What do you love most about Christmas?
a) Meeting friends or family for a festive drink or two and a mince pie – preferably after getting some shopping done!
b) Putting your feet up on Christmas Eve when everything is bought and wrapped and your home decorated. Until then, you just can’t relax.
c) All the parties and meet-ups. Everything looks so sparkly late at night.
d) Going out for festive meals – there’s something special about eating in restaurants or at friends’ houses at this time of year.
A friend at work brings in a batch of homemade mince pies. You take one because:
a) You love all that festive food and drink. It’s your favourite time of year.
b) You’ve been craving something super-sweet.
c) You’re feeling really tired and it might perk you up.
d) They look so delicious. You’ll have an extra one too if there’s one going spare.
How are you in the mornings in the run-up to Christmas?
a) Tired and sluggish – you couldn’t resist a load of chocolate last night and now you feel whacked out.
b) Jittery. You’re constantly running through your mental to-do list and still not sure quite sure how you’ll make it to your child’s nativity play.
c) Late. It takes you ages to nod off after a night out, and then you end up sleeping in the next morning.
d) Exhausted. You’re having some trouble with indigestion at the moment and just don’t feel on top form.
How do you tackle Christmas shopping?
a) With a mince pie or mulled wine at the end of it.
b) With spreadsheets, lists and wine.
c) It somehow gets fitted in between the parties and nights out.
d) You try to get it done as soon as possible – leaving plenty of time to plan get-togethers with friends in the run-up to Christmas.
Which of these experiences sounds most familiar at a Christmas buffet?
a) You can’t say no to the puddings. All that mincemeat and chocolate – bliss!
b) You’ve been too busy to eat proper home-cooked meals recently so a buffet is a real treat.
c) You load up on the pastry and puds – you need some energy.
d) You try to hold back but end up having seconds. You can’t resist a buffet!
What do you reach for when you feel overwhelmed by your Christmas to-do list?
a) A glass of wine.
b) Some Rescue Remedy. (Actually, you need it quite a lot at the moment.)
c) Your phone. You’ll feel better after a catch-up with a friend.
d) A treat. A little something extra won’t matter.
What happens to your exercise regime in the run-up to Christmas?
a) It’s still going. You’re trying to make up for that mulled wine you had at the weekend.
b) Exercise? It goes out of the window. There aren’t enough hours in the day.
c) Exercise? Pah. You’re too tired most of the time.
d) Yes, you keep it up – exercise gives you head-space to think about the menu for your next get-together.
It sounds as though you’ve gone all out for the festive foods and drinks this Christmas. The problem is that these treats are usually very high in sugar – think mince pies, mulled wine and Christmas pudding – and while sugar in moderation is fine, when eaten in excess it can play havoc with any weight loss plans. One reason is that eating sugary foods fails to trigger the ‘satiety hormone’, leptin, which can leave you feeling dissatisfied so you go on to eat more. Meanwhile, an overload of sugar is stored as fat by your body, and is a risk factor for developing metabolic syndrome, linked to weight gain and abdominal obesity.
Then there’s the fact that filling up on sugar affects your blood sugar levels, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish – so you’re more likely to reach for more sugar to get through the day. To get out of the spiral, plan healthy, balanced meals to help with any cravings, drink lots of water and aim to restrict those sugary treats to special occasions only.
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Many people do find planning Christmas very stressful, and it sounds like you’re one of them. The trouble with stress is that it triggers the release of the hormone cortisol – and this makes your body more likely to store fat, especially around the waist. It also makes you more likely to crave high-sugar foods, and, in a vicious circle, have trouble sleeping – so you feel like something sugary the next day.
Handpicked article: How stress can affect sleep
The key is to plan in periods of calm to help you manage high-stress days – so take a walk in your lunch break and, after a busy day, relax in a bath. Buffer your body against the effects of stress by taking the time to cook well-balanced, healthy meals, and including exercise in your day.
It sounds as though your bedtime routine has fallen by the wayside. Late nights and too much alcohol can play havoc with your sleeping patterns. Going to bed after midnight affects your natural circadian rhythms, making it more difficult to fall asleep and also stay asleep, and you’ll also miss out on some of the deeper sleep cycles (non-rapid eye movement) that occur between 11pm and 3am.
If you drink alcohol, you may find it affects your rapid eye movement sleep – the sleep during which you dream, which occurs about 90 minutes after nodding off – giving you disrupted and broken sleep for the rest of the night. The more alcohol you drink, the more scientists think your sleep is affected. Alcohol is also linked to sleep apnoea as it suppresses breathing, which can also upset sleep quality.
The solution? Enjoy those party nights out but monitor your alcohol intake. And schedule some evenings in when you can get to bed at a reasonable time.
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Take a long hard look at the size of the portions on your plate – chances are they’ve crept up in size from what you normally eat, which means you could be putting on the pounds without realizing.
At Christmas-time, with all those meals out and parties, it can be tricky to stick to normal portion sizes – from extra-big restaurant portions to parties when you’re faced with a buffet or trays of canapés.
If you’re going to a drinks party when canapés will be served, aim to eat a light meal before setting off – soup, porridge or a small sandwich do the job nicely – so you can just relax and enjoy yourself without having to find a way to fill up too. At buffets, fill a small plate once with some of your favourites – and avoid going back for a second time.
The rest of the time, remind yourself of how a normal portion size feels by weighing out your servings of pasta and rice according to the instructions on the back of the packets.Shop Food & Drink Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies. Sources