Food: Undoubtedly the number 1 challenge we all face at Christmas is finding that fine balance between enjoying the glorious food whilst not emerging in January a vastly enlarged version of our November self. Thankfully there are some simple tactics that we can employ to help us have our christmas cake and eat it.
The first of these is 16:8 - essentially a modified fasting protocol that sees you limit your food intake into an 8 hour window in the day. The 16 hour fast helps you avoid too much weight gain whilst also stimulating some cellular repair to prevent the festive excesses damaging your health. I also like the flexibility of this approach, if you have an evening do you can just delay breakfast a little, if it's a family brunch you just wrap your dinner up a little earlier.
Your second option is carb backloading which is my default protocol. again the theory is simple although the science behind it is a little more complex. You can dig out my posts on this specific subject if you fancy getting geeky. Essentially you are just limiting your carb intake to the evening. By doing so you are encouraging your body to burn fat during the day and then store the evening carbs in muscle rather than fat. To make this work focus on fat and protein based foods during the day, say smoked salmon and eggs for breakfast with a creamy coffee, a creamy soup for lunch and then whatever you fancy in the evening. You can enhance the positive effects further by adding in some afternoon activity, whether that be a country walk or a mad dash around the shops.
Drink: A snowball whilst writing cards, a port in front of the fire or a nip of whisky after a walk, alcohol is readily available and always seems a good idea at Christmas. Whilst some festive drinks here and there won't cause much harm these drinks can rapidly add up and leave you feeling pretty rubbish by the time the big day arrives. never mind when january arrives. Again some simple scheduling can keep your head and your liver relatively clear and give you the best of both worlds.
Try to have at least one dry day between each drinking day to give your liver chance to catch up. Increase these dry days dependant on how heavy the session was. Ensure you are drinking plenty of water to rehydrate and don't be tempted by a hair of the dog. You can also enhance the detox process by delaying breakfast the following day.
If work parties are calling yet you know you'll need to be on your game the following day too then fear not. I am sharing my top secret hangover cure here too. The caveat with this is that although you'll feel ok the following day that this is not an excuse to schedule more sessions. So to start you'll need to take some n-acetyl cysteine and some vitamin C with your first drink. These help to block the conversion of ethanol into aldehyde which is the bit that causes the hangover. Depending how much you're drinking you may want to take another dose later in the evening too. After you've finished drinking make sure you rehydrate. You also want to take activated charcoal which absorbs the nasties that are left. The following day take some milk thistle to help give your liver a bit of support. And keep drinking water, add a pinch of himalyan salt for good measure. You can get all these ingredients at any health shop for the price of a round. You can read more on this here.
Activity: Short busy days and long social nights are rarely a recipe for high activity levels so it is important that you take some steps to building some exercise into the holidays. If you are an athlete it presents a great opportunity for adding some mass. This is something I diary every year, knowing that there will be plenty of available calories and I will be more sedentary than usual. I can reliably add a few kilos of pretty decent mass each Christmas by changing my weights to higher reps. If you have no athletic concerns then your primary concern is going to be your daily step count. It seems that everyone has a Fitbit nowadays so use it and aim for the magic 10,000 a day. Schedule a couple of longer strides each week and you won't be huffing and puffing up the office stairs in your first day back at the office.
Adjust your wants: With Christmas being so associated with excess and extravagance it is all to easy to be pulled into a scarcity mindset. Face it, no matter how thoughtful and generous the gifts you receive are there will always be someone else who has something bigger and shinier. To innoculate ourselves against this it is important that we adjust our expectations and practice gratitude wherever possible. Take a moment each day to remind yourself what really matters and practice some gratitude by jotting down things you are thankful for.
Prep the big day: The largest source of stress over Christmas is typically the main event itself and if you are the one who is in charge of delivering the feast then you are likely feeling the heat. To reduce the associated stress you can take the very practical steps of preparing in advance wherever possible. Jamie Oliver has some decent tips on doing things like gravy and veg beforehand. However the real power lies in a technique developed by the stoics and now adopted in business - the pre mortem. Take 15mins out to think through the big day and ask yourself at each junction what could go wrong and then what you'd do if it did. Not only will this process allow you to problem solve and fix things before the day arrives but it will also leave you better prepared for adveristy when you are in the midst of it, and this will leave you free to enjoy the event rather than being caught up in the panic.
Pause: How many years have you got to January and wondered where it all went. Christmas has been and gone in a flash and you feel you barely had chance to enjoy it. This is entirely typcial of any event or time where you have lots on and you are flitting from engagement to engagement. The antidote to this is to schedule regular moments of presence. Simply stop and take everything in. Be mindful when you eat and stay connected in conversations. Don't allow your mind to drift onto what you need to do next, stay in the moment and appreciate it. You will be thankful of the extra memories when it is all over.
If you are able to implement and practice the above I promise you a healthier and more fulfilling Christmas than ever before. Whatever happens we will be here for you after it with the review of 2016 and helping to kick start 2017 with a bang for you.