatherings, and birthdays. This doesn’t mean you have to disregard nutrition & behavioural control - but it means you should approach it with more flexibility & understand you haven’t failed if you go off track.
So this Christmas when you start thinking “I shouldn’t be eating this food”, reframe it as “I can enjoy this food and be in control while making experiences…as tomorrow is another day to continue working on myself” (or something like that).
Avoid feelings of guilt
Feeling guilty is a human reaction to the occurrence of an event that makes you feel like you are hurting yourself, someone else, or going against your inner core. In terms of nutrition, this is quite simply the feeling that your food choices are going against the goal you set out to achieve. However, having guilt around food is something you need to work on if it affects you personally.
The truth is that food guilt does not necessarily help you get back on track but instead can create a mentality that is unhealthy - leading to issues with your food relationship. So don’t feel guilty this Christmas. Enjoy the food and know that it’s just a small piece of the puzzle that is your entire long term journey.
Get back on track the next day
One of the BEST mindset reframes to have is to understand that the best thing you can do when you go off track or take a break (as is the case with Xmas), is to simply get back on track the best day. Dwelling on it won’t help. Stressing won’t help. Feeling guilty won’t either. Instead you want to understand that progress is never linear and that there will always be times that aren't “per plan” and that is ok!
Simply enjoy the experience, reflect on it if you need to, and get back on track the next day. It’s the most effective thing you can do this Christmas - just don’t let the one day lead into weeks of overeating.
Christmas Nutrition Tips 101
Prioritization (protein, veg, fruit)
This strategy is super simple and it works like this: prioritize the consumption of the high protein foods, veggies and salads, & fruits first. This is in some ways a way of harnessing some volume eating so that you fill up on foods with a lower calorie profile first before going for the treats and indulgent goodies we all know we love. Doing this can help you control overeating while still allowing you to enjoy every single food item available (if you so desire).
Plate portion strategy
This one is pretty self explanatory but essentially it’s about using the “plate portion framework” that you may have heard about before. It works like this: plate 50% of the plate with veg or fruit, 25% with proteins, and the last 25% with carby goodness. Simple. This ensures you maintain a balanced approach even if you eat more than usual. This tip goes hand in hand with the one above about prioritization - in some ways they are 1a and 1b to each other.
Choose sugar free drinks
Caloric drinks such as sugary drinks are a very easily over consumed item especially during times of celebration such as Christmas. When you are already eating more than usual and more high calorie foods then you typically do, having a bunch of sugary drinks on top is adding more fuel to the tank when it doesn’t need to be. The good thing is that sugary drinks have very comparable alternatives that are sugar free and therefore calorie free. This means you can not only drink the same amount but even more and it won’t have any impact on your results. Perfect way of managing calories without thinking about calories.
Choose lean protein foods most of the time
Lean protein foods are simply protein foods lower in fat. By including more lean protein foods in your feast, you allow yourself to cut back on calories without thinking about calories. At the same time, you still get your protein needs met on the day. However, I understand you want some of the fattier meats too so all I’m saying is consider making half your protein batch from lean protein sources such as: turkey, ham, lean pork, chicken, prawns, and fish. In addition to this, eating protein foods keeps you more satisfied which can secondarily manage your overall caloric intake without thinking about restriction.
Manage your alcohol intake
One of the BIGGEST reasons that Christmas leads to weight gain is that you are combining high calorie intake with alcohol (which is also a high calorie drink in itself). See alcohol actually affects how effectively you metabolise your macros so when you drink a lot and are in a calorie surplus, your body becomes more “efficient” at storing body fat. Therefore, consuming a lot of alcohol not only makes it more likely you’ll be consuming too many calories but also makes it more likely you’ll store body fat.
So what should you do? Simple. Create a rule (your personal choice on exactly what) that manages your alcohol to some degree. Here is an example: for every 1 alcoholic drink I consume, I will follow up with 3 serves of water or a zero calorie drink.
I truly hope the list of tips and tricks I shared today has not only made you feel more ready to navigate the festive season but that it has equipped you with strategies that will help you stay on track during Christmas without being overly restrictive, stressed, & feeling guilty about the natural desire to enjoy all the delicious foods. Christmas is a time to spend with loved ones, have a great experience, and enjoy food for the joy it can bring. So DO NOT make yourself miss out on this opportunity to relax and build memories.
Remember: at the end of the day you won’t be back at square one even if you completely splurge in December as obstacles are learning experiences and you will learn from it if you are proactive and determined to reach your peak potential. However, there is no harm in having a great time & relaxing with your nutrition while still staying on track to some degree using the tips I shared. And hey look, if you maintain weight during Christmas…that is progress in my eyes too! #foodforthought
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Hi there! My name's Aleksa Gagic - i'm a Brisbane Dietitian & Nutritionist. The aim of this blog is to provide value and spread quality evidence-based nutrition information to counter the BS floating around.