Learn to graciously decline invitations.Each year I hear of clients running themselves ragged by attending every invitation to lunch, gardening club and church events, neighbours’ shopping trips, etc. They just can’t say no. The result is that they feel frazzled and usually comes down with a virus. I also see this ‘Christmas over commitment syndrome’ in my patients who spend the whole of December out late every evening on company drinks dos. At this time of year, it is tempting to over book yourself in an effort to please your boss and to see old friends but this is often at the expense of your health and enjoyment. Prioritise your engagements or for compulsory attendance corporate events have a prearranged reason for leaving after a polite amount of time.
Regularly relax. Ensure that you allow yourself at least 15 minutes each day where you do nothing but treat yourself to some quiet time (a nap, reading, listening to music, meditation, gentle stretch- ing exercises, etc).
Keep moving! The dark nights, cold weather and increased social engagements often mean that we neglect exercise routines in December. Try to keep these in your schedule and you’ll find that you don’t put on as much weight, feel better and get less colds and viruses as well as maintaining your body’s strength and flexibility.
Remember your posture at home.Good posture aids digestion, helps your immune system function properly and even improves the quality of your sleep. When watching the festive films, don’t slump on the sofa: sit with your legs uncrossed and place a thin cushion behind the small of your back. Your hips, shoulders and ears should be in a vertical line. Stand up and walk around or stretch regularly.
And in the pub! I would suggest adopting what I like to call ‘pub posture’ with guidelines that include avoiding bar stools in favour of chairs with back support, opting for lower heeled shoes and, when standing, imagining a plumb line between your ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle.
Drink plenty (of water!). We need between eight and ten glasses of water a day to stay healthy. If you’re planning a shopping marathon treat yourself to regular breaks where you have the chance to drink some water or juice, sit down on a supportive chair and put those heavy bags down. At parties and drinks dos, set yourself a limit of a couple of drinks and alternate the alcoholic drinks with juice or water.
Indulge yourself…slowly. When it comes to Christmas Day dinner, I’m with Nigella on this one: allow yourself to eat luxuriously – this is a celebratory feast after all. However, to prevent that stuffed feeling afterwards, place your cutlery down after each mouthful and take time to savour the flavour. The extra time will allow you to appreciate the food and will allow your stomach and brain to communicate with each other to work out when you are satisfied – listen to these signals and when you are full: stop!
Go easy on the canapés. Most events in this month seem to be accompanied by crisps, nuts, chocolates and every imaginable kind of canapé. This is a very easy way to pile on the pounds and intake massive amounts of salt and sugar. Opt for the lighter bites such as crunchy crudités, fruit or unsalted nuts.
Make your own mince pies! We seem to spend a lot of money on ready made foods at this time of year. With a little bit of diary planning (see point 1) you can make time to enjoy cooking your own festive fare. Making your own dishes means that you can choose fresh, local, organic ingredients and you are fully aware of exactly how much salt, sugar and fat is in each dish (it’s unlikely that you’ll be reaching in your kitchen cupboards for nasty additives such as artificial colourings and flavourings, MSG and aspartame). Don’t let this task be burden though: put on a Christmas CD and get your loved ones in the kitchen helping out.
Spread the load.Plan your shopping so that you can split it across several small trips. Order heavy items to be delivered direct to your door. When carrying bags, load the bags evenly across both hands.
Go for a walk.Before settling in to the sofa on Christmas Day, pull on some sturdy flat shoes, wrap up warm and go for a gentle stroll. I love walking around my local village on Christmas Day. It’s surprising how peaceful it is and how many other folks are out get- ting some fresh air and stretching their legs. And the most important part of this activity? – greet every single person you meet with a smile and a heartfelt “Happy Christmas”.
Be grateful for what you have and generous in what you give to others and to yourself. The best gift that you can give to yourself is the gift of good health.