Getting back into the habit of healthy eating can be a challenge after Christmas.
It’s all too easy to get out of your routine and to adopt a new one: of eating erratically, of starting the day with chocolate, of picking at left-overs just because they’re there.
Here are a few tips and tricks which help at this time of year. In fact they can be useful reminders at any time of year (because it’s not just Christmas which can throw you off).
Don’t buy any more off the stuff you don’t want to eat
Want to stop eating chocolate after dinner, or toast as an afternoon snack? It sounds simple, but start by not buying it. If it’s not in the house, you won’t eat it. Well, you might, but you’ll have to actually go out to buy it (in which case it’s probably going to be a real treat, rather than habit).
Make an effort to break new habits if they don’t serve you
Over Christmas, you’ve probably developed some new habits without realising. Stuff you simply wouldn’t do at other times of the year. Stopping at service stations on car journeys for “festive” coffee drinks. Booze, cheese or chocolates after dinner. Having some biscuits with a cuppa. Cutting a slice of cake because it’s there. First step is to identify the habits. Are they serving you well? Are they helping you reach whatever your goal is (healthy eating, fat loss, performance, feeling good)? No? Then be aware of them and make an effort to stop.
Buy lots of veg
Your fridge and kitchen cupboards are no doubt a strange mish-mash at this time of year: left-overs, foodie gifts, bits and bobs which people brought to parties. Some of which you possibly don’t even want any more. And most of which aren’t a regular fixture in the way you eat the rest of the year. Crowd them out, by stocking up on veg.
**Brussels sprouts are currently 20p/kilo in my local Tesco** (other supermarkets are available) 😉 🙂
Stock up on whatever veggies (green, leafy, cruciferous or otherwise!) you enjoy eating. And eat ’em! Your body and mind will remember how good it feels 🙂
Make it as easy as possible for yourself
The thing about habits is that we take the path of least resistance. Even going to the gym and training really hard can become “easy” when we do it often. The training itself doesn’t become easy, but the process does. We know where our gym bag is, the routine of getting out the door is second nature. It’s no longer difficult to be a person who goes training regularly. Make healthy eating the same.
– slice, chop and cut up your (new) veg and store in tubs in the fridge. Make them quicker to grab than a biscuit or leftover sausage roll. Make it easier to eat vegetables than it is to eat mince pies
– prep some meals in advance if you know you’re going to be busy, tired or emotional and tempted to grab Christmas leftovers
– make good use of leftover Christmas meat. Various family members sent me home with generous lumps of cooked turkey and beef this year (thank you!) I cut them into reasonable portion sizes and froze them, so it’ll be easy to use them for healthy meals.
Have a plan
Maybe you can slide effortlessly back into your healthy eating routine without a plan, but I can’t. One thing that really works for me is having a simple, fuss-free blueprint which I know I can fall back on without a great deal of thought. It’s just regular, simple meals that I know I’ll enjoy and will help me perform well in the gym. Having it pre-planned and written down makes it very easy for me to get back on track and stick to it.
Keep it really simple
And my plan is very simple. The simpler, the better. I make sure there’s lots of variety within it, but not much choice. I find that if I give myself too much choice, I’m more likely to add “a bit of this” and “just a slice of that”. Simple meals, with plenty of variety throughout the day. No fuss.
It’s not a big deal
Some people find getting back into healthy eating after a break sends them into a tailspin. Overthinking leads to panic and self-doubt and then somehow they can’t really remember how their routine used to be (despite the fact that it was only a couple of weeks ago). So, deep breath. Be calm. It is not a big deal. It’s just the food you’re going to eat. Plan it, buy it, prep it, eat it. Then get on with the rest of your day, because I’m sure there’s a lot more to it (and to you) than what you eat.
No negative thoughts, please
And yes, quite possibly you gained a lot of weight over Christmas, didn’t stick to the plans and promises you imposed on yourself in early December, and don’t feel good as a consequence. Be kind to yourself. You can and will get back on the wagon. You know what to do and you know it’ll work. Don’t put any extra pressure on yourself. Speak to yourself – and about yourself – as you would a dear friend.
Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.