It's barely 24 hours to Christmas and you may be dreaming of all the glorious food that awaits your mouth and tummy.
From roast turkey or chicken to stuffing, mashed potato, gingerbread men, Christmas pudding, fruitcake and whatever your family’s traditional delicacy is – all these spell divine as guilt and girth size are furthest from the mind while merrymaking with loved ones.
The festivities might linger on till New Year’s Day, and then suddenly, it hits you that you have overindulged in the sugar-filled carbs.
The pants are tighter and the shirts don’t button as easily unless you suck the tummy in.
You ramble on about the word d-i-e-t, but sigh, there’s no quick magic fix.
That’s usually what a number of my students whine about when they greet me in the new year.
For some reason, we all have a tendency to let go and give in to temptation when it’s the holiday season, and pacify ourselves that we’ve made a fitness resolution come Jan 1.
Most gyms and fitness centres see a spike in membership at the start of the year as people are consumed with guilt from overeating.
It’s good to slack off once in a while, but this year, why not do something a little different?
Work it out
Instead of binging, consider starting the day early tomorrow and get a bit of exercise in so you can feast on the goodies without having to worry about your waistline or piling on the calories.
Many studies show that working out is what perks you up and gets you in a better mood to tackle the day.
Exercising in the morning also lessens the likelihood of scarfing down that extra cookie later on.
Keep the workout (preferably cardio) short, simple and at a moderate intensity, but stay away from weights or strength training as these will whet your appetite further.
Go for a brisk walk around the neighbourhood or park, opt for a hike, or if you have access to a pool, dive into it for a few laps to wake the body up.
If you’re hosting a family get-together, try this fun little workout I picked up from the internet: pop in an old Christmas movie such as It’s A Wonderful Life, Jingle All The Way or The Grinch in the video player, listen for cue words and bust some moves.
For example, every time you hear the word “Santa”, do 10 crunches (because he’s chubby and could do with a belly-reducing move); for “angels”, do 10 jumping jacks (like snow angels); for “jingle”, do 10 booty-shaking moves; and so forth.
Choose moves that every age group can participate in and that can be done in a small space.
Before long, you’ll build up a sweat and have some laughs with your fellow movers. Plus the brain stays alert listening for the cue words.
The session might end up being pretty long, but do this for 30-45 minutes before sitting back to watch the rest of the movie.
Once you release the feel-good endorphin hormones by exercising, you’ll be adding to the Christmas cheer.
With a clear conscience, the treats will also taste better.
Chances are, you won’t go back for seconds, no matter how delicious the spread is.
After a long night of partying, you might be tempted to head to the mamak on Boxing Day for more food, but try chewing gum instead.
Researchers from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center and Louisiana State University in the United States found that chewing gum significantly decreased feelings of hunger and cravings for something sweet.
“This research demonstrates the potential role chewing gum can play in appetite control, reduction of snack cravings and weight management. Even small changes in calories can have an impact in the long term.
“And this research supports the role of chewing gum as an easy, practical tool for managing snack – especially sweet snack – intake and cravings,” Dr Paula J Geiselman, chief of women¹s health and eating behaviour and smoking cessation at Pennington, was quoted as saying at the Experimental Biology 2009 meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Tips for the wise
Besides getting a quick workout, here are some tips on how to stay in control tomorrow:
• Fill up before starting your visiting rounds.
How many times have you heard your friends say they’re starving themselves to splurge on a big meal later?
Skipping meals or leaving your stomach empty for long periods during waking hours lead you to overindulge.
If you fill up your stomach a little before heading out of the house, the temptation to gorge and eat fast is less.
• Choose your treats wisely.
Pick foods that are only available during Christmas and not something easily available that you can also eat at other times.
• Pace yourself with small portions.
If you’re visiting many houses, don’t eat to your maximum capacity every time just to please the host.
Our Asian culture is such that hosts feel offended if their guests don’t eat much.
Distribute your meals evenly and limit yourself to small servings, but don’t skimp on the fruits and vegetables.
Tell your host you’ve many houses to visit and you’d like to sample a little in every house you go to.
• Limit liquid calories.
Juices, soft drinks, other canned drinks, punches and alcohol are the norm during festivals.
It’s best to keep tabs on your liquid intake as these sweetened drinks will only add more calories to the ones you have already eaten.
• Drink a lot of water.
This can satiate your appetite, as well as keep you hydrated at all times.
And it will also prevent a possible hangover if you go overboard with the free flow of wine and alcohol.
• Enjoy yourself.
Be realistic and ditch the diet for the day.
Trying to restrain yourself totally from sinful foods will only heighten your cravings.
Feel free to dig into the treats you love, but just in smaller portions.
On that note, here’s to a fit, guilt-free Christmas and fabulous 2018!
Revathi Murugappan is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance to express herself artistically and nourish her soul.