How To Enjoy a Big Family Feast Without Compromising Your Healthy Lifestyle

The festive season can represent a big risk for anyone trying to lose or maintain their weight. How many times have you heard someone say: “I’ll wait until January to start a diet” or “I wanted to start eating healthy but I know I’ll eat a lot at Christmas so I’ll start afterwards”. If you wait for big festive events to be behind you before you start living healthier, then you might never start at all. I’m a strong believer you don’t need to wait for the new year to make good resolutions in life, the sooner the better. And if you’re already on the path to become a better version of yourself, you can still enjoy the festivities without letting them ruin your efforts.

When you think about it, why would people consciously overeat to celebrate? Surely you shouldn’t have to compromise your health to celebrate anything. I know temptation is everywhere and sometimes difficult to avoid, especially if there is a buffet in front of you (out of sight, out of mind) but you ARE strong enough to indulge yourself without feeling like a beached whale afterwards. The keyword is moderation. But I know it’s not enough to say that, so below are 4 important points that hopefully will help you keep in mind that the Christmas period doesn’t have to compromise your healthy plans.

Underestimate your food portions

I know you’re really looking forward to these Christmas delicacies, just try to put on your plate smaller portions than you would usually! When we’re hungry, we tend to overestimate the quantity of food we need and then we’re left with no choice but to keep eating after we’re already full. Putting less on your plate would allow you to ask yourself if you want more or not. And don’t worry, there will be enough food for you to come back to – actually, chances are there will be way too much food so don’t be greedy. Now, this advice sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how many of us don’t listen: if you’re not hungry, do not eat. For the Christmas edition, I would go further: if there is anything you don’t like, don’t eat it! Yes, Brussels sprouts are part of the traditional British dinner but if you don’t like them, save space to enjoy other foods you really like. If you’re planning to have dessert, you don’t want to be already full by then. And when you eat, do it mindfully, take the time to really appreciate it. It’s not a quantity game and binge eating will not do you any good (even on healthy food).

Drink a lot… of water

Festivities almost always include alcohol, but drinking doesn’t make you feel fuller… Unless it’s water. If all you drink is sugary and/or alcohol, not only are you going to go way above your calorie budget but you’re going to feel dehydrated (and then drink more alcohol, you know how this works). And when you’ve had too much alcohol, you’ll make poorer choices between your food options. Try to limit your consumption of alcohol and increase your water intake. If you’re struggling with the idea, remember that water cleanses your body and is a natural hunger suppressant. It’s the number 1 thing your body needs to function properly (after the air you’re breathing obviously). Still not convinced? Take a look at how many calories each alcoholic drink contains on average. It quickly adds up.

Allow your body to digest

By that, I don’t necessarily mean vegetating in front of TV (let’s be honest, we’ve all seen Christmas movies several times, they’re not as good). Think of your body like a machine that needs to process everything you give it. If you keep feeding it when it’s already full, it won’t have time to process what it already has. Why not go for a walk to help burn some calories? It doesn’t have to be a long walk, even 30 minutes in the neighbourhood would be beneficial. If you’re bored, don’t think of food as the solution to keep yourself busy, offer to play a game that will keep everyone entertained. Remember to stop eating at least 2 hours before bedtime to allow enough time for digestion. You could also prepare to fast the next day to clean up your body, or practise intermittent fasting, although this is not an ideal solution for everyone.

Learn how to say ‘no’

You will 100% be offered extra food or another glass of alcohol when you’re already full. Don’t be polite and accept because you can’t say no. Prioritise your body, not the host (I know it sounds selfish but no one else but you is responsible for your own health). People tend to insist when they’re feeling very festive but they won’t remember the next day you said no. There is nothing more unpleasant than forcing yourself, so just be honest (don’t forget to smile while doing it) and it will be all good! If there is too much food (there will be), offer to take some leftovers with you to enjoy the next day as an alternative.

Finally, I think it’s important to remind you this: don’t forget to enjoy yourself in the process. Doing things in moderation shouldn’t be boring or prevent you from having fun! Remember why you’re doing this and all the benefits in the long term! Happy body, healthy mind, healthy soul, everything goes together. And if you know this time you ate more than you should have, it’s all fine, you’ll lose it naturally over time if you stick to your healthy lifestyle. Christmas is only 2 weeks away now… Do you feel you have enough mental tools to overcome the family feast this year?

Big Girl x

Christmas Debate For The Environment: Real or Artificial Tree?

real or artificial tree for christmas

I remember walking down a residential street in London after Christmas, 2 years ago. It was full of pine trees left on the pavement, waiting to be collected… Not only was it annoying for pedestrians, but it really looked like a long tree cemetery. I imagined them talking to each other: “Oh you’ve been chopped too? Now they’re getting rid of us like a vulgar piece of rubbish”. Ok, I know it’s weird to imagine trees speaking… But they used to be living things after all. I think it’s cruel to cut them just for a few weeks. For that reason, I’ve always preferred a fake tree for Christmas. But now I’m starting to wonder if it is indeed the right choice for the planet. What if fake trees are actually worse for the environment? I have gone through the pros & cons for both options below.

Should I buy a real tree for Christmas?

Buying a real tree would allow me to have different decoration styles at home if I ever fancy a change. Maybe I’ll go for a different size, shape and/or type of tree each year for example. It smells good too. It makes me feel like I’m bringing nature inside and that is not something a fake tree can provide. And maybe it’s actually good for the planet, because if people didn’t buy them, farmers wouldn’t plant them! Pine trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen during the 8-12 years it takes to grow to a reasonable height, which is cleaning the air and helping slow climate change. But then, what do I do with it once Christmas is over? I’m sure I can recycle it, somewhere, somehow… but it seems like a hassle. Also, I can’t help but thinking it’s not right to remove these trees from their roots.

… Or should I buy a fake tree instead?

Most artificial trees are made of plastic and manufactured in China, so it’s actually not the best option for the planet because its contribution to global warming is much higher than a real local tree (if it’s then recycled properly). They sell really nice looking ones though, real trees don’t always look better. And they’ll probably be cheaper in the long term depending on their quality. Not to mention it will save me from doing tree shopping every Christmas. I’ll already have it at home ready to be unpacked and reused. Of course they don’t smell as good as a real tree but at least they don’t lose their needles (my 2 cats would definitely spread them everywhere). But then, keeping it means I need to store it and it takes quite some space…

I opted for an artificial tree myself a few years ago. It comes with artificial snow, fake pine cones, fake berries and LED lights all around (really convenient!). It has 3 parts that are super easy to assemble or dissemble, it takes less space that way. But according to the Carbon Trust, we will have to reuse it at least 10 years to have a lower environmental impact than that of a real tree. Challenge accepted. Below our (fake) Christmas tree and our (very real) cats wearing their Christmas jumpers, proudly for one, reluctantly for the other…

my cats wearing their jumper in front of our christmas tree

The bottom line: what’s the better choice?

I mean, the lowest carbon footprint would be to ditch the tradition and not having a tree at all… But it doesn’t really feel like Christmas if there’s no pine tree, does it? Below is my conclusion on the matter:

If you opt for a real tree:

  • Look up where the tree is coming from before you buy it (although it seems there is no need to worry so much about deforestation anymore as most of them come from a horticultural crop and aren’t felled from pre-existing forests).
  • Buy local so your money helps providing employment in the agricultural sector, it will have a lower carbon footprint too because less transport is needed.
  • Find out beforehand how to recycle it so it can be turned into compost – does your local council offer a Christmas tree collection service for example?
  • If you have space in your garden or on your balcony, why don’t you keep it as a permanent tree? (You would need to buy a potted tree with roots in that case).

If you opt for a fake tree:

  • Keep using it and make it last as long as possible!
  • When it’s time to replace it, consider other options like a real tree or decorating existing plants you may already have at home.

What did you go for? Did this post make you change your mind about your decision?

Big Girl x

Is Christmas Really the Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

christmas season hot chocolate

Only 2 months until Christmas! But this post isn’t about telling you how excited I am about it. It’s just a post highlighting how 2020 was wasted so far… To a point I didn’t realise how quickly we ended up so close to Christmas already! I don’t want to waste any more time, time we’ll never get back.

Christmas is a season, not just a day

What I love about Christmas is the decorations in the streets, the festive mood people are in, the idea of drinking a hot chocolate (with tons of marshmallows) in front of a log fire, the snow falling outside and all the terrible Christmas movies we watch every year. Christmas is not just a day for me, it’s a season. I don’t really care about the day itself, I think “tradition” puts a lot of pressure on that specific day to be with all of your family. The idea sounds more like a chore to me.

It could be a nightmare for expats

I remember when I used to take the Eurostar every year during Christmas period to spend a few days with my family in Paris… I can assure you there was nothing festive about it, trains were always overcrowded (not to mention the huge luggage full of gifts you have to carry all along) and people were not very amicable during the journey. If anything, it ended up being the period of the year I avoided to visit family in France.

It’s actually quite nice to wander in the streets in London when everyone is busy lying on their sofa, after they’ve eaten so much food their belly is about to explode. Let’s face it, all you do during Christmas is eating, napping, repeat. And when you think about it, you don’t have to wait for that period of the year to visit family anyway. It should be whenever you want to, not whenever tradition or media tell you to.

Christmas doesn’t feel the same all over the world

For most of us in the world, Christmas is associated with cold months. If you are somewhere hot for Christmas, does it still feel the same though? Well I got to experience it for the first time last year and the answer is simple, no. I was travelling in Australia during Christmas period last year and seeing Santa wearing a pair of shorts on a beach was just weird. Just for the banter, below a picture on how Christmas projections looked like on a Church in Perth, so you can see what I mean:

Santa projected on a church in Perth

Santa doesn’t really exist

Do we really have to lie to kids about who’s giving them so many presents? Shouldn’t they know their parents and family are working hard (and sometimes saving for months) to make that happen? I really don’t see the purpose of this big fat lie as it’s always a traumatic experience for them to learn the truth when they’re “old enough”. I’m not even talking about “how” they realise their entire family lied to them for years, sometimes a school mate would deliver the truth in a very harsh way. I don’t remember having ever believed a big old bearded man would enter our home via the chimney to offer me gifts I didn’t even wish for… If you’re using Santa to make sure your kids behave, surely there is a lack of authority somewhere. But what do I know, I don’t have kids and I don’t want them.

Let’s focus on what matters

All this to conclude with one thing. Don’t let this wave of COVID infections and potential new lockdown affect your Christmas spirit. Maybe you’ll be able to be with your family, maybe you won’t. But if not, it’s not the end of the world. The important bit is to stay healthy, practise gratitude and remember there is a tomorrow. It’s up to us to make it brighter! In the meantime, good luck with all the gifts you will have to purchase, especially for the awkward Secret Santa(s) you got involved in reluctantly… You’re not alone.

Are you looking forward to Christmas 2020 the same way as every year? Or have you accepted good times are ahead, no matter what happens on that specific day?

Big Girl x