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Ask a PT: How Can We Stay Mindful of Health & Fitness Over Christmas?

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We ask personal trainer Damian Hall how to stay mindful of health and fitness goals during the season of excess…

Christmas is a time that can often be a real fear for people who are constantly conscious of their diet and ‘sticking to the plan’. If you are one of those who are worried about putting on a few pounds, please don’t. In fact, this sometimes obsessive behaviour is not healthy and can, in fact, be detrimental to long term health and overall fitness goals.  And in truth, becoming stressed out about it only serves to increase levels of Cortisol, the major stress hormone, in the process thus making it even worse.

So my advice? Go easy on yourself.

As a general rule, be mindful of what you are eating. A basic knowledge of what is good and bad, and the correct alternatives will stand to you, not just in the festive season of over-indulgence, but for all year round too.

With my clients who have been through an extensive coaching programme, educating them on the best nutrition and training protocols to survive holiday periods means that they always subconsciously go for the healthier option. It’s important to know the effects that certain foods can have on mental clarity, energy levels and waistlines. Generally, I would always recommend keeping your foods as close to their natural state as possible, so that means foods that are unprocessed, so think ‘one ingredient’ foods; anything with a lot of elements such as sauces, may be a minefield for clean eating. Steer clear of wheat and gluten as much as possible as it will most likely cause you an uncomfortable evening of bloating and lethargy.

So will this affect your Christmas dinner?

NOPE… it shouldn’t have to!

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If you keep your Christmas feast to the old reliables of turkey, ham, roast potatoes, brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips and broccoli with gluten free gravy and home made cranberry sauce, that sounds good to me!

So you have kept your Christmas dinner pretty clean so far. But Christmas isn’t the same without a couple of drinks right? Personally, I do enjoy a nice glass of Chilean red with mine, but if you end up putting away half a box of beer on top of your dinner, this is when you are going to run into problems. The wheat in beer is going to cause inflammation which, ideally you’d like to avoid, add in the extra 2000 calories and you are on the road to massive fat gain. Red wine has tons of benefits such as antioxidants like polyphenols and heart healthy resveratrol, which can help reduce bad cholesterol. Whilst it has its benefits, don’t consider this a get out of jail card and go crazy as it contains a higher quantity of alcohol which is not good for us – FULL STOP!

The lowest calorie drink to have if you have a packed Christmas social schedule is vodka, soda water and fresh lime (ignore the cordial –it’s packed with sugar).

But overall, don’t stress about it, just enjoy a couple of drinks here and there without going crazy, stay hydrated during the night out and make sure you get some exercise in the next day.

If you can, (and you should try), continue to train over the Christmas period. This doesn’t mean you have to slog it out in the gym, but do what you enjoy.  Enjoy Swimming? Go do it. Enjoy running? Go do it. Enjoy Yoga? Go do it!

In an ideal scenario, I would recommend continuing to do some type of strength training and HIIT (high intensity interval training) so as to send your metabolism into overdrive. With a cranked up metabolism, you are burning calories while you are watching the Christmas episode of EastEnders and playing charades.  Pretty handy to be burning more calories while also generally consuming more than usual over the festive period right?

So, go enjoy a great time with your loved ones at this special time and WHO CARES if you put on a couple of pounds? The most important thing is to obtain the nutrition and training knowledge so you can slip straight back into your jeans come January, without starving yourself or trying some crazy shake diet or ‘slimming-watchers-juice-deprivation’ farce!

Just enjoy it!

As well as  being our fitness pro, Damian Hall is the founder of Complete Personal Training. If you have any questions for Damian to answer, tweet us @imageie and use the hashtag #imagefitpro.

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