Mary Lynch’s tips to indulge during Christmas

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Dec 17

Christmas time, mistletoe and wine, and loads of mince pies, pigs in blankets, crisps, booze, and chocolate. Navigating through all the indulgent foods and drinks of Christmas can be tricky. It is a season that we all enter with a fresh sense of hope that, this year will be different, and this year I won’t end up at 5 pm on boxing day having had what can only be described as a constant flow of food, yearning for the memory of what hunger felt like.

As human beings, we are psychologically predisposition to binge. We still haven’t grown out of the caveman days where an abundance of food meant time to stock up fat stores, and so at Christmas, this is exactly what we do.

The tricky thing is that losing a couple of pounds is far harder than putting it on and so if your saving grace is your dry January vow I would say stop. It’s not a good idea, you are going to regret it, and frankly, you won’t feel great if you’re overindulging to the max. Conversely, I am not saying you should deprive yourself of the odd mince pie. What we are trying to achieve is the holy grail of balance.

The key is to equip yourselves with the tools to be a tad more circumspect when it comes to managing your mince pie intake, and so this is what this blog is all about.

Firstly, to navigate yourself through the mountains of food, you should know the science behind the binge. As I mentioned above, one part of us is predisposed to this as a result of evolution. What is less talked about however is that we as a society have now labeled food as good and bad and as a result, we have begun to associate giving in to a slice of Christmas cake as a failure or a sin.

What is dangerous about this, other than an unhealthy attitude to food, is that once we have ‘failed’ we are also very good at throwing in the towel altogether. And so that one innocent, lovely mince pie turns into 3, followed by cheese, followed by a pack of Matchmakers.

In psychology, it’s called the Escape Theory (Hetherton & Baumeister, 1991), and it is a well-researched area of the psychology behind eating. So how do we combat it? Love the mince pie, enjoy it, savour it and don’t feel bad about having it, just try not to eat the whole pack.

What’s also been shown by much of the research is that the first mince pie always tastes better than the 3rd, so don’t do it an injustice and try to stick to just the one!

My other holiday survival tricks are as follows;

  • Drink ALOT of water. Central heating, mulled wine and coffees to get you through dark days all do a great job at making us dehydrated. And dehydration leads to you not only feeling fatigued and grumpy, it also leads to us mistaking thirst for hunger and overeating. So drink up!
  • Get outdoors as much as possible. The fresh air, however cold will help you feel healthy, refreshed and above all could be the thing that stops you feeling lazy and grazing continuously.
  • Don’t skip meals, even if you’re waking up later and going for a big meal later on. It’ll play havoc with your blood sugar levels and you’ll arrive ravenous which lines you up to overeat.
  • Be smart about Christmas meals and parties. If it’s a canapes/ nibbles thing, don’t go hungry, have a good filling healthy meal beforehand to: 1. Line your stomach and 2. Stop you from mindlessly scoffing the nibbles. It is insane how many calories you can consume when your hand is your plate and there is no reference to portion control. And if going for a meal, try and pick the slightly healthier option in advance. I’m not one for deprivation or avoiding foods altogether but if I have 5 Christmas dinners coming up I’ll skip the roast potatoes and pigs in blankets and load up on veg for a couple of them.

And remember, It’s these small changes often that actually have an effect on our health, not a week of juicing post-Christmas, boring I know but true.

So I hope this helps you to navigate through the wintery nights but above all, enjoy your food, don’t fear it, start to focus on how each food makes you feel and go from there!

Hope you all have a very merry Christmas.




Mary will be giving useful nutritional advice at FitFest Oxford. Do not hesitate to register your interest in attending FitFest Oxford 2018.

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