This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

Easy Tips For Staying Healthy During The Silly Season

You can still enjoy yourself, really.
There's always time for a quick workout.
There's always time for a quick workout.

It's that wonderful time of year again.

We're drinking (a little too much) at parties and getting excited about stuffing our face with Christmas ham, pavlova, prawns, cake, pudding, gingerbread cookies and more booze, to the point where we need to take a nap. (And then wake up and eat some more. It's a delicious cycle.)

However, you don't have to forget your healthy diet and routine just because it's the Christmas holidays -- and you don't have to miss out on those Chrissy foods you love, either.

It's about moderation, planning and setting boundaries.

"The odd indulgence now and then is not going to do any long term damage. It's when these over indulgences become regular occurrences that the long term damage is done," nutritionist Fiona Tuck The Huffington Post Australia.

Be mindful of what you are eating and drinking, enjoy small portions and avoid eating or drinking anything in excess.

This just about sums it up.
This just about sums it up.

"The most common issues with unhealthy behaviours during the silly season are over consumption of alcohol, over consumption of food and poor food choices. These practices are usually exacerbated as a result of multiple functions and parties with work, family and friends around this time of year," dietitian Robbie Clark told HuffPost Australia.

"A major reason, I believe, a lot of people fall off the bandwagon during the festive season is that they do not have a plan in place to tackle situations or environments where they are presented the opportunity to over indulge. When that occurs, all willpower goes out the window and the negative self-fulfilling prophecy sets in."

When it comes to Christmas, people tend to have one of two trains of thought. One, 'I've been really good this past month so I deserve a blow out.' Or, two, 'I've already blown my diet, so what's the point?'

"Either one of these thought processes can have negative consequences on your health goals, and lead to feelings of guilt, which may trigger a downward spiral of events," Clark said. "Once in this mindset, it is challenging to get out of unless you have set yourself some boundaries and goals."

Staying healthy during the silly season (and any time of the year, really) is all about planning and keeping your health as the main focus.

"Be mindful of what you are eating and drinking, enjoy small portions and avoid eating or drinking anything in excess," Tuck told HuffPost Australia.

1. Stick to a routine

"It is important to keep to a regular routine and not skip early morning exercise because you have had a late night," Tuck said. "Push yourself to stick to your regular exercise routine which in turns keeps you positive and motivated to want to stay fit and healthy."

2. Watch your alcohol intake

"Alcohol is loaded with sugar and empty calories, so go easy on the drinks," Tuck said.

"Try drinking a mineral water in between each alcohol based drink to pace yourself. Avoid creamy rich cocktails and soft drink mixers and stick to white wine spritzers, or clear spirits such as gin with mineral water and a twist of lime. A little splash of cranberry juice adds extra flavour without too much sugar."

Pace yourself, and don't forget to drink water.
Pace yourself, and don't forget to drink water.

3. Avoid going to cocktail parties on an empty stomach

"We have all done it, and after a couple of drinks your blood sugar drops, sending you into an eating frenzy," Tuck said.

"Canapés are often a mix of high fat and high carbohydrates, which spell disaster for the waistline. Eating a healthy meal before you go will avoid mindless snacking on miniature party pies and sausage rolls."

4. Take a plate

If you are visiting friends for lunch or dinner, or going to your family's Christmas Day celebrations, offer to take a plate.

"This way you can be assured that there will be something healthy to fill your plate with. Taking a large, delicious mixed salad or a big bowl of tropical fresh fruit salad means there is always a healthy option."

5. Don't deprive yourself

After all, it is Christmas.

"Make the majority of your main meal salad of vegetables, but have a little bit of everything that you really fancy. Moderation is key," Tuck said.

"If you really want that mince pie, have it and enjoy it. If you deprive yourself you will end up caving after a couple of glasses of wine and devouring the leftover trifle straight out of the bowl."

Don't forget to have fun.
Don't forget to have fun.

More specifically, here are easy tips for staying healthy at Christmas parties, reducing alcohol consumption and fitting in exercise.

Healthy tips for surviving work functions

Got your office Christmas party coming up? Here are Clark tips.

  • Eat a big lunch during the day, so you don't have an empty stomach when you hit the party;
  • Keep a bottle of water on your desk, and drink from it all day so that you don't hit the party already dehydrated. Aim to drink at least 1.5 litres during the day;
  • Steer clear of the punch bowl. Punches are notorious for containing a concoction of booze that surprisingly tastes great but is impossible to gauge how much you have actually drunk;
  • To avoid over-indulging, eat a plate of food and then put it down -- rather than standing near the buffet and picking all night long;
  • If it's finger food, keep your canapé sticks to remind you how many you've eaten;
  • Only eat what you actually like, not just what you are offered. Eating is not compulsory;
  • Pace yourself. A few festive cocktails to get merry is fine, but if you start to feel drunk and disorderly, stop!
  • If you are nervous meeting new people, be conscious of not eating and drinking too quickly for something to do with your hands;
  • Have a healthy, low GI snack (fruit, yoghurt, smoothie) during the afternoon to reduce hunger;
  • Avoid foods that are deep fried.

Tips to help reduce the amount of alcohol you consume

We all know how easy it is to over-drink during Christmas and New Year's. To stay within your boundaries, follow these tips.

  • When you refill your wine glass, alternate water with wine;
  • When you go to the fridge for another beer, grab a glass of water too;
  • Offer to drive sometimes -- you are sure to be popular;
  • Enjoy an alcohol-free punch for a change. You might find a gem for a future party of your own;
  • Always ask for water with a meal in addition to a drink;
  • Choose a tall, thin glass rather than a short, wide one. Focus on the height of a glass, not the width, so the tall one always looks fuller;
  • Try and put your glass down between sips -- you'll drink more slowly.
Genius idea: ask for workout gear for Christmas so you feel inspired to exercise.
Genius idea: ask for workout gear for Christmas so you feel inspired to exercise.

Festive fitness tips

"If your regular fitness routine goes out the window come Christmas time, there are lots of ways to build some exercise into the festivities," Clark said.

  • Do it early -- Planning exercise when you first get out of bed helps you focus on your fitness and set it as a priority. Leave it until later and you probably won't get around to it;
  • Team sport -- Get the whole family involved in a cricket or soccer game. Whatever you choose, the more often you get moving, the better;
  • Get outside -- Take family and friends out for a short beach or bush walk. You'll boost your mood and give the host or hostess a well-deserved break from relatives and kids in the kitchen. Or, take the whole family ice-skating or ten-pin bowling -- fun for kids of all ages.

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