If you’ve attended our Mental Wellness seminar, you know that we are passionate about encouraging you to have more fun and relaxation in your life. But for some, December is the month when we can get a little carried away, and it’s not always good news for your healthy habits. It’s all so easy during the summer. When it’s hot, all we want are salads, smoothies and mocktails. The winter party season, however, is a trial even for the most saintly among us. Here are our tips to help you stay happy and healthy over the festive season.

1. Limit alcohol to social occasions only

Alcohol is one of the biggest obstacles to a healthy lifestyle. Not only is it high in calories, it also lowers our resolve. After the third glass of wine it’s easy to throw caution to the wind and reach for those deep-fried mini spring rolls, crisps or chips later in the evening rather than the crudités and hummus you started off with. Late boozy nights also mean that we’re less likely to bounce out of bed early to hit the gym before work the next day. All taken together, those transgressions will end up expanding our waistlines.

We don’t want to be the party poopers here, so go ahead and enjoy a couple of glasses of booze at your office party. Instead, we’re suggesting that just for this month – and before embarking on Dry January – you could resolve to drink only at social occasions. No beer in front of the telly, no unwinding with a glass of wine and a book after work. It’s only for a month, and if Dry January is something you’re aiming at, it’s good to start practising without having to miss out during the party season. Win-win!

2. Pick the best option

You may find yourself choosing food from buffets and set restaurant menus more often than usual during the festive season. We understand – it’s not always up to you what you get to eat at a party. So, make the best choices from among what’s there. Look for the most natural-looking foods: meat, fish, seafood, nuts, crudités, fruit, veg, eggs (yes, even if they are quails’ eggs), cheese, beans and lentils are preferable to salads drenched in sugary dressings, processed meats that look like they come from a packet, or anything breaded, battered and deep-fried. If it is beige, steer clear.

3. Decide whether it’s worth it

Consider skipping dessert. Keeping sugar consumption at bay helps balance blood sugar, which in turn helps reduce cravings. Before you let anything sugary cross your lips (which might subsequently spend a lifetime on your hips), consider whether it is worth the 5-mile run required to get rid of it. You probably know the feeling of regret when you’ve reached for a dessert that seemed like a treat at the time, but then turns out a disappointment. If it’s one of your co-worker’s homemade mince pies, with a crumbly, flaky crust and cinnamon-infused fruit – then yes, it probably is worth it. If it’s a neon-coloured cupcake with pink icing that comes from a packet it probably isn’t. Pass.

4. Keep a food diary in December

It can be a bit of a chore to keep a food diary, we know, but it’s not forever, only for this month. Keep it as simple as possible. A tiny notebook that fits your pocket or handbag will suffice, or use your phone and take pictures. The food diary provides accountability, even if it’s for your eyes only. Our clients often tell us that knowing they have to write it down or snap it stops them from eating sugary foods in the first place. In the evening, underline the poorer choices of the day in red, the healthy ones in green. If there’s much more red than green, make the next day completely green. It’s also a visual clue of how well you stuck to the 80:20.

5. Stick to the 80:20 rule

If you follow a healthy diet of real foods in moderate portions 80 per cent of the time, it’s ok to indulge in less healthy options 20 per cent of the time. Just make sure that it doesn’t sneakily turn into the “50:50 rule”.

6. Schedule your return

How many times have you had a good gym routine going – only to have it interrupted by a bout of flu, a holiday, or the Christmas break. Not this time! This time, you’re planning your re-entry into your healthy lifestyle.

Rather than deciding to go back to the gym “sometime in January”, make it specific: Put it into your diary for 27 December. Why wait? Who knows when you’ll get around to it, when your next visit isn’t in the diary? Schedule the first and a few subsequent gym sessions to make sure you get back into your routine as quickly as possible. Oh, and if you have a routine at the moment: Keep going until Christmas. You need it more than ever now!

You’re now equipped to sail through the season and have your healthiest party season ever.

PS. If you are looking for ideas for your Wellness Programme next year, click here to download our month by month guide to seasonal themes.

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