12 ways to enjoy a healthier Christmas

Taking care of your health these holidays doesn’t have to be too hard and time consuming. A few simple steps will keep you feeling fit and fabulous.

1. Follow the rules

The festive season can mean a busy social schedule with plenty of get-togethers on the calendar.

“Your wellness routine is the first thing that goes out the window as Christmas celebrations start earlier each year,” wellbeing lecturer and author Dr Ali Walker says. “But when you give up exercise and drink more, your immunity drops, and you get sick.

She suggests making some conscious rules about how you will eat, drink and exercise.

“Research shows that if we have a plan of how we are going to behave we are more likely to follow through with it,” Dr Walker says.

stay active

2. Treat Christmas like a kid’s party

At Easter everyone gets off the couch to do an Easter egg hunt. On Christmas morning, organise a candy cane hunt to get children up and into the fresh air.

“Organise plenty of outdoor games, just like you would for a kid’s birthday party,” Dr Walker says. “All ages love games so it will get everybody up instead of kids playing computer games in one room and adults being in the other room having a few too many drinks.”

On the list could be traditional favourites such as tug o’ war, backyard cricket, tag, Red Rover and hide and seek.

3. Avoid kilo creep

On average, we gain 800g to 1.5kg over Christmas and most of us won’t lose that weight once the tinsel and Christmas tree are packed away.

Weigh yourself every week and if the scales start to edge upwards, take action. Cut back on your portion sizes – use an entree plate rather than a dinner plate and don’t go to parties hungry, Nutrition Australia says.

Snack on something healthy such as a tub of yoghurt, a banana or a sandwich packed with protein and salad before you go to functions.

4. Be grateful

Have an attitude of gratitude to get you through Christmas events you aren’t looking forward to. Whether you’re dreading an office party, or the idea of spending long hours with certain family members puts you on edge, the right mindset will make those events less stressful.

Relationships Australia research shows about one third of people think Christmas negatively affects their family relationships.

“Come up with three reasons why you are grateful to be at each event – such as it’s nice to be included or it feels good to have a sense of family,” Dr Walker says. “See each conversation you have during Christmas as an opportunity to learn something about someone.”


5. Track your drinking

Professor David Kavanagh from Queensland University of Technology’s School of Psychology and Counselling says there are a few simple steps to avoid a Christmas hangover.

Keep a record of what you drink and avoid top-ups, drink water or other non-alcoholic drinks in between bevvies and watch out for salty foods as they may make you drink more.

Professor Kavanagh also recommends some TLC (tender liver care), with alcohol-free days slotted into the party season and to consider being the designated driver.

6. Stay accountable

“Accountability is one of the most important factors in staying on track with your exercise routine,” Fit Pharmacist Holly Louise says.

“Hire an online coach or personal trainer to check in with or get yourself a workout buddy. You’ll be more likely to stay motivated and on track if you have someone who is pushing you.”

7. Choose fresh and seasonal foods

Avoid over-indulging at Christmas dinner and get-togethers with friends by filling up on fresh, seasonal foods because if food is fresh and in season, it’s probably going to be packed with nutrients but lower in fat and kilojoules.

Enjoy vegetable sticks, rice crackers, hummus, tzatziki, sushi and fruit salad. “I’m all about the salads, seafood and grills,” Adelaide dietitian Themis Chryssidis says.


8. Reflect and re-evaluate

Use the slower pace of Christmas holidays to do some self-evaluation and prepare for a happy 2019.

“We have 60,000 thoughts a day and 95 per cent are the same thoughts the next day,” says executive coach and trainer Lindsay Tighe, the Melbourne creator of the Better Questions program.

“When we start to look at things differently and have different conversations with ourselves we create space to do more conscious thinking.

“Think about where you are, what is working, what isn’t working and what you’d like to change. But don’t try and change your world overnight. Have a long-term goal and set sub-goals to help you get where you want to be and to keep you motivated.”

9. Take heart

Another reason to eat well, exercise and manage stress is to take care of your heart. Research from the University of Melbourne found a 4.2 per cent increase in heart attacks between Christmas and the first week of January.

The study analysed New Zealand heart attack cases and researchers say it may be due to people being slower to seek medical care at holiday time, combined with emotional stress and changes in diet and alcohol consumption.

10. Don’t expect too much

Relationships Australia research about Christmas stress found about 20 per cent of men and women say their family relationships at this time of year are affected by differing expectations or values around Christmas.

Stress and conflicts arise when we expect Christmas to live up to the picture-book image and it doesn’t meet those unrealistic standards. The weeks after summer holidays are often the busiest for divorce lawyers across the country.

Take Christmas back to basics, Dr Walker says. “There is a rhyme on social media that I shared with my five-year-old son,” she says.

“It was explaining Santa’s role in delivering something that you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read. We can all reframe expectations around Christmas to ease pressure.”

family walks

11. Get back on the horse

If you have let your exercise really slide over Christmas, start with something easy – like a brisk walk or a light jog, Holly says.

“As soon as you start with something small and feel the benefits, you’ll want to continue on and get back into your healthy habits,” she says.

“Consider scaling back the intensity from what you are used to, so you don’t injure yourself, and be patient to give your body a chance to adapt. Most importantly, resist the urge to starve yourself, detox, or perform an excessive amount of cardio to try and get faster results — all this does is set you up for failure!”

12. Delegate, delegate and delegate

You’ve got food to buy and prepare, presents to buy, wrap and deliver, a project at work that isn’t quite finished and your house hasn’t seen a vacuum for a while.

Then there’s the kids’ end-of-year sports events to attend and you’ve promised friends you’ll catch up for a pre-Christmas dinner. You don’t have to tackle everything alone and get more and more resentful as you struggle.

Ask for help and delegate jobs. S is for Santa Claus — not superpowers!

Written by Sarah Marinos.