Never again: Tips to tackle traditional Christmas over-indulgence

A brisk 30-minute walk in the fresh air is very good for your physical health – but also mental health

Hindsight provides us with the perfect answer every time. This is especially true when we are about to face into a new year and we’ve overindulged during the Christmas period. Remorseful and often angry, we ask ourselves, ‘if only . . .”, “what if . . .”, “I’ll never eat or drink as much again . . .”

Sound familiar?

The key to tackling the overeating and over-indulgence associated specifically with alcohol lies in putting together a plan for the festive season; a plan that prepares you for each day so that you have in place the tools and resources to avoid the situations and circumstances that lead to the issues outlined above.

1 Be prepared

Everyone’s circumstances are different. You have parents with small kids, those with teenagers, those with “kids” in college, empty nesters, retirees and the list goes on. The first thing to do is take a sheet of paper and start from Day One – the day all hell breaks loose, which is the first day the kids are off and the school routine is out the window. List each day up to and including the day so-called normality returns when the schools are back.


Even if you’ve no kids in the house, use the kids off school as your rallying call to complete your Christmas activity calendar.

Now mark off the days and events that you know for certain are happening – Christmas dinner, Stephen’s Day dinner, visits to relatives and a friend’s or work party(ies).

Check the list below and on your activity calendar mark those that activities that you will do.

2 Food swaps

Below your Christmas activity calendar, complete a list of food swaps that you can do. Here are five that are pretty easy to do and will have a big impact on your energy levels and waistline:

A) Porridge for cereal: Porridge oats offer way more in terms of nutrition than refined cereals. Oats are 100 per cent natural, are low in fat, and provide soluble fibre which help reduce cholesterol, as well as protein. They are more filling than cereals and can be sweetened naturally with almond milk and/or berries of your choice.

B) Brown pasta for white: This is an easy change, just choose the wholegrain version, it contains fewer calories and has nearly three times as much fibre as white pasta. This helps slow down digestion and improves bowel health. Look for the word "whole" in front of each grain on the ingredients list.

C) Water or milk for juice: The choice is milk or water, that's it. Add some flavour by dropping in a couple of strawberries and/or mint leaves for a weekend treat. Sugary juices are the biggest problem in childhood obesity and over the festive period, you too will end up drinking your fair share. No one will ask for anything else if it isn't there.

D) Black coffee for latte: Milky coffees are full of fat and can contain up to 500 calories in some cases. Skimmed milk takes out the fat but the best daily coffee option is Americano with zero fat and minimal calories. Also, one to two per day should be the maximum intake.

E) Cinnamon for Sugar: If you want to enjoy natural sweetness without the calories try this in coffee or porridge instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners. Cinnamon lowers blood sugar levels and reduces heart disease risk factors.

3 Alcohol consumption

It’s a festive holiday, so drinking patterns change – many people will drink every day and that consumption will increase significantly on certain days and around certain events.

Leaving aside the fact, for those concerned with losing weight, that alcohol interferes with the way the body burns fat and impedes weight loss, what’s of concern is that alcohol lowers inhibitions so extra calories from greasy or fried foods are difficult to avoid. Sleep deprivation is a side effect of alcohol consumption as deep restorative sleep is compromised while alcohol is in the system. Not getting enough rest triggers cravings and the likelihood of eating more calories the following day.

So, substitute sparking water where possible and/or dilute a glass of wine with sparkling water to make a spritzer. The positive impact of this change will amaze you – more energy, better resolve, better mood.

4 Hydration and exercise

On your Christmas activity calendar make sure you mark down 2 litres of water per day. When you zip up your jacket for your 30-minute walk or jog, take a bottle of water with you.

For some, putting the feet up is literally for the entire break. This is a big mistake. Never stop exercising. A 30-minute walk in fresh air is so good and so important as the exposure to daylight is proven to alleviate the condition we know as the Winter Blues. Exercise and hydration is a powerful combination and a great habit to fall into.

When you do go to the local shopping centre you’ll probably walk for 45-60 minutes so make sure you’ve a 500ml bottle of water with you. Plan on having a good healthy meal before leaving and have it in your plan what is for dinner or tea when you get home. Water is a great appetite suppressant and the smell from the food courts can be very tempting.

Count the amount of exercise activities (shopping trips included) you’ve included in your activity calendar.

Well done!

Now roll that forward to post Christmas and plan to keep it up.

Spiced Ginger Cookies

Time: 30 min.

Makes: 10

These cookies are gluten free so would make a lovely gift for someone coeliac too. The recipe makes 10 cookies but feel free to scale it up if you’d like to make extra.

– 50g coconut oil at room temperature (liquid)
– 35g cup coconut sugar
– 2 tbsp molasses
– 1 egg, at room temperature
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 120g almond flour
– 30g coconut flour
– 1/2 tsp baking soda
– 3/4 tsp ground ginger
– 1/2 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp allspice
– 1/4 tsp salt


1) Preheat oven to 175 degrees C.

2) In a large bowl, mix together the coconut oil, coconut sugar, molasses, egg and vanilla extract. (If you have had to heat your coconut oil to liquify it, make sure it is cool before using it and not warm.)

3) Next add in the almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, spices and salt; mix well to combine and form a dough. Leave the dough to rest for a few minutes.

4) Using a dessert spoon pick up small chunks and then use your hands to roll the dough into a ball.

5) Place the cookies on a baking tray lined with an ungreased sheet of parchment paper and gently flatten the dough with your hand. If you want to use Christmas themed

6) Bake for 8-11 minutes and remove from the oven. Allow the cookies to cool on the tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finishing cooling.

Aisling Connolly is co-founder and clinics director of Motivation Weight Management.