There’s plenty advice on the internet and in the media about how to cut the calories at. It’s crystal clear that we have to make the right decisions at the bar, at the buffet, when out partying, on Day and particularly when chilling out in front of the TV during that precious week/10 days we have off work if there is the slightest chance of us leaping into 2011 in good shape. But, it’s not just about the struggle to stop the pounds piling on, is it? It’s the Party Season and you don’t just want to look good – you want to look great (and feel great!). Here are a few strategies which can make a big impact. Some you may have come across before, others are a little more random. And by the way; like pets, they are not just for Christmas, they are for life!
- Think of your relationship with as a toxic friendship (you know the kind of friend who happily laughs with you only to have a good laugh at your expense when your back is turned!) Sugar is rather like her/him. It’s great while you are scoffing it, but it does you no favours health-wise. It’s addictive and if it were discovered today, it may well be registered as an illegal substance! You know the obvious culprits – cakes, pastries, sweets, fizzy drinks etc. But, are you aware that a great many processed, refined and fast foods are -laden? Particularly the ones labelled ‘low fat’. Greatly reducing the fat in some foods renders them fairly unpalatable, so extra sugar and/or salt is often added to make them more appealing. Look at the label (or ask). Ingredients are listed in a most/first basis, so if you see sugar near the top, put it back on the shelf for some other unsuspecting shopper. And remember, anything ending in -ose or -ol is just sugar in disguise!
- Having a little with every meal and snack slows down the rate at which food is absorbed into the bloodstream, keeping you feeling fuller for longer and reducing the amount you eat in a day. Always a big plus at this time of year. Have some porridge or scrambled eggs for breakfast, snack on oatcakes spread with nut butter, crunchy raw baby vegetables with a little pot of hummus, a chicken leg or some natural live yoghurt with berries and a drizzle of honey. Have a meaty, beany or fishy soup for lunch (avoid the creamy ones) and have some grilled fish, chicken or turkey with loads of steamed/stir fried vegetables for dinner.
- If you eat something every 3 hours you learn the secret of not being hungry. And not being hungry usually means you eat for energy not out of desire. When you fuel up regularly, you stoke up your metabolism and burn fat more efficiently – if losing rather than gaining fat is your goal this Christmas, set your mobile to go off every 3 hours and get munching on fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, lentils, oily fish, chicken and of course turkey (skin off).
- The mineral, calcium is a serious player in the metabolism of fat for energy (both ingested and stored fat). Dairy products are generally believed to be the best source, but too much dairy in our diet can contribute to a sluggish digestion, a stuffy nose, catarrh and worst of all a dairy bottom! Some of the richest sources of calcium can be found in tinned salmon and sardines, calcium-enriched soya milk and tofu, natural live yoghurt, spinach and broccoli. Aim for a couple of portions of some or all of these, daily to keep the fat burning fire alive while at the same time giving your bones, teeth and nails a good feed.
- If you know you are going partying and there is a likelihood of over-indulgence, don’t starve yourself all day. Your body sees this as a threat and hangs onto the fat instead of burning it. Stick to the ‘eat something every 3 hours’ mantra and eat little and light. Raw or steamed vegetables, light soups, fresh fruit, boiled egg and soldiers, salads from the deli (3 bean, lentil, carrot, brown rice), beans on toast (low sugar beans and rye toast if poss). This way you keep your under control and avoid the ‘guzzling everything in sight’ predicament that grips you within the first half hour and wrecks all your good intentions.
- Christmas party nibbles! Oh so delicious, moreish and down in a second. Most of them are between 50 and 100 kcals each, so if you have 8 or 10 of them and add 4 glasses of champagne or wine to that, you have notched up somewhere between 700 and 1000 kcals and you haven’t even had dinner. There are 2 ways to handle them. One, say “no thanks” (bit dull) and two, eat before you go out or if you are going out straight from work scarf down all your handbag snacks en route (fruit, nuts and seeds, small chunks of hard cheese, baby oatcakes and nut butter, a fruit smoothie, a cold boiled egg, a cooked chicken leg etc.) and have bucket loads of water. A big glass for every alcoholic drink generally means you have to go to the ladies room more often, but it’s worth it the next day when you discover you didn’t go overboard on the calorie-front and you have a clear head. Sometimes it’s only polite to have a couple of the nibbles – avoid those in pastry, the deep-fried ones, the garlic bread, crisps and peanuts and any dips with mayo or soured cream and opt for lean beef, chicken, turkey, ham, smoked salmon, fresh prawns, crudités, bread sticks, salsa, tzatziki, fresh fruit and nuts, sushi, olives, cheese cubes on sticks etc. OR eat the topping and bin the base and save on starchy .
- If you have a little of the right kind of fats before you eat you can kind of trick your system into sending a message to your brain to say you’re full. While you are preparing your evening meal, have a small salad or a plate of mixed steamed vegetables dressed/drizzled with olive, flax, walnut, avocado or pumpkin seed oil, a squirt of lemon juice, a scattering of salt flakes, some freshly ground pepper and a topping of roasted mixed nuts and seeds. THEN WAIT 20 MINUTES BEFORE YOU EAT (that’s around about the time it takes for your brain to get the ‘full’ message). Try it – you’ll be surprised at how it not only takes the edge off your appetite but can help steer you away from starchy foods (potatoes, white pasta and rice, bread etc.) which you don’t really need after 6ish unless you are planning on dancing all night!
- And, here are a couple of little extra tips that have scant scientific research behind them, but may be worth a try when you are up against the eat, drink and be merry monster that has become the norm over the festive period!
- Smell grapefruit! – some suggest that grapefruit oil lets out an aroma that affects your liver enzymes and promotes weight loss. A couple of studies show that animals exposed to grapefruit scent for 15 minutes, 3 times a day showed a reduction in appetite and body weight – worth a try. Find it at your local health store, put a few drops on a handkerchief and sniff away – when you don’t have an audience!
- Suck an ice cube and numb your taste buds. Your great granny used this ploy to get the children to take their medicine (if you can’t taste it, you won’t hate it). It might just work as an antidote to your need for a sweet treat, a party nibble, a burger and fries etc. Who knows!
- Tie a piece of string around your waist. Some foods bloat your tummy, others don’t. Some people have intolerances or sensitivities to certain foods and food groups and the quickest and cheapest method of uncovering them is to watch what happens to your middle half an hour after eating. Tie the string comfortably around your waist in the morning and see what happens. If you have a spare minute in your day (difficult at this time of the year, I know), note down which foods caused that uncomfortable feeling and try to remove those foods for a couple of days, then try them again and if you bloat again, look into alternatives (eg. if the string gets tighter with bread and pasta, look into alternatives to wheat products – oats, rye, rice etc.)
- Talk a lot and fidget! If you talk a lot, you tend to eat your food more slowly because you do a lot more breathing between bites and you regularly put your knife and fork down. Result? You don’t overload your digestion, you eat less than your quieter eating companions and if you are a real chatterbox, you need to keep the vocal chords hydrated with lots of water. Fidgeting isn’t new. We all know someone who can’t sit still, drums their fingers, shakes their legs etc. It can be annoying, but it’s official – fidgets stay slimmer! I think however, the message lies in the role of regular exercise and activity in your day – you’ve got to MOVE IT TO LOSE IT so keep active right through the party season by walking, dancing, fidgeting or whatever works for you.
- Finally, sleep can be a real problem at this time of year (stress, routine disruption etc). If you find you are waking up regularly anywhere between 2am and 5am and you can’t get back to sleep, your has possibly plummeted. Keep the balance with a small night time snack at least half an hour before you go to bed. A slice of toasted rye bread topped with cottage cheese or a couple of slices of cooked turkey, a mug of warm soya milk with cinnamon or a couple of baby oatcakes with peanut butter or half a well-mashed banana are all rich in the amino acid tryptophan which promotes the release of the calming neurotransmitter, serotonin.
And finally. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t resist some of the festive foodie treats that come at you from all sides. Eat them, enjoy them, forget them and move on. Tomorrow offers another opportunity to make some sharper decisions!