‘Tis the season to be jolly, that probably means Christmas parties, endless buffets and mulled wine.
That could spell disaster not just for your waistline or your health if you succumb to all the many foods and drinks that are surplus to your bodies requirements. However, it’s not what you do between Christmas and new year that matters most, its what you do between new year and Christmas. Plus – we have some great top tips to manage the normal pit falls.
Historically we have always physically adapted to times of fast and famine, true our hunter gatherer ancestors version of “feast” was good weather for gathering plant based foods and a successful hunt, whereas ours might be 24 hour shopping and a succession of social gatherings, but the basic principle is the same. Their idea of famine was weeks of bad weather where they couldn’t gather or hunt for foods, ours is the fact that the shops might shut for a whole 24 hours! Not quite the same is it? Their periods of famine meant they had to switch energy systems and burn the fats they had stored during the periods of feast. The problem we have is that we don’t have days or weeks when food is scarce so we never need to do this. We are constantly in fat storage mode because food is so abundantly available.
Having said that, if you have a few extra foods over the next few weeks it doesn’t mean that all your health goals go out of the window as long as you understand a few basic principles and adapt. In fact making different choices and still having a great time at all the parties is incredibly rewarding and empowering. So many people associate “dieting” with not having fun. Missing out on social gatherings and deprivation, yet that does not need to be the case at all.
Understanding which foods will do the most damage when you over eat is the key to not gaining weight over the holiday period. And its not just the fact its Christmas, the weather also has a lot to do with it. The reduction in daylight during winter results in a drop in serotonin (the happy hormone). We also get serotonin from the foods we eat, have a wild guess which foods produce serotonin, yep you guessed it …carbs! When we eat foods that elevate our blood sugar quickly a chemical reaction takes place that increases serotonin and we feel good. Our hunter gatherer ancestors earned this emotional “high” as it meant there hunter gathering had been successful, and they were active enough for their blood sugar not to stay elevated for too long. Because we can access food with little or no effort, we get the same highs without earning it, but then because our blood sugar stays elevated because we are less active, we convert the excess sugar into fat.
The Colour Code System principles are robust and will serve you well in times of feast or famine. When sugar is easily available but your activity levels are low you should avoid the high GI foods which are PINK on the CCS. So if it’s a cold dark night in, or you are at a bustling Christmas party, the foods to avoid are the ones that you probably crave the most, the sugary sweet foods and the stodgy carbs. If you eat them they will be fast tracked into your fat cells, and on top of that you will experiencer a drop in energy often called “the sugar sleeps”.
So what can you choose either for nibbles at home or at the buffet, minimise the damage to your waistline (or prevent it altogether) and still have fun?
Buffett do’s and don’t’s
|· Savoury (e.g. mince pies & sausage rolls) or sweet pastries|
· Cakes and biscuits
· White bread
· High sugar drinks including sweet wine
· Artificial sweeteners (has the same effect on your physiology as sugar plus depletes gut flora)
· White rice (except basmati)
· White potatoes
· Too many cured meats which are high in chemicals
|·Vegetables with delicious dips such as different flavours of hummus|
·Raw chocolate energy balls / bars
·Whole meal pitta or granary bread
· Dry wine or spirits alternated with natural sparking water
· Cheese (especially soft cheese)
· Salads with plenty of raw vegetables
· Sweet potato (including oven roasted chips)
·Brown wild or basmati rice or quinoa
· Quality meats e.g. chicken beef turkey etc.
1: Bulk out your dishes with nutrient dense fibrous veg (your gut will really love you for it). Add carrots, celery, peas, chicory to stews, casseroles, chillies and currys
2: Switch creamy sauces for tomato based sauces
3: Opt for carbs that are fibrous and lower on the glycaemic index, (avoid PINKS) avoiding spikes in blood sugar.
4: Ensure you have a good source of protein (BLUE on the colour code system) with each meal, this slows digestion and keeps you fuller for longer
5: Moderation is the key, don’t deprive yourself, have a little of what you want and enjoy it
6: Eat slowly and pay attanetion to how the food tastes. So often at social gathering people literally shovel it in without thinking, especially if they haven’t had to pay for it! It goes onto your thighs if you pay for it or not so if you are paying for it with money you will pay for it with what it does to your body.
7.Relieve some of the pressure this time of year by planning and preparing as many meals as you can ahead of time. Bulk cooking is a great way to stock up your freezer for those nights when you don’t have time to cook. Put a slow cooker on your Christmas list if you don’t already have one
8.If you are hitting the bar rather than the gym, have a glass of water after every alcoholic drink, it will keep you hydrated reducing your hangover and help you to pace yourself.
9: Move away from the buffet table. It’s true what they say, out of sight out of mind. Studies show that if you remove the temptation from sight you are much more likely to say no.
10: Keep moving, it can be very tempting to get home from work and curl up on the sofa with a cup of tea and a bag of m&m’s to watch another Christmas movie. It’s important to keep your body active, keep up with your normal activities and if you can increase them a little to compensate for the extra inevitable calories.
11: Learn to say “No” remember the Mrs Doyle character in Father Ted? She was famous for not taking no for an answer when offering food and drink, she would say “go on, go on, go on. Go on, go on,” and verbally beat them into submission. When people around you are saying YES when they wanted to say NO, it makes it easier for them to justify it if everyone around them is doing the same. That’s why they will encourage you to “go on, go on, go on…” Leaning to say “NO” and mean it is a valuable skill. If you give them a “because” rather than just the word “NO” you can be more convincing. “No because if I eat one more thing I will be sick” is usually a show stopper! Or just a straightforward, “You go ahead, but for me it’s a NO because I have absolutely had enough.
12. Overdid it at the office party? Don’t beat yourself up, it happens!
It’s easy to slip into a guilt cycle, but that is more likely to result in binging. When we feel we’ve really messed up our best bet is to just get ourselves back to normal ASAP. It’s much more damaging to dwell on it, acknowledge you made a bad choice, accept the consequence and move on, don’t beat yourself up over it.
So Christmas and New year needn’t mean your health goals go out the window. Your health is important 365 days per year every year of your life. If you follow the Colour Code Principles, even in the party season, you can have a great time, not feel deprived, and still enjoy your foods and drink.
Find out more about the The Placebo Diet and super simple Colour Code System here