Year in, year out, a lot of us come out of the holidays barely surviving. A whirlwind month, our Decembers are dotted with social functions apart from the end-of-year reports, shopping and errands. For us in Metro Manila, the entire holiday craze is exacerbated by massive traffic jams and choosy drivers that the season is almost an experience of Calvary instead of Bethlehem.
However, if there is one activity associated with the season which we need to pay closer attention to, it’s the feasting. Why? Because it directly and almost instantly affects our health.
Here are some practical tips to survive the holiday feasting without feeling too deprived.
1 – Eat before going to the buffet.
Yes, you read that right. Have a light snack before making the beeline to the buffet because this way, you are partially satiated and you won’t be overwhelmed by the spread.
Oftentimes, the moment we see the wide spread at a buffet, our senses are stimulated and we begin to lose our bearings only to end up having copious amounts of leftovers. Not cool. Wisely navigate a buffet by first going around and inspecting the offers before you put servings on your plate.
Skip the carbs too at a buffet and prioritize the premium items that you rarely order from the a la carte menu. Personally, I have my cheeses at the end because if I start with the cheeses, I would easily get full.
2- Don’t be lazy. Keep to your workout routine.
For Ton Vergel de Dios, founder of Sparta Calisthenics Academy, desserts such as halo halo and sansrival are his weaknesses. The calisthenics coach and vocalist for punk band Hansom also looks forward to his mom’s turkey and stuffing. But Vergel de Dios says that just because you’re enjoying the festivities, it’s “lame to suspend your routine this month and start again in January.”
He adds, “Working out and keeping fit should be year round and should help you mentally sharp as well as healthy and fit. If you do plan to binge, you can skip breakfast and work out hard. It's okay to celebrate but remember that balance is the key to a healthy mind and body.”
3 – Be on a real holiday
Nicole Tantoco de los Reyes is a sucker for lechon, queso de bola, roast beef, and desserts and the holidays are a time when her dietary discipline is really challenged. Coming from a family of retailers, de los Reyes shares that this time of the year is also a crucial, peak season when events, promotions and operations are on full-throttle.
“It’s a time of socializing and great family bonding. These are all great but they take their toll after a while. It’s important to take some time off for yourself and practice a ‘self-care’ routine. For example, I make sure to get some time off social media and read good books.”
“Get enough sleep since you’re less likely to overeat if you are well-rested, drink a lot of water, and maintain your regular exercise routine. The holidays can challenge healthy eating habits and self-discipline for sure and I just accept that it’s impossible to be too strict about my eating but I try my best to follow my routine,” de los Reyes says.
4 – Learn to say “No, thank you”… even to your skinny jeans.
How many times were you herded to sample Tita Baby’s leche flan or Tito Boy’s roasted calf even if you just came from a lunch hosted by your grandparents? Imagine the succession of big family meals on the 24th to the 25th of December. Just thinking of the sequence of parties can be nauseating.
“Just know yourself, practice politely saying ‘no’ and not feeling bad about it. Don’t waste food and share the excess with the needy,” de los Reyes says.
Vincent Gullas, MD reminds that “people develop two common digestive problems during Christmas – indigestion and heartburn. When you stuff down so much of that lechon to the point that your stomach can’t accommodate, pressure builds up quickly and the side-effects make you truly inconvenient.”
How does one manage the binging?
“The best way to manage binging during the Christmas season is to take things in moderation. It’s an age-old nugget of wisdom a lot of people conveniently forget. Know yourself and your stomach’s limits.”
“Try to avoid alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, high fat and spicy food, and of course, smoking. Finally, even if wearing a pair tight pants seems to be the best option for your Christmas get-up, if you plan to binge, best to leave your skinny jeans in the closet as these can trigger acid reflux and heartburn,” Gullas adds.
5 – Conquer the boozing
With parties scheduled even on week nights, you can’t afford getting too drunk and having hangover. Alcohol is mercurial: it can be tame, vengeful, subtle or robust. Avoid drinking alone and have it while you’re sitting down with friends because the moment you start drinking alone, with pint on hand, you’ll drink quicker and well, get drunk easier.
Before sipping that red or relishing the bubbly, have some protein, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables in your tummy because “with the right food in your stomach, alcohol is absorbed more slowly and its effects on your head will take more time as compared to drinking on an empty tummy”, emphasizes Gullas.