Healthy Christmas A-Z Part 8

This is it the countdown is on, when I wake up in the morning, or rather later this morning, it will be Christmas Eve Eve – it doesn’t count yet as I’m still in Monday mode.

So the penultimate part of my Health Christmas A-Z of things I’m doing to keep me on the right track this Christmas time and things I’ve used in the past to help me stay healthy and fit and to maintain or even to lose weight during this time of temptation.

S is for Superfoods

If you do nothing else this festive period you can include some superfoods which will help your body to unravel the bad that the excess is doing and which will help you to at least know that you are doing some good amongst the bad. So this is a quick post as here is a link to a whole load of information about superfoods from Web MD and what I’m doing is challenging myself (I rise to challenges) to include at least 2, just two as a minimum in my daily festive diet.  Superfoods can do all kinds of amazing things for your body, reduce cholestoral, reduce high blood pressure, lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, clear your body of toxins and even improve your mood and energy levels. What’s not to like? What is more look at this list and then tell me that so far in this A-Z we haven’t mentioned a good few of those and how to incorporate them healthily over Christmas already:

  • Beans
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Oatsdownload
  • Oranges
  • Pumpkin
  • Salmon
  • Soy
  • Spinach
  • Tea (green or black)
  • Tomatoes
  • Turkey
  • Walnuts
  • Yogurt

You can get some of those in over Christmas each day you really can even if you take a few and stick them in a juicer or blender you can get three or four in one hit. Remember if you’re doing harm try to balance it out with some good.

T is for Togetherness

For those of us fortunate enough to be able to spend Christmas with loved ones, be they family, friends or even pets, there is nothing more fulfilling and relaxing than sharing time with others. Laughing over a movie, taking a walk, just touching one haiku_badges_find_happiness_in_button-rf12283bdc0194a40b5485a793ce852ab_x7j12_8byvr_324another (research shows that skin to skin contact is hugely important in relaxing people and is used effectively in the form of hand massage or just hand holding to soothe anxiety in people with dementia). If you can’t physically be with someone then take advantage of the fabulous technology we have and Skype them, phone them, message them. If you can’t do any of that or have nobody then volunteer to help out at a pensioner’s lunch or a homeless shelter and be with other people while you are doing some good also, charity benefits the giver as much as the receiver especially when it is a charitable deed or service. Show your community spiritedness and if you know neighbours are going to be alone come up with a really radical idea to lunch together or share an afternoon tea together, take round some Christmas goodies as an ice breaker, offer to walk someone’s dog, get out and socialise if you can’t stay in and socialise.

I reblogged a post the other day about how we need to be with other humans as a race and how we function better, feel safer and have less anxiety when we are in groups. It’s true, seek it out somewhere in my recent history and give it a read.

Lifting your mood, relieving anxiety and stress will help you to keep mentally healthy but will also help you win the fight with food especially if you are a comfort or emotional eater.

U is for Upside Down

At this time of year our routines and rituals can be turned upside down, we might be lucky enough to have some lie ins, we might find we are staying up much later at night at events and entertaining, we might find that we are doing way more than we usually do or way less. We might watch more TV, we might spend more time in the kitchen. So much can change at this time of year and many of us have lots of added stresses and some have to work too and manage children on their own! Believe me that is no mean feat I’ve been all things to everyone at Christmas and it’s draining.

So while your world is upside down there are two things you can do to combat the ill effects on your health which have worked for me.

downloadFirstly make some time for you – find a space where you can relax, get pampered or pamper yourself, go and lie on your bed with your Christmas glass of fizz while everyone else enjoys theirs, nobody will miss you if you have a house full of people. I’ve even managed to sneak away on Christmas day for an hour’s sleep between main course and dessert in the past and although I did tell some people nobody begrudged me it knowing I’d been slaving away on the meal and preparations for hours. Or just go outside and take some fresh air, go for a short walk, whatever, just set some time for you aside.

Secondly – don’t let your whole routine go out of the window, adjust it but don’t change everything, try to keep something as normal, even if that is your meal times. This is something I have done in the past which has prevented me from snacking, I’ve still had a good breakfast, a good lunch and a light dinner and kept the timing of my meals more or less as it would normally be. Your family will be used to this and guests will accept this, they are guests, they go by your clock. More and more gyms are opening on Christmas Day these days so if you are an early gym session person then go and have that session before you let the kids know santa’s been or get someone else to prep brekkie while you go and have your workout if your kids are older.

It is so easy to fall back into bad habits, far more easy that it is to make good new ones so be very careful and mindful of how many days you spend upside down and do try to keep something, even one thing from your routine.

V is for Verging on the Ridiculous

So much of what we do at Christmas is just this, verging on the ridiculous. We buy way too much food and drink and we consume way too much of it. We buy too many gifts for our kids that they don’t need. We become crazed loons who are intent on matching if not surpassing the Jones’s next door.

If you can, try to scale down the Christmas excesses in all aspects. The expense causes stress, the food makes you fat and unhealthy and so does the drink as well as making you want to die with a hangover.

download (1)Think about messages you are sending out to the kids, don’t you want them to appreciate people and experiences more than labelled, commercialised junk? I know it’s hard but it’s possible to make your kids appreciative of things other than the latest gadgets.

Think about the state of the world and ask yourself is getting up at 4am to try to beat the queue for turkeys really that important and stress worthy when there are people starving for want of a bowl of rice, people lonely, homeless, bereaved, queuing at food banks for anything, ask yourself is it all worth it?

Try to bring Christmas back to basics and make it about people and peace and giving of ourselves rather than of things. It will leave you feeling far more healthy than the modern alternative. I saw a Facebook comment on the site of a famous UK retailer today which made me think how ridiculous we are now when a lady was complaining that this company had “totally ruined my life, my whole Christmas is destroyed, everything I’d hoped for is gone because the box my 18 month old son’s train was in was split and it’s too late to get another and I’ve had to take it out of the box and wrap it separately”.

I read this and nearly wept. Really? Her life is ruined? Her whole Christmas destroyed because a child who won’t even know what is happening will be distraught because his train isn’t in a box… actually come to think of it he probably would be because we all know that the boxes are what kids of that age love about gifts. They try to tell us from an early age but we just don’t listen and keep on buying them stuff instead of boxes. My daughter spent her first two years being entertained by a cardboard box which I covered with a sticky backed vinyl and it was variously a hiding place, a stage, a car, a bus, a train, a sledge, a house, a kennel, a toy box, a bed, a dolls house… you’ve got it. Whatever was in it was barely touched and I soon realised that she just didn’t like toys, her mind was too active and her imagination way too fertile. I still bought her them though because I felt bad if I didn’t, it was only when she pointed out to me that my excessive spending at Christmas was to fulfill a need in me not her that it stopped. Wise daughter I have.

For the sake of your own health, wealth and happiness, try to keep Christmas real. I know people who spend thousands of pounds per child at Christmas and can never afford a family holiday and I think that the family would benefit so much more from a 50% reduction in Christmas presents and a nice holiday relaxing and having fun somewhere each year.

The same goes for food, we don’t have to stuff our faces just because it’s Christmas, we don’t need to fill our cupboards to bursting, the shops are open again the next day and feeling bloated, stuffed to bursting and sick is not really a good feeling for anyone and definitely not essential.

W, X, Y and Z finish this series off tomorrow.


Healthy Christmas A-Z Part 7

Almost there now so to speed up we’re going to get through the next letters much more quickly in this series of posts on how I’m going to cope with a healthy Christmas by using new tactics and tried and tested ones from years gone by.

O is for Oil

Remember this is about health and well being, this journey to a new healthy you is not just about losing weight. So why not ask Santa for some lovely oils…I have.

Body oils and massage oils to have a lovely pamper session at the hands of your loved one (you can return the favour). These will see you relaxing and taking time out of the chaos and panic and stress of the festive period. Mine isn’t that stressy or hectic to be honest but I’m not turning down a massage.

I love these burners from Scented Home. This one is available in a variety of wood finishes for just £12.95. They do have other types including ceramics starting at just a few pounds. Take a look at their website

Burning oils getting your home smelling beautiful can also be very therapeutic, remember that Aromatherapy trend that we had a few years back? Well it still stands, certain aromas have affects on our mood and behaviour so do some research find some that match the mood you want to create and let them work their magic on your phsycological state.

P is for Presents

Of course p is for presents, what else could it have been? I’ve mentioned this before but for anyone who hasn’t disclosed to the world that they are on a healthy eating plan (I know many reasons why keeping this under wraps is a good idea, especially in the early days) might need to fend off any gifted food items. As a teacher I get a lot of chocolates so I’ve been dropping them off at the women’s refuge shelter so they can be re-gifted to the ladies and kids there. I don’t feel bad about re-gifting gifts, I was grateful and I’m doubling the love by passing them to someone else who will be grateful. I can’t keep those things in my house, I just can’t.

If you are telling your family and friends about your efforts then do remind them not to tempt you, I have had family and friends in the past who thought it would be a nice treat to gift me a huge box of luxury chocs and who were upset when I was clearly not impressed – I did try to shield it but it’s not easy when you really want your efforts to be taken seriously.

Cute little natural food hamper
Cute little natural food hamper

I originally asked for no food gifts at all please but then had a change of heart and asked for a little hamper of healthy grazing foods to be put together which I believe my daughter has taken care of so I’m looking forward to see what is in that.  If you are going to food gift someone else who is on a healthy eating campaign you can do the same, put together a pretty hamper in a lovely basket with dried fruits (cranberries and apricots are like sweets for me and I munch on them if I get an attack of needing a sweet hit), nuts, yoghurt coated nuts and dried fruits (check this is zero fat yoghurt though), ryvita bites which are a substitute for crackers and crisps (chips), packets of seed mixes with dried fruit are also yummy and stick in a couple of granola bars and maybe some fresh fruit to finish it off. This can be a great gift for someone who can’t usually afford some of these little healthy food luxuries.

Another great gift, which I received for my birthday was a grow your own wheat grass kit (not very romantic) but what a fab gift it has been! It was wrapped and packaged beautifully too which helped.

For a friend of mine who is just embarking (about a month now) into a healthy lifestyle change I am putting together a box of lovely luxury fruit smoothies which are fat and additive free (natural sugars obviously) and cereal bars which I know are delicious and which are usually out of her budget at the moment as both her and her husband were made redundant recently. I hope they will help keep her feeling like she has had something delicious and which will keep her on the straight and narrow.

edible-gifts-flavored-salts-1212-xlnWhy not put together a gift of unusual spices or as in the picture here flavoured salts or even home made jams or a big jar of your home made granola? Food gifts can be healthy and can help you to share fab recipes with your friends who are trying healthy living out too.

Q is for Quinoa

I won’t go on about this too much as I have a great link for more information from The BBC‘s Good Food site. It is a grain but not a grain which is used as a substitute for wheat, cous cous and rice. The only problem I have with it, is that besides being very trendy at the moment and so I’m not sure it’s a fad, it has more than 4gms of fat per 100gms and I tend to ignore anything with a higher than 4gm per 100gms fat content other than when I’m having a treat or if it is part of my daily allowance of other foods stuffs (eg dairy). I try not to get too involved with carbs, they just don’t like me and make me bloat and make my weight loss ridiculously slow. I think I have a wheat allergy or even a carb allergy but quinoa doesn’t seem to affect me as proper grass grains do. So that is a plus.

If you are looking for something as a substitute for bread for instance to use as stuffing for your Christmas roasts you could use this as a substitute, it can also be used to form a bed for the post Christmas day turkey left over curry. It’s something I’m going to delve more into and try to use in different ways in the new year and so it deserved a place here… and it’s the only thing I could think of to use for Q.

R is for Running

I know a lot of obese people can not run, either it’s not good for their joints, it’s totally uncomfortable (I’ve been there) or it is just something they’ve never perfected as they’ve spent a life time of not really fancying running, things jiggling and flapping, fear of people laughing or whatever the reason. I’ve fallen into all of those categories myself BUT this time around I found that running kind of just happened. It was a natural progression from walking, walking fast, walking faster and I was away…

I started off running on a treadmill and then transferred that out into the fresh air with the odd little skip or burst while walking, I felt very self conscious at first and still do although it’s getting better and so I’d kind of encourage my son to make me chase him or to make it look like we were playing so that it didn’t look like fat bird running.

no-matter-how-slow-you-goI got some good support sports bras and also control pants and control leggings to run in and although I still don’t ‘go for a run’ I do include longer and longer spurts in my walks and if I find myself alone on the beach in the morning I will have a crafty jog and I also jog on my treadmill at home and now and then at the gym. Can I just say to any men reading that there doesn’t appear to be anything available in the way of support or control pants for you guys that can be comfy for doing sport in. If you have found something which helps minimise the wobble and flap (it’s not just aesthetics that are the problem with this it can cause chafing and be uncomfortable and off putting), then please share. Otherwise, I have a friend who I’ve met through my trainer who is a big guy who has this problem when running and I advised him to buy some women’s control leggings which he has done and wears under his sweats and now finds running much more comfortable. Another thing I guess you could do is wear a tight fitting base layer, they are usually very stretchy yet close fitting so might do a good job of keeping things in place. Maybe stick a set on the Christmas list if it’s not too late.

I’m making this Christmas the first time I go for a run, where I will get to my starting point walking and I will run to a designated end point, probably a portion of the beach, far away from the promenade so no one can see me. I’ve enlisted the kids and Nick to do it with me and we’ve agreed to do it about an hour after Christmas Day breakfast no matter what the weather.

I really want to push myself and do something I never thought I could do. I don’t want to become a runner, I worry about my knees too much, but I felt that if I did something like this at Christmas it will definitely give me a sense of achievement, it will really show me how far I have come in terms of developing my fitness and all of those feel good factors will really help me avoid the food temptations.

I’m quite good at avoiding temptation but Christmas just has so many ingrained food associated memories and triggers that I know it is difficult and I have to call on every big gun I can find to combat the urges that are a part of who I am now.

So why not set yourself a special challenge for Christmas to remind you of how far you’ve come, to get a starting point picture if you’re about to embark on a new healthy you in the near future, or to just help you through maybe this first Christmas as the new you.

Next Christmas I’m hoping to go for a run on the street in public and not give a damn what people think, that will be a real challenge and achievement but I’m using this Christmas as my starting point.

Next post will take us from S to V and then we’re in the home straight!

Healthy Christmas A-Z Part 5

Continuing fast with the A-Z of a healthy Christmas, trying to embed some thoughts which will help me and also calling on past experiences where I managed a weight loss over Christmas without making myself feel miserable.  On with today’s offerings  I – K

I is for Icy Desserts

Christmas puds and desserts can be very tempting and what I try to do is either have some of what is on offer and just reduce portion size or go for a healthy alternative. This is easier to do if you are in control of the offering for example if you are entertaining or doing the cooking. It’s easy to switch ice cream for a zesty, zingy, refreshing sorbet which also helps to clear the palate of all the rich stodgy food remnants and reinvigorate the taste buds. I always feel less bloated after a fruity cold dessert and less like I’ve committed some kind of sin.

Frozen Yoghurt. Work on the presentation it can make something simple seem like such a treat.

Another tactic I’ve employed in the past is to use ice cream instead of custard or lashings of fresh cream. This is something you can usually do quite easily when dining out, it is rare to find a restaurant which does not have ice cream. The reason I do this is because custard and lashings of cream can be eaten way too quickly and it is easy to pour on a little too much by accident, once of those whoops moments where it’s in the bowl now so may as well be eaten. Even better use a low fat, low sugar frozen yoghurt.

I find ice cream more controllable in terms of portions, you can ask for half a scoop or one scoop and that’s what you will get. I also like to serve just a slither of it onto a fruit salad and mix it in to coat the fruits with cold creaminess which really feels like a treat. Larger helpings take longer to eat than liquid custard and cream and therefore the sense of having eaten or of just eating can be savoured more and you feel like you’ve actually had something nice rather than bolting something down and not really noticing you ever had it.

Try making your own ice creams and sorbets too, adding lots of healthy berries and trying out recipes with fat reduced dairy and reducing the sugar content in recipes you find. I compensate for the reduced sugar by using more fruit or using a very sweet tangy fruit in the first place.  Click on the link to create this fantastic looking dessert to serve up from  Driscolls if you are entertaining, it’s a fab alternative to a stodgy fat laden pudding.

Festive iced cocktails, refreshing, sweet treats perfect for any Christmas climate

Also try making or ordering an iced cocktail, like a fruity slush puppy either with our without alcohol, they are super refreshing, make a great alternative to a dessert and really feel indulgent. I did this a lot when on holiday and I do it when I dine out for special occasions but it’s easy to recreate at home. Just slap some crushed ice into a smoothie machine or bullet and add a couple of hands full of mixed berries, cold filtered water or even carbonated water, add some cranberry juice for a real festive feel and then a glug of whatever tipple takes your fancy, vodka, gin, schnapps, a half glass of champagne… you choose. Blitz it together, pass it through a cocktail strainer and serve up with some sliced citrus, a mini skewer of berries or swizzel it with a cinnamon stick. Perfect.


J is for Jumping Jacks

Enough of food and drinks, it’s making me salivate, now for some exercise. If your gym is closed, if you are away from home, if you are stepping over guests littered around your home there is noting, absolutely nothing preventing you from stepping out into the garden or standing next to your bed and just whacking out five or ten jumping jacks. Even knock out a crafty five while you’re waiting for something to come to the boil in the kitchen.  Point is, do not stop moving no matter how much your normal routine is upset.

I'm only asking myself to deliver five or ten at a time, maybe make 100 your daily tally goal
I’m only asking myself to deliver five or ten at a time, maybe make 100 your daily tally goal

Getting all of your big muscles moving, especially those in your bum and thighs and upper arms, will increase your heart rate for a moment, get some blood pumping, keep you from becoming totally out of shape and give you a renewed vigour and energy to prevent you slothfully seeing out the festive period.

If you can’t manage a few jumping jacks, punch a couple of pillows, do a couple of lunges, touch your toes, stretch up to the ceiling, pull on a bungee band, anything which just keeps you moving and stops your increasingly supple body from going back into the atrophied state you’ve worked so hard to get it out of. It will be far less of a shock to your poor muscles come January when drag them back to the gym and you will have more chance of getting quickly back into a good routine.

My kids have been instructed to order me to perform ten jumping jacks on demand, whenever they command me to I have to drop everything and get those arms and legs pumping. They will find it hilarious and no doubt it will get video’d once or twice but it will be worth it and will stop me from becoming complacent. I might even get others to join in. It all helps to make Christmas fun.


K is for knitting

This time of year is a good time to think of starting a project for next year or to think about learning a new skill or working something new into your lifestyle to help keep you happy and healthy. That doesn’t have to be a radical dietary or exercise change it can be something as simple as getting the knitting needles out.

download (3)I recently developed a love of crochet and knitting and found that I’m quite good at it. I find it relaxing and therapeutic and I am trying to include more relaxing activities into my hectic lifestyle to balance it out and help me to cope better with stress. I am unfortunate in that I eat when I’m stressed or depressed as opposed to most people who lose their appetite, how I wish I was one of those. It is important if you are a stress eater or not to really find time to relax, to unwind and to spend on some creative activity. I think all of us with eating disorders or emotional disorders find it difficult to unwind and to create time for ourselves and those things are important in developing a healthy lifestyle. Remember this is all about health not just weight loss for me.

I’ve been making a crocheted blanket for my daughter which she requested as a Christmas gift but I’ve also got another little project on the go and that is knitting a mood blanket. I took a spectrum of coloursdownload (4) from the internet and assigned moods to them. For me yellow is relaxed and chilled out, red is angry and tense, black is sad and depressed, grey is a struggling colour for me, white is optimistic, orange is happy, blue is fresh and alive, green is accomplished and so on. I listed all of these moods (I didn’t go by any colour therapy I went by what the colours mean to me so everyone may be different) and what I am doing is knitting every day for just a few minutes in the colour of wool which sums up my mood for that day. I’m going to do this for a whole year (so I’m only sewing a little bit each day) but it download (5)makes me sit down and relax and create, even if it’s in bed right before I go to sleep, or while I’m watching telly in the evening for five minutes. The blanket when finished will also show me how I felt throughout the year, I’ll be able to see how I felt for the majority of my days, which emotions were the most prevalent, enduring or recurrent. I might be surprised or I might be inspired to try to get more happy colours in next year. I’m calling it my mood blanket and I’ve seen someone online who does something similar but crochet’s a granny square a day in her mood colours.

It’s a great activity for relaxation and creativity but it also gives an opportunity to reflect on what has images (7)made me feel the way I do that day so that maybe tomorrow I can avoid anything which made me feel unhappy or stressed and replicate things which made me feel happy and good about life and myself.

If you can’t knit or crochet, it’s very easy to do simple patterns and there are tons of You Tube tutorials for beginners and there are classes held around the country which by the way also get you out of the house and socialising if you’ve become a bit of a recluse like many obese people do.  Or you could do the same by using colouring pens or pencils and drawing up a tessellation and colouring sections each day.

Simple but useful for relaxation, creativity and reflection. All great for health and all great to combat the stresses and chaos of Christmas.

Healthy Christmas A-Z Part 4

Here I am on H and this one is for Holly.

images (2)Holly has long been associated with Christmas in the UK and further afield.  Doing a bit of internet research quickly shows that Holly along with other festive greenery such as Ivy, Mistletoe and Laurel were used prior Christianity in the British Isles as pagan symbols of celebrating new growth, to ward off evil and to celebrate the winter solstice. Christians adopted these plants and gave religious meanings to them and you can read all about those in this easy, quick read I found on

I discovered that Holly is native to the British Isles, Europe, North Africa and West Asia and that there are many different varieties, most identifiable by their glossy dark green leaves and red berries. Only young or lower hanging leaves are spiky, for obvious reasons I guess, but something I didn’t know before. Check out this Woodland Trust article for more info and interesting holly facts.

Why I’ve included Holly in my healthy Christmas A-Z is twofold really, firstly instead of hiding indoors under layers of blankets and in front of roaring fires why not get yourself and the family, dog, horse, kids whatever, out and about and go in search of some of this stuff growing in the wild. Do some research, have a ramble, even take advantage in reduced traffic at this time of year and drive to a woods where you may find holly. Get your wellies on, cover up your extremities with woolen gloves and hats and stride out in search of some real, authentic, living holly and don’t come back until you find some… maybe not that extreme but you get the idea.

images (4)Take an opportunity to learn something, useless or not and to teach the kids, get them talking about customs, about Christmas about the pagan rituals which are still a part of our modern day Christmas, discuss other religions and how they celebrate their significant times of the year, talk to each other, listen to each other, exercise together, breathe fresh air, get away from technology and modern life and enjoy being a family or being free and alone for a while.

It is so good for the mind as well as the body, it keeps you moving, it keeps you breathing nice and deep, it will lift your mood and prevent stress and it can help, believe it or not, to build strong stable relationships in your family. I find that when we walk together as a family we talk more than at any other time and we listen more than at any other time and we laugh more than at any other time. I don’t think my little family is any different to any other and if it works for us it will probably work for others.

Walking is huge fun and has so many, many benefits. Whether you share a walk with a loved one or as part of a rambling group or in isolation. It can be excellent thinking time. It burns calories, gets the heart beating, uses a whole host of muscles and for even the least fit among us it is really useful valuable exercise. Do not knock walking, forget about pace and speed and distance, for some very overweight people just getting one foot in front of the other is an achievement, take a few steps and a few more, rest if you have to, breathe and take a few more, before you know it and I seriously mean this, within just a few days of walking you will be amazed at how much further you can go each time and how fast your fitness begins to improve. This is not only good for your body but for your mind, it makes the unachievable seem achievable, if you can walk more easily after three days of taking a few steps what will you be doing in a year? Running that’s what! Maybe not, but never say never. You’ll definitely be walking further and you’ll be fittimages (3)er and slimmer and feeling so much more healthy.

If you find it hard to motivate yourself to get up and exercise, a holly hunt will give you that reason. Who cares if you never find any? Who cares if you don’t have any growing near you, go seek some out in a shop or garden centre or look for something else, a flower or tree which you have in your country which has some symbolic significance at Christmas or whatever religious holiday you celebrate. The point is, find reasons to move, moving is good. If holly can be a reason to get up, get out and move then anything else can be too.

Secondly, family activities again, or even solitary activities. Find a good You Tube crafting demo like the simple one below which shows you how to make a quick and easy holly wreath.

Make some for your home or to gift to a family member or to take to the grave of a loved one who has already moved on from this life. Creating something is very therapeutic, it keeps your hands occupied and it keeps you out of the kitchen. It gives you a sense of usefulness and/or achievement and many obese people are down on themselves, feeling they can’t do anything right, so determine to make a simple holly arrangement or wreath and prove to yourself that you can do something and if you can do this one thing, what else can you do? Get good at it and make them and sell them and use the money to buy those himages (5)ealthy ingredients you can’t normally afford or a piece of exercise equipment, even if only a bungee band to tug on when you’re sat watching the TV. Or donate them to charities who can’t afford decorations or as prizes in local charity raffles or for local Christmas craft sales. No matter how big you are, even if you are bed bound you can do a craft activity and by the way you can pull on a bungee band. Lying in bed pulling on a bungee band is more exercise than you have been doing, it is more movement and we can all manage it, so get crafting and buy yourself a band and get exercising, you will burn more calories, strengthen muscles and start to lose weight, especially if you are making changes to the amount and type of food you eat too.

Again if you can do a Christmas project with your partner or kids or friends it is great for bonding and fun and is mood lifting and gets you talking and listening to one another. It’s surprising what you might get off your chest when you are relaxed, creative and happy and it’s amazing what your kids feel comfortable talking to you about. Sometimes other people in our lives have deep and genuine concerns about us when we are morbidly overweight, kids secretly worry about obese parents in the same way they silently worry about smoking parents, they hear the news, they have the lessons at school and they all scream to them “your mum or dad is going to die very soon and leave you all alone” and that is heartbreaking to know but it shakes you into action too when you find that your kid is worried sick about losing you.

Getting comfortable and having good quality family time gives them space and safety to come out and tell you about these things, to express their concerns and lets you have time to benefit from hearing that, to keep you inspired and to give you strength to avoid that Christmas buffet. It’s also good to hear them open up about how proud they are of your efforts and to hear them tell you what their favourite thing is about the new healthier you. Don’t miss these opportunities by not doing things together and allowing that space for such conversations to open up. The concerns and pride of your loved ones is the best food in the world, it fills you up and spurs you on and makes you strong, you want to put their fears behind them and you want to give them even more reasons to be proud of you. It dawns on you that only you can do this, it’s all up to you. Imagine the day you’re making a holly wreath with your kids and one of them says “remember that time when you used to be overweight mum and you….” that day is yours to have and it will come sooner if you can stay strong and focused on becoming that person who used to be overweight.

downloadChristmas is about togetherness for me and what better way to spend it than really talking and listening and getting to know the people you love more and letting them into new parts of you that they maybe didn’t know so well before. Make holly wreaths, make anything except unhealthy food.

Healthy Christmas A-Z Part 3

Getting through these fast, already onto G in this little series of posts on the things I’m going to do to survive Christmas and avoid taking steps backward after all of the hard work I’ve done. I was thinking, some of the things which work for me this year will be the beginning of  new habits to take into the rest of my life. Being healthy isn’t just for Christmas…

G is for Goose

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The Turkey is often the fowl of choice for a Brit Christmas dinner but not so long ago it was geese which panicked as the dark nights set in and the frosts began to appear. Thinking to Dicken’s, A Christmas Carol, it was a goose which Scrooge turned up with at Bob Cratchit’s house on Christmas Day and my parents used to talk about how they missed having a goose for Christmas lunch as the popularity of the Turkey took over and the price and availability of Turkeys made them more accessible. I believe, correct me if I’m wrong, that Turkey became the bird of choice for American settlers due to them being in more plentiful supply than geese and that tradition and abundance eventually filtered through to other parts of the world, including the UK.

Geese have softer pouches of fat than turkeys and this makes them easier and quicker to cook and the self basting from all of that fat which melts at a lower temperature than turkey fat makes the meat more moist and succulent. This succulence makes it easier to eat goose meat without a gravy or sauce which can save you calories, however that fat has soaked into the meat and so the meat itself will undoubtedly be more fatty, so don’t get too excited about calorific savings. I serve any meat from a roast onto a paper napkin or serviette or a piece of kitchen towel and let it absorb a little of the surface fat before putting the meat onto my plate. Every little helps!

BUT, there is good news. It is recommended that we do eat fat, it is an essential part of our diet and while we should reduce our intake while losing weight we should not cut out fat altogether. I haven’t and I’m doing just fine. So if we’re going to eat fat, then goose fat, which is great for making delicious crispy roasted potatoes is healthier than other animal fats in that it is high in monounsaturated fats which are known to lower cholesterol.  Who would have thought it?

Take a look at some of these facts shared from The Goose Fat Information Service Website

  • Fat is an essential part of any balanced diet. It provides the body with the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K; which are essential for growth; and contains essential fatty acids which are important in maintaining normal health and body functions.
  • Although animal fats are often considered to be ‘bad fats’, goose fat is one of the better ones and contains far fewer saturated fats than butter or lard. Goose Fat contains 32.7g Saturated Fat per 100g compared with 54g for Butter and 40.8g for Lard.
  • Goose Fat is high in ‘heart healthy’ monounsaturated (55g compared to 19.8g in butter) and polyunsaturated fats (10.8g compared to 2.6g in butter).
  • Goose Fat is also rich in Oleic acid C18.1 (a specific type of monounsaturated fatty acid) which can lower blood cholesterol levels. Goose Fat contains on average 58% oleic acid, C18.1, and is generally higher in comparison to other animal fats. (The Goose Fat Information Website 2014)
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So if you are going to roast some potatoes or parsnips (I prefer to skip potatoes and save my carbs for something else) there are worse things you could roast them in than a little melted, hot goose fat. I parboil my veggies for roasting and then shake them about in a colander while I drain them to fluff up the outside a little and then I put a big spoon of melted fat (warm don’t burn yourself) with a pinch of sea salt and coarse ground black pepper into a big ziplock bag and pop the veggies into it and swing them around a bit to get a light coating of fat onto all sides. Then I pop them onto a really hot baking tray (at Christmas I avoid washing up and use disposable foil baking trays which I can throw in the recycling) and then I stick them in the oven on a high heat for 30 – 40 minutes, shaking and turning half way through.

I find the swinging around in a plastic bag method (I only do it very gently I don’t make like I’m trying out for hammer throwing finals) makes dispersing the fat among the veg much more even but more importantly makes a little go a long way and spares you from overloading the veggies with fat. We know they used to taste better soaked in the stuff but nowadays the thought of that should be making us feel ill and a little in moderation for flavour should appeal far more to the new healthy, healing us.

Again as with everything, think of health and not just calories. Goose fat is arguably better for you than a spray of processed manufactured synthetic cooking oil or spread, so don’t deny yourself great flavours and the health benefits of more natural fats by concentrating only on calories and weight loss. Using this sparingly, as a treat will be better for your health and for your weight loss than loading yourself up with spreads on a daily basis. I find that if I allow myself the good flavours I enjoy what I eat more, I enjoy preparing it more, I savour eating it more rather than bolting it down and I am ultimately more satisfied by my whole dining experience than I would be had I eaten some horrendous processed, synthetic rubbish which some huge corporation told me was better for me.

As with anything if you can afford it, source your meat and fats well, organic, grass fed is best and eat in moderation, make your plate more about vegetables than meat and starch if you are striving to lose weight even if you are having some time out over Christmas like many people do, obese or not, still try to edge those portions towards the ‘good’ side of the scale just a bit. I really believe that you will just naturally do this now anyway without even registering it, but if you do stay mindful you are even more likely to load that plate with good green stuff.

Here’s a fab goose recipe from Chef Nigel Slater on the BBC Food Website with gorgeous chick peas, look for ways that you could cut down on the fat, roast the veg separate like I suggest above, find an alternative to sausages in the stuffing or use a good quality low fat sausage or even a turkey sausage.

Coming soon is H for Holly.

Healthy Christmas A-Z Part 2

I’m up to E on this series of posts on how I intend to keep on the healthy side of life as I make my way through the valley of temptation which is Christmas.

E is for Effervescence

A dictionary definition of the word for this letter is:

1.bubbles in a liquid; fizz.

2.vivacity and enthusiasm.

For my Christmas coping mechanism I’m going to employ both of these meanings. I don’t really drink much alcohol but as it’s Christmas I’m going to indulge myself a little and as I often advocate if you are going to indulge a little think of quality rather than quantity and savour it, plan your moment of indulgence and prepare for it, make it an event not something which you just do without even taking a moment to enjoy it. My fizzy quality this year is going to come from some very nice champers. Just the one bottle which will be consumed slowly, perfectly chilled and in good company on Christmas Day in the evening… shared of course. Knowing I have a lovely indulgent treat to look forward to later on will help me to resist temptation throughout the day.

Also when I’m having a juice, either home made or otherwise, I often find that adding sparkling water to it gives it a little zing and makes it feel more like a carbonated drink. I do miss carbonated drinks but avoid them these days as I know they’re not the best thing to be swigging back by the litre, even the sugar free varieties. But if I add a little carbonated water to a juice or drink naturally fizzy home brewed Kombucha I get that little sparkly treat and don’t miss diet coke so much. Even a glass of sparkling water when dining out, entertaining at home or at parties with a lemon wedge really feels better than a regular glass of the still stuff and just makes you feel less of a freak when in company and everyone else is bandying about their (1)

The second meaning of effervescence is going to help me through Christmas as I am not going to dwell on what I can’t have or do and focus on the great things I’ve achieved and the fabulous energy I’m filled with. I don’t want to trade that off for slothfulness and bloated over indulgence, I want to keep this energy and vivacity going and so I’m going to carry on moving and keeping my energy levels up. Exercise is not going to fall by the way side and I’m going to set an example to everyone else and get them out moving and doing things rather than sitting face stuffing.

I think it’s important to keep those energy levels up, it is so easy to fall into a sedentary lifestyle at this time of year, especially if you are off work, if it’s cold, if you have visitors or you are visiting and we all know how hard it can be to get back on track, so the easiest way to keep on track is to not get off it in the first place.

When I’m in danger of feeling resentful that I can’t scoff myself silly I’m going to remember how I’ve made myself feel, I’m going to remember the enthusiasm I have for being slim and I’m going to keep myself upbeat and bubbly and be happy about my achievements and my choices and remind myself I can scoff myself silly if I want but that it will dampen my new found effervescence, my excitement to be alive and I don’t want to lose that, I know thinking like this will have me winning.

F is for Failure

tumblr_mjd5wsnOGZ1qkhwxvo1_500There is no such thing, failure is not an option. If I do fall victim to temptation one day I will accept that I am a human and I will accept that this is what normal people do, they over indulge at this time of year, a vast percentage of them admit that they gain weight at this time of year. I will move on from it and not beat myself up about it, it will only really be a failure if I allow it to change me back to the way I was, if I let it hold me back from making progress. If I fall today I will come back tomorrow stronger and I will work extra hard to correct the wrong I did, I’ll eat even more healthily and I’ll exercise for a few minutes more. I will not beat myself up about it, I will accept that it happened and that fortunately over eating is a mistake I can undo.

Don’t let a little blip ruin all of the good work you’ve done. Avoid it if you can but if it happens roll with it.

G tomorrow for Goose