How to approach health, from fitness and nutrition to relationships and happiness, as we count down to the New Year
The festive season is notorious for overindulgence and burning the candle at both ends, and come January we can sometimes resemble a train wreck. So why not adopt a healthier mindset by putting fitness and well-being goals at the top of your wish list?
No ‘Food Babies’
Delicious holiday treats and cocktails are like catnip even for the healthiest of men. And how do you avoid that inevitable ‘food baby’ after all those celebratory brunches, lunches and dinners? “Don’t skip meals or ‘save yourself’ for a function, just eat normally,” says Rebecca Hay, a sports dietitian for The Athlete’s Kitchen in Australia. “You don’t want to walk in hungry as this usually leads to filling up on snacks like chips and dips when you arrive.” She advises athletes to keep eating, training and focused on sporting goals to stay on track.
Ensure you’re well hydrated before celebrations so you don’t down soft drinks, juice or alcohol – and try to stick to water or sparkling water. “You may choose to have dessert, and if you do, eat it slowly and mindfully – savour every mouthful,” Hay says. Other useful tips include choosing an entrée-size meal instead of a main, ordering extra vegetables or salad with dressing on the side, and filling up on fruit as a snack before attending a big dinner.
“Most people will gain between two to five kilograms over the festive season,” Rebecca says. “Picking one function to be more relaxed with food and drink choices can make it easier to remain more sensible at others.” Lastly, keeping maintenance goals as opposed to weight loss ones during this period is more realistic and achievable.
Joy To Your World
Ever experienced the New Year’s Eve blues? Where there is so much emphasis on having a good time you end up disappointed? The idea of the holidays can put a lot of pressure on us to have fun within a fixed time frame, whereas it’s more holistic to enjoy each day. “The holistic way is not about going from one extreme to another,” says Dario Calvaruso, a Hong Kong-based yoga instructor and inspirational speaker. In other words, relaxation and happiness shouldn’t be polarised from your work life.
“I enjoy my life and a very healthy way of living,” says Calvaruso who has spent many years soul-searching in places like Varanasi and the Himalayas. “I work hard in terms of hours and commitment but I love what I‘m doing and work is part of my life – even if it’s stressful, I enjoy it.” The more we move towards relishing our work lives (even the healthy amount of stress that comes with it) and relaxing and celebrating each day, the less we’re tempted to overdo it on special occasions.
“From my experience, you cannot do anything without good health – you cannot do business, you cannot have sex and you cannot relax if you’re sick,” Calvaruso says. Aside from being a vegetarian, non-drinker, and going to bed early, he makes time at the end of each day to meditate.
“The word ‘meditate’ simply means to cure yourself – and unload the body and mind so it can find its own balance,” he says. It’s reason enough to give yourself some alone ‘switch-off’ and make your health the top priority this season.
Looking good and keeping fit takes hard work. It’s easy to let yourself go in the name of the upcoming season’s fun-fuelled events. “It’s tempting to sleep in, but do your routine first thing in the morning before the busy day starts,” says Darren Stephen Lim, personal trainer, fitness model and owner of D.Fitness gym in Singapore. “If taking the time to visit the gym is an issue, try a bodyweight routine at home or in the park instead.”
Lim suggests working the entire body because it’s a “unified system” and to keep your eye on the prize, which is that “ever elusive six-pack”. Avoid stressing out if you allow your routine to lapse a little. “I’ve seen people stress themselves out when they can’t continue their daily routines through the holidays,” Darren says. “Stress produces high level of cortisol which causes muscle loss and fat gain – it’s a vicious cycle.”
Dates, Partners and I
The holiday season, despite being full of celebrations, can intensify feelings of loneliness. “All that love and connection on the radio waves can actually highlight how unloved and disconnected you may be feeling internally,” says Australian soulful relationship coach Sharanya Naidoo of Three Cups Full. She recommends engaging in activities that make you feel loved and connected whether that be avoiding the crowds and getting cosy at home with a good book or surrounding yourself with friends and family.
If you’re searching for a meaningful partner at this time, Naidoo says just be yourself. So if you’re a silent type, who normally doesn’t drink, go easy on the mulled wine and don’t feel like you have to be the life of the party. “However, if you’re normally outgoing then wear that reindeer Christmas jumper your nan knitted and dance on the tables,” she says. “Too often we try and behave in ways that we think will impress and attract others, and then we end up in relationships that don’t fulfil us at all.”
Lastly, if you’re partnered up, don’t burn out on partying and check in on each others’ stress levels. “It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of festivity and lose bearing on what you actually want to do versus what others expect you should do,” she says. “Tune into each other as a couple and you’ll move through festivities feeling charged, nourished and rested for the New Year.”