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Favourite ways to unwind at Christmas

Christmas can be a difficult time of year for many. It’s often incredibly busy, with lots of change-ups in regular routines, traveling, and very few moments for you. It’s a time when it is more important than ever to take care of yourself.

Christmas has a reputation for being a jolly and happy time. But it’s not that way for all of us. Planning Christmas parties, organizing get-togethers, managing finances, and navigating interactions with more people usually can lead to a build-up of stress and anxiety.

Food is a huge part of Christmas. As a nutritionist, I expect you to anticipate I’m going to talk about how to not overindulge. You may have noticed, that this kind of conversation is incredibly common during this time of year. There is a great deal of discussion about making better food choices and “being good”. However, what I’d invite you to do here is question how useful these messages are. How do they make you feel about food, or about the prospect of food at Christmas? What I would love to see more of, is the celebration of food over the festive period. It’s a time when we often eat more seasonably and have more variety than usual. There is a myriad of Christmas superstars, which you can read all about here.

For this year, I’ve put together a list of ideas for managing your health and well-being over the festivities. Here are my top tips!

1. Be flexible.

Food is the centre piece of many Christmas celebrations. Although this can be wonderful in many ways. It can also be challenging to navigate, especially when there is more food around than usual and your regular routine is shifted.

Keep things as simple and flexible as you can. Redefine what your meals and snacks look like and make the most of leftovers. Focus on what fills you up and sustains you throughout your day, even if this looks a little different

2. Avoid getting over-hungry.

What I notice over Christmas, is lots of conversations about being ‘good’ as well as plans to avoid certain foods. This is often coupled with a dose of restriction, for example, cutting out breakfast so you can have a big lunch, avoiding dinner, or filling up on snacks. Through this, what we forget to do is to listen to our hunger cues. During the festive period, it’s heavily normalized to skip meals or go long periods of time without eating.

It’s important to remember, that regardless of what you’ve eaten, it’s still important to eat. Feeling over-hungry, or going long periods of time without eating can often lead to us feeling out of control around food, lacking in energy, and struggling to concentrate. Try to tune in to your hunger cues and remember to keep things manageable.

3. Plan time for yourself.

In such a busy time of year, there is often very little time for yourself. If you can, actively plan in days or hours for yourself when you’re not cooking, preparing food, or taking care of anyone else.

This could look like taking yourself for a walk, a day out, finding time to read a book or catching up on your favorite box set.

4. Explore variety.

For the last few years, every Christmas I’ve sat down to put together a list of my ‘Christmas Favorites. These are stars of the Christmas dinner, which I think, are a little underrated. The fact is, Christmas dinner is packed full of show stoppers, with amazing flavors, textures, and seasonal variety. Christmas food is packed full of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and energy. From Brussels sprouts to Chestnuts all the way to Roast Turkey. Christmas is a great time to explore new foods, textures, and variety.

5. Practice compassion.

It can feel like a cliché at times to say, ‘be kind to yourself’, but it’s an important reminder, especially during this time of year. Find some time to check in with yourself during the festivities. If you are finding it hard to find balance among the festivities, practice compassion and look for sources of support if you are struggling. This could be reaching out to friends and family, exploring boundary setting with those around you, or something simple like spending less time on your phone.

Hebe Richardson, Nutritionist.

(photo; Libby Penner )


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