Healthy Christmas A-Z Part 6

We’re rattling through these now. I asked my kids and Nick to give me a word each for the next three letters and I promised to find a way to link that to healthy eating or healthy living somehow. So here goes with the latest in the A-Z of things to help me keep on track this Christmas and things I’ve used in the past to help me cope and see a weight loss over the festive period.

L is for Love

Well I only need refer you to my last post for you to know that love is a big feature of Christmas this year. Nick gave me this one, I think he’s as soppy as I am right now.

I thought about this and love is the reason I started out on this healthy lifestyle journey. I love my kids and I didn’t want to die and leave them too soon. Simple as that. Love is a strong motivator and if you download (6)are trying to find a reason to start a healthy lifestyle then you could do worse than to find some love to motivate you. Your kids, your family, your job, your love for yourself, your love of the outdoors … anything. Try to find a motivator which will give you more time to love, more ability to love, more likelihood of loving… anything, love really does help.

Love for yourself came to my mind and I thought about how I hated myself before I started this and when I started this and how that has changed and how much I love and respect myself and my body now and how I don’t want to let that change, I don’t want to hate me again. So just being mindful of the love I have for myself now and all of the blessings that has brought will help me to say no to over indulging or skipping exercise.

download (7)
Love Christmas Reading

Also having people you love to do things with that distract you from food cravings will also help you anytime of year but at this time why not identify when your weak spots are likely to be, for me at night when we’re sitting as a family preparing to a watch a movie, and do something else together. We do family reading every week so try that, get out a book of festive poems or an old favourite Christmas children’s story, read a chunk of Dicken’s Christmas Carol or get the bible out. Reading makes you less likely to pursue a food craving especially if you are the one who is doing the reading. It’s also lovely quality family time to sit cosied up having a story together no matter how old you or your loved ones are.

I also thought about love gainers and love losers. When I’m in a relationship, especially a new one I tend to lose weight because I have other things to comfort my stresses and I am orally fixated (I fit right into the Freudian stereotype) and so I get to talk more and kiss more and stuff like that which stops me from needing to cram food in my mouth.  But I know some are love gainers, they get into a relationship and BAM! 21lbs piles on from nowhere.

Weight Watchers worked for me in the past but I don’t do break up diets I do break up face stuffing

I think for some of my friends this has been the start of a yo-yo, where they do the break up diet, then they have the relationship gain, then the break up diet, the relationship gain and each time they gain more and more and their dependence on relationships becomes less and less healthy and they become less and less choosey and the partners become less and less desirable and the break ups become more and more harsh and the weight gain becomes heavier and heavier and the break up diets become less and less successful. I could point out at least 3 friends right now who fall into this pattern. It’s sad and I try to advise them to spend some time alone, try to get the break up diet into full swing, let it start to build good habits, let it get them to slim rather than lose a few pounds, build a little confidence and dive on the first man who looks your way, move him in within ten days and then wonder why things aren’t working after four weeks and you’re breaking up again. But they’re in as bad a cycle as obesity can bring about and it’s truly awful when that cycle adds obesity to their problems. They need to find strength to get out of it, advice isn’t going to make a difference.

Sure but don’t let your partner know that

So… love (TMI alert now)… if you’re in it, keep an eye on the waistline, spend time doing more fun things like using up some calories in the bedroom, yeeee ha! You know what I’m saying, but please don’t do like me and stop thinking about the emotional activity and start trying to isolate muscles and consider how they must be working right now and switch positions to get a more even work out on the corresponding set of muscles (Yep I do that… am I alone? I don’t think so, I hope not anyway). But yeah, get some loving going on, get the pulse rate up and a sweat happening.

And don’t forget, it’s so much more sexy feeding each other strawberries than slices of pie on the kitchen floor by fridge light at midnight too.

If you’re breaking up, keep on that break up plan and don’t stop when the first guy looks at you, get that healthy eating and exercise embedded for life and leave seriousness with guys until you’ve completely washed the last one out of your hair and you want a relationship with someone because you are ready to be with someone not because you can’t think of anything to fill the space your last habit left.

M is for Mince Pies

My daughter gave me this one. For anyone who doesn’t know a mince pie is something we eat traditionally at Christmas, it’s a shortcrust pastry filled with all of those fruits we would have

Mince Pies
Mince Pies

traditionally dried and preserved in the summer to see us through the winter. So they are filled with what we call mincemeat (not to be mistaken for minced meat which is animal flesh pressed through little holes). Mincemeat is made of things like sultanas and any other dried berries and cherries and citrus peel and suet. It used to contain little pieces of veal or beef hence it being called mincemeat but it no longer does. It is infused with those typical winter spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg and often brandy. Christmas is not Christmas in the UK until the first mince pie has been baked or bought and consumed.

They are full of calories and fat. Suet (even though it’s a small amount), the fermented sugars in the fruit, the lard and butter in the pastry and then the custard or cream you dollop on top. I can’t avoid them at Christmas, I just can’t. It is such a tradition that I have to have some. Here’s what I do to make it less of a monster on the waist line:

I make a large tart, like an open pie in a tray bake pan. I use a very thin crisp pre-baked pastry case to minimise the amount of fat and calories coming from the pastry. So I make my pastry reducing the fat

Tray Bake Mince Pie Fingers
Tray Bake Mince Pie Fingers. These were made using a flaky patry and topped with little stars which still reduces the amount of pastry but gives a nice appearance and you could always take the star off your own.

from  half fat to flour to a third and blind bake it. This makes the pastry more crisp but who cares, it’s pastry.

Then I add my mincemeat and I tend to make my own without the suet and I mush it all together and stick it in a jar at the end of summer and fasten it up tight and leave it in a cupboard to do its thing. I add (to a big mason jar) two teaspoons of brown muscovado sugar and a tablespoon of brandy. If you buy it have a good read of the labels and check what is in it and the fat content.

This is not 100% healthy but it’s better than shop bought. I put a thin layer into my pastry case about a centimeter to a centimeter and half deep (1/2 – 3/4 of an inch) and then I pop in the oven again for about 10 minutes just to warm and let the mince spread out into all the nooks and crannies. Then I cut off the excess pastry sides so as to continue to minimise that pastry consumption and I serve it in small squares or thin fingers. For other

Less pastry on your mince pie, make a festive shape instead of a full lid
Less pastry on your mince pie, make a festive shape instead of a full lid

people I sprinkle with icing sugar. For myself I don’t. I might eat it on its own or I might have a tiny teaspoon of ice cream with it, or a teaspoon of cream drizzled on to it. You could also do like the picture on the left above and add some pastry stars or you could reduce the amount of pastry by sticking to the traditional bake and making a christmas shape on top instead of a full lid as in the picture on the right.

It gives me my fix and stops me feeling like I missed out. I’ll allow myself a couple of pieces, so I will make this on Tuesday and I’ll have a piece that same day and another maybe on Christmas evening.

Really the point of this part of the post is to say that you don’t have to go without what you enjoy at this time of year, you can either just throw caution to the wind and scoff them back, limit yourself to a regular one, or find an alternative way to enjoy the treat that isn’t going to do as much harm as a regular one or just stay clear of the things you know you have a problem with but don’t make yourself miserable or feel like you’re depriving yourself. In my experience if I’ve done that I’ve only let it eat away at me and ended up having a huge binge.

So, at the end of the day I will have two pieces of this but even if I had two regular pies (they are small pies) that would not be anywhere near as bad as last year when I probably ate about twenty of them over the festive period. So even if I ate six it would be an improvement.

Make sure you get that perspective on your eating when you are making choices at this time of  year or any time of  year where food may be an unwelcome hurdle to overcome. If you’ve been living clean and healthy you will find that you make better choices without thinking about it and that you are more restrained than you realised anyway and as I’ve said elsewhere you will feel the bad effects of rubbish food very quickly and attune yourself to those. Your body sends you signals for a reason they are a warning sign and they can be a powerful motivator. You are no longer used to feeling bloated, to having gas emissions exploding out of both ends, you don’t know what indigestion or heart burn medication is anymore and your bowel function has probably been pretty uneventful, those nasty things coming back into your life can be a major shock telling you to get back on track fast.

N is for nuts

My son gave me this one. Nuts, shelled nuts, are a real British tradition too at this time of year. Many homes will have a big bowl of them on display when they don’t usually have so much as a peanut for the birds hanging around the garden.

download (8)Nuts are super good for you so eat them! Go for nuts rather than chocs and pies and cake when you are visiting friends BUT do not over indulge. Not only do nuts contain a lot of oil (fat, much of which is good fat) some of them can be quite toxic if consumed in high doses.

One year I munched my way through a ton of Brazil nuts (chocolate coated of course) and I ended up confined to my bed for three days with the most intense debilitating head ache, extreme lethargy and such a thirst for water that I nearly drank London dry. I put it down to stress or a virus but when I finally made it to my doctor and described my symptoms he asked if I’d eaten and nuts and when I told him which nut and how many he laughed and said I’d poisoned myself and I was lucky because I could have actually poisoned myself to death! Who’d have thought it? So please take care.

My Christmas Nemesis
My Christmas Nemesis

Here’s a great little item that contains all you need to know from Super Human Coach.

I love to eat nuts with cheese and grapes. I like to keep a strict eye on the amount of dairy I eat as that is where more or less all of my animal fat consumption comes from on a daily basis. At Christmas what has worked for me in the past is saving up my daily cheese allowance so that I can enjoy a little dabble on a cheese board but I do make my selection and take it away I never sit and chop and eat, that is dangerous for me. If I’m stuck at a table I will pass the board away from me once I’ve got what I want.

Fabulously attractive cheese board. This is one of my major temptations.
Fabulously attractive cheese board. This is one of my major temptations.

What I will do though is fill up with fruits, grapes, apple slices or whatever, a little cheese and a few nuts. Again as with other things I savour every morsel, I don’t bolt it down and I don’t put it onto crackers I just savour those flavours and thank God I’m alive.

If you are doing the entertaining or preparing a cheeseboard for your family include a variety of nuts in small bowls and go heavy on the fruits and be less indulgent with the cheeses, either use smaller pieces of more cheeses or use bigger pieces of fewer cheeses and include some fat free varieties if you can or reduced fat or mix up some zero fat cream cheese with some chopped chives, olives or gherkins. Keep the crackers minimal too and again look for zero fat and low calorie options, ryvita, rice cakes and crisp rolls for example.

Nuts and seeds are one of my daily essentials anyway but they are usually ground up in my morning

Make it more basic and add nuts and lots of chopped fruit
Make it more basic and add nuts and lots of chopped fruit

granola or sprinkled onto something or into something so it’s quite nice to have a few that are still whole and crunchy and I go for those which are harder to get out of the shell so that the whole process takes me longer to accomplish which allows my stomach to register that it maybe isn’t that empty after all, especially if the cheese board comes out as a dessert or a penultimate course before coffee.

So don’t avoid nuts, educate yourself about them and don’t over indulge on them either. They’re a festive treat not to be missed but not to kill yourself with either.

This was a big one, shorter tomorrow starting with O and running on to R.