Mince pies, cheese boards and Baileys are stars of the show right now and should be enjoyed guilt-free. That’s right! There should be no holding back at Christmas – it’s a time to embrace the celebrations.
The downside though, is that ‘bleurgh’ feeling [the technical term for the post-Christmas slump] that you experience.
Fitness, wellness and nutrition guru Penny Weston sums it up perfectly. “As social diaries get busier, the late nights, lack of sleep, change in diet and alcohol intake can leave people feeling sluggish, bloated and tired,” she explains.
Here’s how to enjoy the good times mindfully without uttering the words “never again”…
Maintain a routine
“To stop yourself feeling sluggish as the festive season continues, it’s crucial to try to maintain as much of your normal health and fitness routine as possible,” explains Penny.
“If you’re used to exercising three times a week, try not to suddenly drop this. Stopping what your body and mind are used to will make you feel tired and your energy levels will dip."
Make breakfast the most important meal of the day
“It’s inevitable that your diet won’t be as healthy as it usually is, so try to put as many nutrients into your body as possible at breakfast. A smoothie of blueberries, banana, spinach, kale, chia seeds, spirulina, vanilla protein and almond milk will provide an energy boost and prevent bloating,” says Penny.
“A nutritious breakfast lays the groundwork to keep your body healthy."
Remember that Christmas dinner is full of goodness
“There are many nutritional benefits of a Christmas dinner, so don’t feel guilty about piling your plate up high,” Penny says.
“About eight Brussels sprouts counts as one of your five-a-day and they’re loaded with vitamin C. Cabbage is a good source of vitamin K, which can help build and maintain healthy bones. And cranberries contain plant compounds that have a protective antioxidant effect.
“Turkey is loaded with potassium, protein and selenium, and can work well to boost your metabolism. If you opt for a nut roast, it’s a great source of nutrients, including vitamin E, magnesium and phosphorus, and is loaded with antioxidants.”
Get some rest
The National Sleep Foundation states that we should get between seven and nine hours every night, but with busier social schedules this isn’t always possible.
Dr Verena Senn, neurobiologist and sleep expert at mattress brand Emma, explains that too many late nights leave us with a “sleep debt which can be extremely damaging to both your physical and mental health”.
“Sleep deprivation can cause horrible mood changes and suppresses the immune system, so if you’ve had a late night, a small power nap will do you good,” she says. “Ensure your nap lasts 10 to 20 minutes as this will help give your brain a quick boost, without leaving you feeling sluggish.”
A light afternoon nap on Christmas Day can give you a much-needed second wind. “This restorative stage of sleep can help improve reaction time and logistical reasoning – perhaps perfect before an evening of winning board games.
"However, you shouldn’t nap straight after Christmas dinner, as that can actually be harmful to our health. It can impact digestion, lower blood pressure, cause issues such as heartburn and indigestion, and can even lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease. I’d recommend waiting for at least two to three hours after you eat before napping.”
Three golden rules
Penny explains, “It’s important not to let guilt get in the way of you enjoying yourself over the festive period. Instead, try to use mindful practices when eating. This will not only help you to enjoy the festive period and not feel deprived, but will also help to prevent that overstuffed, physically sick feeling a lot of us experience at Christmas.”
There are a few ways you can try to do this, according to Penny, including:
1. Don’t deny yourself treats.
“If you don’t let yourself have any treats over the festive period you’ll feel miserable and deprived. It’s about moderation. If you fancy a chocolate, have one rather than a whole box. Mentally you will feel like you’ve still enjoyed Christmas, but it will mean your body doesn’t suffer the impact of eating and drinking too much.”
2. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
“I know what I said about maintaining a routine, but not being too hard on yourself if you do miss a workout one morning or eat the wrong things for a day is important. You’re only human!”
3. Indulge mindfully.
“We’ve all done it – stood next to a festive buffet and mindlessly tucked into food that we didn’t really want or need. Instead of doing this, put a selection of food onto your plate in one go, rather than returning countless times to pick at snacks and food without thinking about it. By doing this you’ll notice you just eat what you actually need. But of course, if you do end up wanting more, go for it – it’s Christmas!”
Resist the sofa slump
Penny suggests, “If you’re at home a lot over the Christmas period, you can start to feel very inactive and lacking in energy as a result of not moving much. Use the spare time to keep active, whether that’s playing Twister with your in-laws or taking the family for a runaround in the park or a walk in the woods. By getting your body moving, you’ll burn calories and help to release endorphins that make you feel happy and improve your mood."
The right balance
“People often think hours of exhausting cardio is the best way to lose weight after overindulging, however this is not the case,” says Penny.
“Although cardio is necessary for cardiovascular health, doing too much of it can leave you exhausted. Instead, weight-bearing exercises are the key to building muscle and helping the metabolism work faster.
“Restrictive diets aren’t going to help either. They can lead to feelings of extreme hunger, causing lethargy, as well as deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals. There’s also the tendency for people to get sucked into a starve/binge cycle and it can actually become harder to lose weight in the long run. I’m a firm believer in just eating a balanced diet.
“Try to avoid comparing yourself to other people and their fitness, whether that’s people on the television, online or friends. The important thing to remember is that all of our bodies are different, and that being healthy and happy are the most important things. Merry Christmas!”
Penny runs award-winning health spa, Moddershall Oaks and leading wellness centre, MADE; a 360 wellness centre complete with boutique fitness gym, studios, treatment rooms, retail shop and health café.
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