When it’s dark & cold and you’re tired, busy, stressed, feeling the pressure of Christmas, needing an energy-lift, what do you do? Reach for a pick-me-up, a quick-fix? What is your go-to? Chocolate, biscuits, cake, another coffee, crisps, bread, a glass of wine? Does it really do the job and produce the results we are after? Do we feel lifted, energised, de-stressed and ready for action after we cram a few biscuits in? How can we find energy and motivation and feel great this Christmas?
Of course, there is nothing wrong with a biscuit or a glass of wine. We all need to enjoy life. But when we are reaching for them because we are exhausted and stressed and need a pick-me-up, we don’t get the results we are actually wanting. If anything, we feel worse and the knock-on effect can be that we reach for more… and more. And so, the rollercoaster continues of our blood sugar being spiked and crashing and we “need” something to spike it again. It is extremely difficult to get off this roller-coaster. I don’t know many people who don’t crave sugar, salt and pick-me-ups at some point in their day or week. It is a mental battle that many people face.
So, how can we help ourselves? Will-power and diets are notoriously ineffective as long-term solutions. Understanding how our body works is a great motivator, and then taking small and realistic steps to slowly change our daily habits will have a great impact. The ultimate goal here is levelling out our blood sugar so it is not spiking and crashing. Levelling off your blood sugar spikes and troughs will have a massive effect on most areas of your physical, mental and emotional health.
It all starts in the GUT! Our guts are incredible and impact on all areas of our lives, not just our digestion. Did you know that Serotonin, the hormone that stabilises mood and creates a sense of wellbeing and happiness, is produced in the gut!! A happy gut can mean a happy head and heart.
As the days grow darker and possibly busier and certainly more full of sugar and booze, here are some simple changes and challenges to help you stay energised and happy during this season :-
Starting your day right – Do you notice if you start your day with something sweet or lots of coffee, you feel a bit rubbish all day and are more likely to reach for sweet foods mid-morning? The best start to the day is a big glass of water (maybe with some squeezed lemon) to wake your digestive system up and get some fresh fluid in to it. Then try to eat a breakfast with plenty of protein, for example eggs, fish or porridge with Greek yoghurt. This will fill you up for longer and make you less likely to reach for snacks.
Exercise – moving your body every day is key to helping your gut and cells keep moving and working to digest food and repair where needed. It also releases serotonin which lifts and stabilises your mood. Keep moving and heading out in to the lovely sunshine when possible.
Sugar – Our bodies were not made to process sugar. Only in the last 40 years of human existence have they had to deal with sugar, and it is in everything! This month, where possible, try to become mindful of your sugar intake. Look at labels and aim to only eat food that has less than 5g of sugar per 100g. You’ll be amazed how many foods have sweet ingredients in them. And when you stop eating sugar, the desire for sweet food disappears. You will be amazed!
Protein – include some protein in every meal. It will fill you up. We don’t tend to over-indulge on protein – do you pig out on salmon, eggs, beans or plain yogurt? Your body is good at regulating and processing protein – it tells you when you’re full and keeps you full for longer.
Processed foods – again our bodies are not designed to deal with processed foods. Look at labels this week and try to eat food that only has ingredients that are natural and that you recognise. The less ingredients the better!
Know your body and personality type – this is a big one and requires some self-reflection about both your natural tendencies and what patterns and choices serve you best and also your natural body shape and composition and what you should realistically be aiming for. We are all different and it is important to embrace the beautiful personality and body that you have been given and find rhythms that work well for you.
Ending your day right – eat dinner early and snack on oats before bed if you need something to feel full and get you through the night. You know the drill with switching off in the evening, winding down, not looking at a screen – allow your body and mind to rest and optimise your sleep.
Sleep – feeling rested is the most fundamental building block to developing healthy habits and feeling positive about yourself and your life. Prioritise good sleep!
Be kind to yourself! Find ways to love yourself and pursue your passions or give yourself a break, put your feet up, walk in the woods and breath deeply, ride your bike and feel the wind on your face, lie in a deep bubble bath, go for a coffee with a friend, do some mindfulness exercises.
Eat for health – embrace colours, flavours and lots of vegetables in your cooking!
It really is possible to give up sugar, find freedom from cravings, renew your energy and motivation, reduce disease and inflammation, and to find, embrace and exist within your natural body weight range, and all without too much effort. Small, manageable lifestyle choices can have a big impact. Choose to love your body and mind.
Through understanding how our body and gut work and by making some simple changes, we really can grow & flourish physically, mentally & emotionally. If you feel you need some support with this, I am happy to help you come up with a plan and coach you through some simple tools and strategies that will set you up for reaching long-term sustainable health goals.
I’m including a flapjack recipe because you deserve a treat sometimes. These are a good starting point in reducing refined sugar intake and including protein in your snacks. Enjoy!
100g maple syrup
125g peanut butter
200g porridge oats
100g dried fruit or nuts (optional)
Line a 20cm square tin. Melt the wet ingredients together. Add the dry ingredients. Bake at 160 for approximately 30mins. Leave to cool and set before cutting up.
You can find more recipes like this on IG @beccafooddiaries
I will see you back here in 2022 but for now have a fantastic christmas.