Top tips for Christmas

Decide your end in mind

The starting point for any festive period (or holiday) is to make a conscious choice before the Christmas celebrations (or the annual cruise) – do you want to exercise some restraint/caution and avoid weight gain or are you content to relax healthy eating for a while and deal with the consequences afterwards?

Both options are perfectly valid – just make yours a conscious choice. If you’re going to go for the gain/pain option, then at least enjoy the time when you throw caution to the wind. The worst scenario would be to eat the wrong things – not enjoy eating the wrong things – feel guilty for having done so – and then to have to do a strict Phase 1 in January. If you’re planning to ‘do the time’, then at least ‘enjoy the crime’!

Top Christmas tips for minimising gain

If you make the choice that you’re going to relax a bit, then still use some of The Harcombe Diet Phase 3 guidelines to minimise the damage. By damage – I mean to how you will feel – not just what the scales will say in January. You don’t want to feel bloated, sluggish and dopey over the holidays – so remember these three top Phase 3 tips:

1) Don’t waste your cheating.

Don’t ever eat something just because it’s there or because you’ve eaten other rubbish that day, so why not eat a bit more. Every cheat that you have should be worth it – something that you really fancy. You should never cheat to the extent that you’ll feel stuffed and uncomfortable. Cheating should be a conscious choice and it should feel indulgent. If it is unconscious, mindless and/or it makes you feel guilty – it’s not fun, so don’t do it.

2) Don’t settle for anything less than what you really want.

If you want Christmas pudding and brandy butter – have it. Don’t have a dry mince pie thinking that this will satisfy you. You’ll only want the Christmas pudding and brandy butter and will probably have this in addition to the mince pie. Make a conscious choice to have what you want; eat it slowly; savour every mouthful and make it worthwhile.

3) Don’t cheat too often or too early in each day.

The thing that you most need to avoid is re-awakening food cravings and full blown food addiction. This is the worst that can happen if you choose the more relaxed approach to food over the festive season. And it can happen frighteningly quickly, as my post from nearly four years ago shows.

To make sure that this doesn’t happen to you – don’t cheat every day and don’t start cheating too early during the day. Given that cheating will involve carbs, and probably refined ones, you are likely to be set off on a blood glucose level roller coaster. You might have a croissant for breakfast and go out of the normal blood glucose range, release insulin, dip below the normal blood glucose range, crave something else sweet, have some chocolates and so the cycle continues. This will lead to you craving sweet things every couple of hours throughout the day and you’ll end up falling into a carb-stupor-induced-sleep at bed time – really not feeling like you’ve had fun. You may well wake up the next day with a carb ‘hangover’ and start the roller coaster again.

By not cheating every day – you also make sure that you don’t get into a vicious cycle of having the same sugary/floury substances on a regular basis – increasing the risk of you becoming intolerant to them/addicted to them again, even in a short period of time.

Top Christmas tips for avoiding gain

If you don’t want to gain weight over the Christmas period, make the decision now and stick to it. Here are some tips for staying on track between now and 2016:

1) See Christmas as a few separate events – not a long festive period.

There is likely to be a work Christmas party – which will include drink and may or may not include food. Most workplaces have a Christmas lunch. There is Christmas day dinner – usually with family. Depending on one’s job, many people will have just one work event – consultants and freelance people are likely to get invited to more than one party.

Treat each event as a separate occasion. Don’t see the period from the first party until New Year as one long period when you can’t watch what you eat. It’s a mindset switch from “I’ve got a long period when I can’t control my eating” to “I’ve got a long period when I can control my eating, with just a few events when I’m going to have to do the best I can.” It’s such an important distinction to make.

A really important decision is to get back on track between Christmas and New Year – you can even do a 3-5 day Phase 1 to look fabulous in your New Year outfit.

2) Be on high impulse alert.

Did you know 7 out of 10 confectionery purchases are made on impulse? You didn’t intend to leave the petrol/gas station with a chocolate bar, but somehow you did?! This is why junk is placed at the checkouts and the confectionery racks in outlets run in parallel with the queue to pay. It is all designed to make you buy things that you didn’t intend to buy.

This impulse manipulation goes on all year round. The extra challenge at Christmas is that it escalates to an omnipresent level. Did you spot how early the displays in the supermarkets were there for Christmas junk? Puddings, cakes, biscuits, mince pies, chocolates – all looking like such irresistible bargains that we didn’t feel we could leave them on the shelves. The pyramid of ‘must have’ greets you at the entrance to the store and then, every time you turn into a new aisle, the ‘bargains’ are on the end displays (the fake food manufacturers pay heavily to get those positions) or they are in bargain-bucket-type-baskets, which you almost fall over in the aisles.

Be hyper aware of the added risk of impulse eating in December and don’t fall for it. Anticipate it. Know that it will be there. Enter the petrol/gas station resolute that you will not come out with junk. No matter how long you stand in the Post Office queue – don’t touch the mince pies, which have been open to all sorts of germs since opening time. Yuck!

3) No mindless eating at all.

Make sure that you are never within reach of junk at any time during the festive period. Home parties usually end up being kitchen based and there are nuts, crisps, cheese cubes etc on the table. Make sure that any nibbles are well out of your reach. You would be shocked by how much you could mindlessly eat while chatting to other guests. At drinks parties, have one hand on your clutch bag and the other on your drink – no spare hands for the canapés. (Guys – stick the spare hand in your pocket.)

The other killer risk for mindless eating is TV time. Most households have Christmas stuff on the coffee table – more nuts/crisps/chocolates. Don’t be within reach of these either. For an extra way to resist temptation, have a glass of water in your hand and you’ll find that you mindlessly sip, rather than mindlessly munch, and you’ll be wonderfully hydrated by the end of your favourite programme. The wider rule is – never eat in front of a screen – it’s not just the TV, but the PC, the mobile, the iPad – all will ensure mindless eating. Don’t do it!

I really hope that even one of these tips works for you and gives you a good idea for coping with the amount of junk that we’re all about to encounter. Make the choice now to gain or maintain and feel good about whatever you decide to do.

Happy Christmas to you all and see you again in the New Year!

Zoë x

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