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Christmas doesn’t have to be a time of overindulgence – here are fun but healthy ways to look after yourself.
The Christmas season is a time of celebration, but with the cold weather and an abundance of unhealthy temptations it can also be a challenging time to stay in good health. Here’s a fun advent calendar that’s filled with expert wellbeing advice, so you can enjoy the festive season without it taking a toll on your health.
1st December: Prepare early
Christmas time is a wonderful celebration, but it also requires a lot of organising. From shopping for Christmas presents to organising the Christmas meal and sending out cards, it can seem as if December is a never-ending to-do list of tasks.
One way to help keep your immune system strong is by reducing your stress levels – so use the beginning of December as a time to get organised. Get your Christmas shopping out of the way early, order anything you need for your Christmas meal in advance, and write a list of tasks so you can tick them off as you go.
2nd December: Avoid over-indulging in canapés
With all the parties, socialising and tempting Christmas treats that arrive in December, it can be difficult to stick to healthy eating.
If you’re heading to a party, make sure to plan your meals in advance and fill up on healthy, nutritious food.
That way you won't find yourself snacking on fattening finger food.
3rd December: Invest in exercise
Winter isn’t a particularly tempting time to exercise, with cold weather and short daylight hours.
Investing in some thermals or warmer exercise gear can make it much more appealing to keep fit in the cold dark nights of the winter months.
The good news? You burn more calories in the cold as your body has to work harder to keep itself warm. You can get away with shorter exercise sessions. See our guide to running in the winter.
4th December: Create a home gym
If the thought of running around in the cold or paying for a gym membership doesn’t excite you, set up an exercise space in your home.
There are plenty of free exercise videos available online which can help you get motivated, and if you're able to splash out, add a yoga mat, dumbbells and ankle weights to your shopping list.
Otherwise you could always ask Santa to help you out with some basic gym kit to get you started and ready for the new year.
5th December: Stave off illness
Colds and flu are the curse of the festive season, but you can help avoid them with a few simple steps.
Whether you qualify for a free flu jab from the NHS or you pay to see a private GP the flu jab is the best way to protect against the influenza virus.
Sticking to a healthy diet, keeping crowded spaces well ventilated and washing your hands regularly can also help you to avoid catching colds and flu.
6th December: Get plenty of rest
While Christmas is the party season, it’s important to keep your immune system strong with plenty of rest.
When planning your social calendar, try not to schedule late nights consecutively.
On those rare evenings when you don’t have plans, use the opportunity to get an early night and restore your strength.
After all – cold weather is the perfect excuse to curl up with your duvet and a good book.
7th December: Pre-empt hangovers
It’s easy to get carried away at Christmas parties, but a little planning can help prevent the dreaded hangover.
Make sure to eat something filling before you go out that evening, and drink a glass of water between each alcoholic drink to ensure you stay hydrated.
As alcohol removes fluid from the body, drink plenty of liquid the next morning to help eliminate alcohol from your body faster.
8th December: Stock up on healthy meals
The winter season offers a wonderful array of fruits and vegetables – from Brussels sprouts to kale, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, turnips, leeks and cauliflower.
Whizz up some soups and slow cook some stews then put them in the freezer ready for the evenings when you come home from work and would otherwise be tempted to order a takeaway.
9th December: Get baking – the healthy way
No Christmas would be complete without some baked goods – but they don’t have to be laden with sugar and fat.
Look online for some healthy desserts and baking recipes.
You can experiment with recipes that use raw chocolate, honey, fruit and other natural sweeteners instead of refined sugar you still get to indulge but without the guilt!
10th December: Fibre up your diet
Our natural inclination to be less active and to eat hearty, stodgy food in winter can slow your bowels down and cause constipation.
Not only does this feel uncomfortable, it slows down your body’s ability to eliminate toxins and can leave you feeling sluggish.
Jump start your system by drinking plenty of water and adding more fibre to your body with extra portions of fruits and vegetables.
11th December: Practice safe sex
The combination of Christmas parties and alcohol can cause people to be less cautious when it comes to having sex safe.
Sexual health clinics usually see a rise in STIs and unplanned pregnancies in January.
Make sure you stay sensible and use a condom if you’re sleeping with a new partner and get tested as soon as possible if you have put yourself at risk.
12th December: Swap chocolate for fruit and nuts
December typically involves plenty of sweet treats – with colleagues and family members handing over biscuits, mince pies and chocolates.
But resist the temptation by indulging in satsumas, clementines and nuts instead.
Oranges are full of immune-boosting vitamin C, while nuts are protein-rich and help keep your blood sugar levels stable.
13th December: Plan fun outdoor activities
Winter doesn’t have to be spent inside. In fact, it’s the best time of year to try out ice skating, sledding or even a day of skiing.
If you don’t live somewhere with snow, then look for a dry ski slope.
Or if you want a more risk-averse activity then gather friends and family for some brisk winter walks.
14th December: Deck the halls with boughs of holly
Christmas decorations are a heart-warming sight in winter.
Not only is it a fun activity and an opportunity for friends and family to come together, returning home to Christmas decorations can also help boost your mood.
Not to mention that the act of decorating can be a fun way to get some stretches and exercising in!
15th December: Keep an eye on your alcohol intake
Parties usually involve a drink or two – but don’t let yourself drink to excess.
Not only can it lead to bad decisions or regrettable behaviour (office party nightmares, anyone?)
Alcohol is also empty calories without much nutritional value. Try an evening out without it, or set yourself a limit on nights out and make sure to stick to it.
16th December: Watch out for fatty drinks
Speaking of drinks, alcohol isn’t the only liquid offender.
Milky, sugary and syrupy drinks can be highly calorific. For example, a medium-sized Starbucks hot chocolate with whipped cream is 433 calories – nearly a quarter of the recommended daily calorie intake for women.
Check the nutritional value before you indulge to avoid being caught unaware.
17th December: Save time for meditation
Feeling frazzled by the middle of December? Take a moment to meditate. You don’t have to be an expert or join a class. There are meditation apps you can download and listen to for just ten minutes a day. Or meditate in your own way by finding some time to relax and clear your mind.
Meditation is known to reduce stress and leave you feeling more clear-headed – and as stress depresses the immune system, meditation is a great way to look after your mental and physical health.
18th December: Try healthier ways to socialise
Catching up with friends doesn’t have to mean being sedentary or visiting a restaurant or bar.
Exercise is a great way to socialise in a healthier environment.
You could arrange a squash, tennis or badminton session with a friend, join an exercise class together or try indoor bouldering for something more unusual.
19th December: Hit the dance floor
The run up to Christmas offers a great excuse to go dancing – whether at an office party or by joining a dance class.
Not only will you stay warm while getting a chance to exercise, dancing has also been shown to fight stress and help boost your mood.
So get your dancing shoes on.
20th December: Join the carol singers
Studies have shown that singing does wonders for our mood and also helps improve and sustain lung function, which is particularly helpful for people with COPD.
Look online or in your local newspaper to find carol singers you can join, or head to a carol concert to help boost your lungs and enjoy some Christmas cheer.
21st December: Add some healthy alternatives to your Christmas meals
When planning your Christmas meal, take time to think about how you can make it a little healthier.
Perhaps add in more vegetables or low fat meat, use pureed fruit instead of butter in baked goods, and grill instead of fry ingredients.
You can also help ease indigestion on the day by prolonging the meal and taking a break between courses.
22nd December: Exercise portion control
While Christmas would be no fun if you didn’t indulge a little bit, the key is portion control.
No one wants to feel as stuffed as a turkey, so if you know you’re eating food that isn’t very healthy, make sure to serve yourself a smaller portion – and make up for over-indulgences with some healthy meals over the following days.
23rd December: Start a healthy tradition
Christmas is a time of traditions, and they don’t have to be commercial ones.
A good way to remind yourself and your family what Christmas is really about is to start up a celebratory tradition that brings people together and creates a sense of achievement.
That could involve going on an annual bike ride, participating in a charity fun run, or volunteering to help others less fortunate. Not only can this boost wellbeing, it also helps you enjoy quality time together.
24th December: Ensure safe food prep
Around four-fifths of people wash their turkey in the sink before cooking it, but this can spread germs and cause illness.
Washing a turkey often results in bacteria and germs being splashed around the kitchen, which can lead to food poisoning.
Instead, make sure to cook your turkey thoroughly and at the right heat, which will kill any bacteria present.
25th December: Enjoy a Christmas walk
Christmas day doesn’t have to revolve around eating and sitting on the sofa. The combination (enhanced by a few alcoholic drinks) can often leave everyone in a stupor – and sometimes create indigestion.
Instead, encourage a group post-lunch walk. Walking in green spaces is good for reducing stress and boosting positivity – which can also be helpful if you’re feeling the effects of excessive family time!
If you are in need of medical care over the Christmas period we have a number of services which can help you get the care you need as soon as possible, find out more about our private GP services and general medical admissions.
To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337
or make an online enquiry.