With the weirdest and perhaps most challenging year a lot of us have had to date, you’d be forgiven for wanting to see the back of 2020 and start over on January 1st.
The past 10 months have challenged all of us in one way or another, and sadly, lots of us are suffering from worse physical and/or mental health than we were this time last year.
As tempting as it may be to say ‘I’ll start again in January’ I implore you to head into the new year feeling fresh and energised. There’s nothing worse than overdoing it over December and feeling like you are starting from square one all over again come New Year’s Day.
Right now, it’s more important than ever to be looking after your physical and mental health. If you spend the whole of December over-indulging, you are going to really struggle come Jan 1st. Without wanting to sound like a complete scrooge, here’s a number of simple tips to stick to over December and New Year to help you hit the ground running come 2021.
1. Enjoy yourself at Christmas
Re-read that. Enjoy yourself at Christmas, does not mean overdo it for the whole of December. I’ve lost count of the number of clients that tell me ‘I’ll start again in the New Year’ in the first couple of weeks of December. This is a tempting but terrible strategy.
2-3 weeks over over-indulging will make a profound difference to your mental health, fitness and your waistline compared with a more suitable 3-5 days over Christmas.
We’ve all been there, one day of festivities turns into three weeks and before you know it you’ve put on a load of bundles of weight, feel completely drained, and lack any real motivation to do any exercise.
Spend the run up to Christmas being mindful of how you are eating and keeping active. Set yourself a few days where you can go to town on the festivities, really go for it, then reign it back in. I typically wait until Christmas eve, then spend 3-5 days between then and New Year’s Eve eating and drinking whatever I want. Do I feel amazing by the end? No. Did I enjoy myself? Yes. Have I ruined my diet and fitness levels? Absolutely not.
We all deserve to let our hair down and have a break this Christmas, just not for a whole month!
2. Get stronger
I may be biased, but for me December is the best time of year to hit the gym. Firstly, they are typically much quieter than the rest of the year. Secondly, lots of us have more free time of the Xmas holidays, and thirdly, hitting the gym can give us a much-needed change of environment, especially for those working from home.
Making the most of the gym in December will also keep your energy levels up and help you avoid feeling lethargic (December is notorious for hangovers, brain fog and a general lack of energy). Finding time to get some regular training in will help stimulate the release of endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine the hormones responsible for regulating your mood and supressing feelings of stress and anxiety. It will also give you a much-needed outlet for any excess calories you may have consumed and provide a great foundation of strength come January.
Perhaps most undervalued is that December is a great time to get strong. A general increase in calories can provide a much-needed boost of energy to lift heavier, hit some personal bests and get stronger in the process!
3. Get outside
We’ve all seen the news reports about the benefits of Vitamin D regarding the severity and symptoms of COVID-19. The most efficient way of boosting Vit-D? Get out in the daylight. It doesn’t even have to be sunny, 15+ minutes of skin exposed daylight a day should be your absolute minimum target. Walk, run, cycle, whatever you can. It’s so important to carve out time in your day to get outside. Make this a non-negotiable throughout the whole of winter.
4. Drink less alcohol and more water
Whilst I’m not saying pour the mulled wine down the sink, drinking less alcohol will probably have the biggest positive effect on the way you feel come NYD 2021. I’m not here to lecture anyone on how much to drink (I love a Malbec), it’s just that alcohol is treated by our bodies as a toxin, as such it will be metabolised as a priority by the liver. This is detrimental to your health for 3 reasons;
• Zero fat is metabolised by the body in the presence of alcohol (it takes approx. 1 hour to metabolise 1 unit of alcohol so a bottle of wine will take over 10 hours to metabolise), meaning any excess calories you have consumed during that period are likely to be stored as fat.
• Alcohol provides lots of calories, but zero nutritional value.
• No-one makes good food choices when under the influence, or hungover!
My advice would be to stick to drinking during those 3-5 days you pick to indulge and try and keep it to a minimum until then. Also aim to drink a glass of water between each alcoholic drink to help hydrate you and improve liver function.
5. Eat more vegetables
So simple it almost goes without saying. Sadly, over 80% of the UK population still eat less than 5 portions of vegetables a day, a figure that decreases even more in December.
Not only are vegetables the most nutrient dense of all of the food groups, they also help you to feel more satiated with a far lower caloric impact. Put simply, they are good for you and don’t contain many calories. Aim to eat 5+ portions of veg every day over December and you are far less likely to overindulge in stodgy carbs and fats.
6. Go easy on yourself
Like I said, it’s been a tough year for all of us. Wherever you may be on your health and fitness journey rest assured you can always take small achievable steps to improve, no matter what your starting point. For a free consultation to help you tackle your New Year goals please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great Christmas and New Year everyone!