December time each year in the Philippines is always a festive time, with Christmas parties coming out of our ears. The saying ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines’ describes this time perfectly. We let our hair down after a long year, celebrate good times with friends, family and colleagues by indulging in comfort foods and alcohol. Gimmick time with our Barkada!
However, in amongst treating ourselves, this can also lead to unwanted weight gain. Leaving all our hard work in the gym to waste, with the endless temptations available to us.
Here are 10 tips to keep in mind when indulging in another buffet or making quento over a bucket or two of San Mig Lights during X-mas time:
- Drink Plenty of Water
The more water you drink during the day and before mealtime, the less hungry you will feel when you eat. This results in consuming less food and fewer calories that you take in. Keeping hydrated will prevent or help with hangovers, and provide you with the energy to get into the gym the next day. Also, drinking water during mealtime instead of juices, ice tea, soda and alcohol will reduce excess calorie intake.
- Exercise Daily
So simple and obvious, but you would be surprised by how many people neglect this when they’re curled up in bed with a hangover or in a food coma. Any exercise is good exercise, whether it’s going for a walk, run, bike or lifting weights in the gym, this will keep your metabolism firing to burn all the food you have been eating or before the feast.
- Pace Yourself
Filipinos love to eat and parties predominantly revolve around food. Instead of eating as much as you can within the first half an hour of arrival, spread your meals out into small portions over the event and chew slowly. There is usually an over-abundance of food, so don’t worry you shouldn’t miss out on your favorites if you adopt this strategy. The same applies to alcoholic beverages, moderate them with water in between.
- Strategise the Buffet
Buffet food service in the Philippines is almost mandatory at parties, which gives people the license to lose track of what they eat and consume too much. Firstly, opt for the smaller plate, then limit the number of food choices on the plate to the dishes you really want, keep the rest to simple foods such as vegetables and fruit. The same applies for dessert, pick one or two of the types you want the most, if still hungry opt for fruit.
- Pick Protein
The more protein you eat the more full you will become, and the fewer tendencies you will have to eat junk food. We all know protein helps with muscle growth and recovery, so load up on this first. Protein enriched foods include chicken, beef, pork, lamb, fish, eggs, dairy and beans.
- Avoid Added Sugar
I know sometimes it’s impossible to avoid sugar completely, but you can make simple food choices that minimize your sugar intake. We all love our sweets, such as cakes, halo-halo, leche flan, yema, buko salad and ube (mouth is salivating thinking of these). If you are craving sweets, then try to just take a small taste of a few desserts you like and then fill up on the natural sugar foods such as fruits and camote. It is important to keep our sugar intake low, as studies have shown excess consumption can lead to weight gain and many other health risks.
- Increase Fiber Intake
Eating foods that are high in fiber such as vegetables, beans, oats and fruits, are necessary for proper digestion and keep you feeling full. Dishes with dark green leafy vegetables, talong, carrots, broccoli, ampalaya, camote, malunggay and monggo provide high amounts of fiber. Fruits such as bananas, pineapples, papaya, buko, berries, watermelon and apples are sweet choices, which will keep you regular, even if you indulge in the not so good treats.
- Beware Rice and the like
Probably, the most taboo subject on this list, but don’t worry I’m not suggesting to stop eating it at all. Rice will forever be a staple of the Filipino diet, this will never change, and we accept this as part of our lifestyle. However, we must learn the effect it has on the body. Rice, white bread and white pasta are excellent for providing high amounts of energy quickly, but this spike in blood sugar is short lived as digestion occurs quicker than other foods. Leaving us feeling hungrier, faster. Ever feel sleepy after a big meal with rice? This is your body coming down from the blood sugar high.
To minimize this feeling, start by cutting your rice intake by half and compensate with whole grain starchy foods that add more nutritional value such as brown rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice, squash and camote. Also, as mentioned previously, increasing protein intake, will leave you feeling fuller for longer. This way you can still enjoy your rice and try the many delicious alternatives available.
- More Sleep
The more restful sleep you get the less stress your body will be under and a reduction in appetite. Studies have shown there is an association with a lack of sleep and weight gain. So avoid eating too close to bed time and make sure you make up the hours of sleep lost, from late nights out.
Stress is something that can occur in us regularly throughout our busy lives. When we become stressed, our bodies go into a survival mode, it responds by increasing levels of a stress hormone called cortisol. This sudden influx of cortisol causes an increase in appetite, in response, we may reach for high-calorie comfort foods, known as stress or emotional eating.
To get a handle on stress, means we are more likely to control what we eat and continue healthy habits. A few things we can do to keep our stress levels low are physical activity, relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga and stretching, get more sleep and doing your favorite activities or hobbies.
Christmas time is a joyful occasion, there should be no reason to be stressing but to appreciate another year of growth and memories. We all deserve to treat ourselves and it is possible to keep in shape and healthy, while we do it. So, go on and enjoy yourself! Kain na tayo!