It’s easy to fall into the trap of fad diets to lose weight quickly for the festive season. You want to look your best on the beach, after all. But how can you keep momentum when a December in Mzansi is also a whole lifestyle of temptation and unhealthy choices?
Cape Town mother of three Nthabiseng Itebogeng (37) has been fighting temptation hard this year to meet her body goals for the summer. “In January I started walking more, and I usually do it for about an hour. When I get home, I do some cardio exercises,” she says.
She tells Health For Mzansi that small changes like taking no sugar in her tea and drinking more water have yielded great results. A few guilty pleasures remain though, and these include cookies and her beloved Savanna. “I make sure I drink a lot of water, and I also started counting calories to make sure that I stay disciplined. I am noticing a difference in my body shape and my favourite dresses are also beginning to fit again.”
Healthy mind, healthy choices
A healthy mindset is key to keeping momentum this season and allows you to enjoy your favourite foods, explains registered dietitian Lynne Mincher.
“Year-end brings with it an abundance of our favourite foods and many moments of indulgence,” says Mincher. She warns that it is easy to fall into the trap. “Summertime holidays herald parties and the pressure of summer bodies can lead to crash diets that do more harm than good.”
Mincher is the marketing manager for Nestlé Health Science.
Eastern Cape registered dietitian Eunice Mpehlo, who practises in Gqeberha, echoes her sentiments and adds that restricting your food intake and avoiding hunger signs leads to binge eating. “When you practise intuitive eating, you become more aware of what triggers emotional hunger and eating, and learn to make less reactive food choices.”
Intuitive eating means shifting the focus from diet culture to making beneficial and sustainable health choices. “Our bodies can want different things from day to day, so being able to identify the ‘sweet spot’ is key to making intuitive food decisions,” Mpehlo explains.
In moments where you are more vulnerable to compromise your daily nutritional requirements, indulge in moderation, suggests Mincher.
Mincher shares five tips to help keep Mzansi on track this festive season:
Know your ABCs
Healthy eating doesn’t need to be complicated and all you need are the basics. “Always eat fruit and vegetables as they are packed with nutrients that will help keep you fuller for longer,” advises Mincher.
Load up on your proteins, including legumes, nuts, seeds and fish. These help build and maintain bones and skin. She adds that dairy is a great source of protein, so keep them low-fat and unflavoured.
Keep it light
Instead of binge eating, rather nibble on light food such as salad, soup and fruit to give your body nutrients without overloading it with calories. Consider snacking before eating heartier foods, so that you don’t overeat.
Carbs are not your enemy
Not all carbs are bad. If they are high in fibre or wholegrain like wholewheat pastas, brown rice or potatoes with their skin on, then they are good for you. “When preparing meals, try to go for alternative cooking methods whenever possible such as boiling, steaming, grilling and baking instead of deep frying, to avoid unnecessary saturated fats,” says Mincher.
Skipping meals does more harm than good. Keep consistent by having a regular meal schedule this season. “Going without a meal can lead to a drop in blood sugar levels; leaving you feeling lethargic and even irritable.” Rather replace meals with a smoothie, she further suggests.
You are likely to trade your running shoes for your dancing heels this season. Don’t. Keep going and don’t wait until January to work off the festive eating blunders.
Mincher suggests a short, brisk walk, light strength training or some yoga. This will not only boost your energy levels but can also help relieve some of that holiday stress.