What is it about Christmas time that sends everyone into some kind of catching-up frenzy?
It is odd, you must admit. People that haven’t spoken to you since March are suddenly texting you, insisting that the pair of you catch up before Christmas. Everyone’s organising Christmas parties.
And birthday parties. Even if their birthday is in January. Because everyone’s away then, and god forbid they have a party in February.
So everyone’s life looks a lot like this at the moment: sleep, work, go out, drink, eat, go home. And repeat. There’s a lot of champagne. A lot of cocktails.
A lot of fun snowman-shaped cake pops and Santas made out of whipped cream and strawberries. Lots of meals full of extra salt and saturated fat that you wouldn’t normally eat – but you do anyway, because it’s the festive season and you’re going out to eat.
And then of course, we launch straight out of Christmas party season and right into that black hole that is the week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s. The week that disappears into a blur of icy poles, more glasses of champagne, leftover ham and chocolates from all the gift boxes that ended up under the tree.
You reach the first of January and everyone starts talking about resolutions, and you realise that you’ve probably eaten about a year’s supply of rum balls and mince pies… for dinner… every night… for the last three weeks.
And you’re supposed to be going on a beach holiday in two days and yet you would rather wear a muumuu than be seen in a bikini.
Now: This isn’t a post about depriving yourself of any Christmas treats. I would never tell you that you shouldn’t eat any gingerbread men or candy canes. Because fark, it’s Christmas, and nobody wants to be that person, sitting in the corner, totally miserable because they’ve banned themselves from eating anything with artificial colouring or whatever in it.
But… let’s be realistic. This Christmas party/indulging period takes up one twelfth of a year, every year. If the average person lives to be 81.85 years old, the average person spends 6.8 years of their life indulging in Christmas treats and drinking to excess. (I did that maths myself. Hold your applause to the end, guys.)
And while it’s so good to enjoy some pav at the barbeque on Christmas Day, it’s not great to do it every day for over a month. You’ll end up feeling sick and bloated and generally unhappy about yourself – because none of that food is particularly nourishing or particularly healthy.
So here’s how to get through the Christmas party season without feeling ill by the time it’s all over…
1) Eat before you go to parties.
I went to a party last week on an empty stomach. Upon arrival, I think I shoved about ten canapes in my mouth in the space of about two minutes.
And then I continued to eat whatever I could get my hands on. And then I went home and had the stomach ache to beat all stomach aches.
The best idea? Eat before you go. It’s just like the rule of never going shopping on an empty stomach. Empty stomach = poor choices.
If it’s not a breakfast/lunch/dinner hour, then plan ahead and keep snacks on hand. I like wholegrain crackers with natural peanut butter, bliss balls made of coconut and dates and other tasty things (recipe here), oat and dark chocolate cookies (recipe here). Fruit and veggies are also obvious ones, as well as yoghurt. Protein is also good and fills you up – try cheese or slices of ham or turkey.
That way, you’ll be able to sample the canapes but not chow down on them as though it’s the last time you’ll ever see arancini.
2) If you’re going out to dinner…
Don’t feel obliged to eat the whole meal – restaurant sizes are generally larger than anything you’d serve yourself at home, so be conscious of that. Also, they’re generally loaded with more salt/sugar/butter than anything we’d add to home-cooked meals, so keep that in mind when ordering.
If you can bring yourself to go for the healthier choices on the menu, do so – think stir-frys, fish or sushi. Otherwise? Order a side salad to up your veggie intake and skip or share dessert. (Unless it’s Gelato Messina… nobody shares that.)
3) Drink smart.
The champagne and the cocktails pour freely during the festive season. But sometimes? You just don’t feel like drinking. You’ve drunk for the last four nights, and you just don’t feel like doing any more of it.
But how to explain that to people at parties? Telling people you’re not drinking is like announcing that you’ve taken up a new habit of skinning baby crocodiles to make new handbags.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with just telling people the truth; that you don’t feel like it. Any reasonable person should accept that and not try to push any further.
But if you do need some kind of excuse – tell people that you’re driving (even if you’re not) or that you’re training for something (again, even if you’re not) or that you’re just recovering from being sick. Drink water with a lime in it, or a coke or a juice in a short glass, so that people assume you’re already drinking mixed drinks. Or get one drink and sit on it for ages so that people assume that you’re drinking multiple drinks.
If you are drinking? Same old tricks in the book. Drink plenty of water throughout the evening and make sure you’re drinking on a full stomach. Keep it appropriate – if you find yourself considering a pash with Kevin from accounts, it’s probably time to go home.
If you’re calorie-conscious, Michelle Bridges has this clever guide on alcohol and calories.
4) Don’t forget to exercise.
When schedules fill up, exercise can often be the first thing to go. Which is not great, because this is also a stressful time of year, and keeping up the workouts can do wonders for your mental – as well as physical – health. Even just 20 mins will do.
So lock that shit into your diary and make it non-negotiable. Plan ahead to fit it in. Be smart about it. Click here to see how you can work out at home and save yourself time – or here to find out about how great incidental exercise is.
Also consider incorporating exercise into your Christmas activities – cricket on Christmas Day? Coastal walk on Boxing Day? Paddle-boarding and yoga on your holiday? Whatever you do to get that body moving a little bit will benefit you in some way.
5) Listen to your body
Above all else – listen to your body.
It’s going to be the first thing to tell you if you’re not looking after it as well as you should. Pay close attention so that you can go ahead and feel good about yourself coming into the new year. We all deserve to have a happy one.
How are you looking after yourself this Christmas?