The most exciting time of the year has already begun with festivals and celebrations lined up one after another. Our social calendars are packed with Diwali, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year soirées along with weddings, birthdays, and anniversary celebrations all thrown into the mix. And while we get ready for all the fun and frolic—for most of us, the fear of piling on a few extra calories and side-tracking our fitness goals also starts to creep in.
With diets charts gone haywire, how can you find the middle ground between having all the fun you deserve after a productive year while maintaining your health and fitness goals?
Well, here are some festive eating dos and don’ts to help you out…
1. Practice portion control
Want to enjoy everything? Practice portion control. Take a little bit of all that you want to—leave greed and gluttony behind. Take only a little bit of what you like and leave the rest for tomorrow.
2. Make it at home from scratch.
From fresh ingredients and lots of love, a cake made at home digests differently than a cake bought from a shop. Love has the power to change the energy of food and the way your body breaks it down. You also have the advantage of playing around with healthier ingredients like—natural sugar over refined sugar, better quality oil or fat over refined oils and trans fats, cacao over cocoa, and several others.
3. Balance it out
Can you eat at least one homemade and healthy meal during the festivities, if not all? Of course, there has to be a balance in some way. Even better, can you add a portion of salad to a less healthy meal?
4. Adopt circadian fasting
No, we aren't talking about depriving yourself. You can enjoy it all and still follow fasting according to the circadian rhythm, the most natural and doable way to fast. This way you can give your body a break—by doing simple 12-hour fasting from sunset to sunrise.
If finishing your meal close to sunset feels too early (because most parties begin late), try the best you can. Perhaps extend your fast the next day and only break it when you experience true hunger. The fact that you woke up feeling heavy and bloated the following day means that your body could not complete its detoxification process and is still in elimination mode. This happens when we eat late-night meals. In such cases, honour your appetite and do not stuff yourself with breakfast. Instead, listen to your body and continue fasting until real hunger kicks in. You can have plain water during the fast, and when you are ready to break the fast, do it with lemon water and fresh whole fruits.
5. Add some physical activity
Have all the fun you want, but make sure you are not sedentary. You do not have to go to the gym or work out with your trainers during the festive season. The idea is to stay active and move at the least.
You can also include a four-minute workout called TABATA—a type of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that needs no equipment. If you cannot do TABATA because it requires a certain fitness level, then aim for 10,000 steps a day, do a couple of surya namaskars, or try bodyweight exercises. Planning is critical here.
If you have celebrations planned in the evening, try to be active during the day and plan a morning workout. Workouts do not have to be for an hour— they could even be for 15 minutes, 20 minutes, or 30 minutes. Guilt mainly sets in if you do not execute your part well, so workout and stay active, and watch your fade away automatically.
1. Eat, but do not overeat
Enjoy what you eat, but do not overeat—this is the key. Eating a little bit of whatever you want will not affect your weight, but overeating and gluttony certainly will. Your body does not know what to do with excess food, even when you’re overdoing it on salad. Excess is stored as energy by the body, and this energy is mainly in the form of fat. So, enjoy all the festive specials, but with mindfulness and gratitude.
2. Take no guilt
Instead of cursing yourself for eating that dessert, make that energy positive by practicing this affirmation. Repeat it a couple of times let it register into your subconscious mind:
"I have prepared myself for this festive season. I am going to eat in moderation and thoroughly enjoy it. My body knows how to digest it well."
If you feel it is hard for you not to feel guilty, you are better off not eating it. It is the time for celebration and joy! So enjoy what you eat, practice gratitude, and do not have any guilt. Gratitude is a powerful emotion.
3. Avoid late-night meals
As much as possible, avoid eating late-night meals. Your body is just not designed to digest meals at night. Plus, it does not care if you have a series of parties planned for the week. All it cares for is survival, and it will do anything to help you survive. We understand that you have social gatherings to attend, and we are not taking away any of that from you. So go ahead and enjoy it but smartly. Make your gatherings more about connecting and bonding with your loved ones and less about feasting.
4. Do not be strict with yourself
It's the festive season. You are bound to come across occasions and instances where you will be offered fried foods, alcoholic beverages, and cheerful feasts. Do not resist. Often, we try to fight it—leading to psychological deprivation, which builds up over time. And then there comes a time when we let ourselves go entirely and over binge. So, you instead enjoy a little bit of everything, practice portion control, and feel content and grateful about it.
Follow these lifestyle changes, and you are sure to have a healthier festive season—no matter which part of the world you reside in. After all, it all comes down to your lifestyle and how you choose to live it.
Luke Coutinho, Holistic Lifestyle Coach - Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine and Founder of YouCare - All about YOU by Luke Coutinho