I hope you are done with reading the usual spiels about how to “fill up on salad”…or “go easy on the pork crackling” …or “choose a light dessert of fruit instead of pudding & cream”. All to avoid the “pitfalls of fat gain that await you over Christmas”. SERIOUSLY? How much fun does that sound? What a terrible way to spend a special day with family & friends. Instead of enjoying everyone’s company, you are focusing on how on earth you will navigate the charcuterie platter and avoiding your Aunty who seems to have a knack for finding you at dessert time with a plate of pavlova that “you absolutely must try darling”.

In the past I have CERTAINLY given clients ways to manage their nutrition around Christmas – but this is with the knowledge of their personal circumstances during the year, and what Christmas day looks like for them. Also accounting for how they managed Christmas in past years and what they would like to do differently this year. Putting individual client plans aside, the majority of us would do well to enjoy what is on offer.

Should you like the idea of enjoying your Aunty’s pavlova, or you could annihilate some crackling, then you ought to do it. When else do you have the opportunity to have these foods? They are festive foods, and festive occasions are when they are to be enjoyed. Fat loss and body composition goals are NOT determined at one meal, or even several holiday meals.

Body composition goals are achieved by consistent and dedicated effort on your ‘typical day’ of nutrition. I am not denying that there is some restriction involved in getting to the desired body composition for many athletes & healthy active people. But for most people, that restriction is totally inappropriate to persist with at a big family shin-dig. Do not cramp your style on festive meals because some article you read suggested you should avoid having some of the ‘Favourites’ chocolates that get passed around after lunch when you are already full. Look, I’m not saying go nuts & eat to the point of feeling sick. I’m just saying that you should not deprive yourself of some coconut-ice that has your name all over it. Enjoy it. Savour it. The following day you will be back to your usual routine of eating, and there is nothing lost (and much to gain mentally & socially) by enjoying some food, wine and dessert that is “off the plan”.

Right, rant over. Time to hit you with my top tips for festive eating:

  1. Locate your favourite dish and make sure you get a satisfying serving of it. Don’t avoid it. Enjoy it and savour every mouthful (or at least the first 3, because after that no matter how much of a favourite food it is, it will never taste as good as those first 3 bites!)
  2. Think about what you did last year. Were you the guilty avoider? Did you miss out on something because you felt you ‘shouldn’t have that’? Did you overdo it, and then feel rubbish afterwards? Don’t let it happen this year. Eat what you want, and get enjoyment from it. When you do this, it is likely you will be satisfied and then not graze on less satisfying options (and then eat what you want anyway). See tip #1.
  3. Go for a run / walk / swim on Christmas day. This has NOTHING to do with burning off calories. It has everything to do with enjoying yourself. It also will improve your mood which helps with tolerating that annoying Aunt. Don’t like getting sweaty? Then sleep in. It is the same as the food: do what you enjoy. It is one day a year, embrace the pleasant change from normal.