We all know that escaping the festivities of Christmas is truly impossible. There is no chance of sticking to a healthy diet, and overindulging in delicious treats and drinks is almost a given. Around this time of year, most of the rules for healthy living are happily abandoned, and fun and festivities prevail. Here are a few tips that may be helpful for looking after your health and minimising the impact of Christmas overindulgence.
Now, I'm sure you've heard all this before, but alcohol really does put a massive burden on your liver (and your kidneys and so forth) and it really is worth pacing yourself when it comes to alcohol. Alternating between a beer and a glass of water or a champagne followed by an orange juice is a great plan. When you drink alcohol, your liver prioritises and attempts to breakdown and eliminate alcohol from your system BEFORE it does all of it's other jobs (such as digesting food, manufacturing hormones, producing enzymes etc,etc,etc).
Some recent studies in Australia have shown that drinking wine prior to eating interferes with blood sugar levels, reduces available glucose to the brain, raises cortisol levels and other stress hormones in the bloodstream, can interfere with insulin levels, and possibly increase the chances of insulin resistance. It seems it is certainly worth avoiding drinking on an empty stomach!
So really try to go easy on your liver this Summer " give it time to deal with each standard drink, never drink on an empty stomach, ensure that you are drinking enough water, and consider a liver tonic to see you through the party season. Herbal liver tonics can actually protect the liver from the damaging effects of alcohol, and can prevent dreaded hangovers " contact the BellyBelly Centre if you would like to order your own herbal liver tonic.
Always try to have an intake of 33mls of water per kg of body weight eg. If you weigh 70kg, your water intake should be 2.3 litres daily " and this is separate from herbal teas, juices and other drinks. If possible, measure out your daily water into glass or stainless steel bottles and sip in small amounts throughout the day. This guarantees that you remain properly hydrated. If you are exercising, consuming alcohol, coffee or tea, your water intake needs to be increased.
Food glorious food… it is amazing to consider what we expect our bodies to digest in one day! Christmas can be an exhausting marathon for our overworked digestive systems (especially our livers). Try having slightly smaller portions, and remember to chew your food really well " this is the first stage of the digestive process, and can make things go down a whole lot easier. Pace yourself, eat slowly, and you may just have enough room left for Aunt Hilda's home made trifle…
Bitter foods and herbs are a great way to stimulate the digestive system, enabling it to cope with the onslaught of festive foods. Some ways to include more bitters in your holiday diet are: adding bitter leafy greens to salads (rocquette, endive, raddiccio, baby spinach, cress), having a bitter aperitif before a main meal or a bitter herbal liquor after a feast can also be helpful.
Keeping up an exercise routine can be really challenging over the holiday period. If possible, go for a stroll around the block or play some backyard cricket in between feasting. Even a short burst of physical activity will boost your metabolism and work off a few extra Christmas calories. Evening walks are ideal at this time of year.
Late nights are certainly a feature throughout the Christmas/New Year period. Try as best you can to get adequate sleep and allow your body enough time to complete its nocturnal healing regime. Sleep-ins and siestas are highly recommended to top up on late nights.
A brilliant plan for January is a detoxification program. You can do a simple detox by eliminating all stimulants (tea, coffee, alcohol, sugar), along with refined flours, dairy products and red meat, replacing them with loads of organic vegies " in juices, salads, soups etc, sprouts, fruit, brown rice, fish, legumes, tofu and tempeh.
Alternatively, you can see a Naturopath for a structured, tried and tested detoxification program with recipes and full moral support. Weight loss and increased energy levels are wonderful after-effects of a good detox.
So never fear " there is hope post holiday indulgence!
Written by Nicole Tracy
Naturopath, The BellyBelly Pregnancy Centre