How To Be A Healthy Hedonist This Christmas
‘Tis the season to be merry and indulge, but how can you limit some of the festive damage?
December. The month of too many office parties, late nights and chocolates. A recent study found the average person consumes 6000 calories on Christmas Day alone, and an extra 4000 calories in alcohol between now and New Year’s Eve.
But rather than succumbing to festive excess, why not try “healthy hedonism”?
“You can have a really fun December while limiting some of the damage with a few simple tweaks,” says Rosemary Ferguson, the British supermodel turned nutritionist, who once graced the cover of Vogue with fellow model and friend Kate Moss, before qualifying as a nutritionist in 2009.
“First, don’t be too hard on yourself. If you spend December in a cycle of indulgence and guilt, you’ll get a double whammy of unhealthy food and alcohol, plus the stress hormone cortisol. You can be a healthy hedonist and enjoy the month, while protecting yourself from the excess.”
BE A BETTER DRINKER
“You don’t have to avoid alcohol altogether, but you can drink smarter and cleaner,” says personal trainer Lee Mullins, who has worked with models Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Cressida Bonas.
“I tell my clients to choose alcohol with the fewest toxins to improve their hangovers and overall health. Go for high-quality vodka or tequila, with fresh lime and soda water. Steer clear of sweetened mixers like cola, which just up the sugar content further (remember, alcohol is incredibly high in sugar). And choose better quality, cleaner wine, with fewer chemicals.”
“Clean wine” is causing something of a buzz this party season. Simply, it’s wine without (or with fewer) chemicals and additives that can exacerbate hangovers. Look for wines labelled “organic”, containing fewer or no sulphates, or “spontaneously fermented”, which means no added yeasts and a more natural fermentation process.
“I tell clients to pick their poison,” says Lee Mullins.
“So what’s it going to be at the office lunch?
"Will you drink a little more than usual? Or relax your sugar rules? Or indulge in the cheese plate?
"Just pick one thing.”
Melissa Hemsley recommends upping your greens throughout December to counter festive damage. “Have spinach with your eggs, a courgette frittata with green herbs, mint tea and green soups. Just eat green whenever possible.”
Ferguson also advises keeping your meals colourful. “When you’re serving up Christmas dinner, limit the beige and load up on the colour. Pile your plate with dark green vegetables and bright squashes.
Try not to let exercise slip in December, says Ferguson. “Getting outside every day, even for a 15-minute walk at lunchtime, helps boost your mood and energy.” However, you might want to give the HIIT class a miss: “If you’re hung-over or tired, your body is chronically inflamed,” says Mullins, “So doing anything too strenuous will only add more inflammation. Being tired or hung over can also make you more prone to injury and dehydration, so don’t go spinning, or running the morning after to "sweat off" the night before.
“If you belong to a gym, head to the sauna a couple of times a week, or go to a few hot yoga classes, which will increase your body’s ability to detoxify all the excess,” he adds. “However, don’t go if you’re hung over, as it will dehydrate you further.”
Lastly, don’t lose hope: “Two weeks of no exercise and over-indulging won’t really have much of an impact,” adds Mullins. “You’ll feel sluggish, but the emotional break and benefit of enjoying yourself makes up for it. And anyway, there’s always January to get back on track.”
“The morning before a big night out, make a jug of sparkling water, add some mint and lemon and put it in the fridge,” says Ferguson. “When you wake up hung over, you crave a cold, sugary fizzy drink. But, rather than a cola, which is packed with sugar and leads to an energy slump 20 minutes later, this will perk you up.”
She also advises ditching the grease. “Forgo a bacon sandwich and repair some of the damage with a breakfast full of protein and healthy fat instead, like poached or scrambled eggs on sourdough toast, or a bowl of porridge with nut butter and cacao.”
AVOID A STRESS HANGOVER
“Forget food and alcohol, stress can be the unhealthiest thing about the festive season,” says chef and food writer Melissa Hemsley. “I avoid tiredness crutches like coffee, which can make my anxiety worse. Instead, I chop ginger and let it bubble away in a pot for an hour. I chill it with some lemon and lime wedges, then fill a water bottle with it before leaving the house.
“I’ve also started going to parties early and leaving early: you make better choices at the start of the night, you can make your way around a room and then head off feeling like you’ve chatted to everybody, but protecting yourself from a hangover and poor sleep.”
— The Daily Telegraph