Whilst original yuletide feasts were designed to celebrate coming together as communities to nourish and fuel for the coming deep winter months, human’s love of the sweet stuff seems to get a free pass at Christmas. It can even seem conspiratorial when, if you politely decline the stollen cake, you can receive a sideways glance that makes you feel like you’re Scrooge.
Personally, a few years back I reached the limit of feeling like c*&p after each Christmas Day finally arrived – sluggish, head-achy, tetchy and with raging sugar cravings – and longing for when all the so-called ‘Christmas food’ was finally gone. I have a tendency to want to hoover up sugar just to get it out of the way, so this can seem endless with so much around!
For those of us with sugar-addictive tendencies, constantly having it around can be a major source of stress.
Many of my clients get pretty agitated going to meetings where there are always biscuits and the ‘bonding with sugar’ that is so prevalent in offices. With Christmas Cheer in the mix, this can reach dizzy heights and once the will power is used up, the flood gates open up to cries of “it’s only once a year”!
Trouble is, this can leave us feeling pretty self-critical if we’ve been making good strides to care for our health the rest of the year.
So a few years ago I made the conscious choice to not get swept up and treat sugar sources in exactly the same way I usually do ie only have them occasionally because I feel so much healthier, happier and able to cope without them.
Rather than New Year being a depressing clean-up (almost like rehab in my own home!) I began to experience more excitement for the New Year, much less SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) come February and the actual Christmas period came with clarity and calm.
How to cope:
- As the Christmas gears rev up, it’s time to decide how you want to play this or it can creep up on you. Not every day is an extremely good place to start and if you tend to avoid sugar most of the time, decide a weekly level that strikes a good balance between enjoying a festive treat and getting sucked back into a habit you were glad to see the back of.
- When faced with the cake/mince pie/huge tin of sparkly-wrappers chocolates* (*delete as appropriate), step back and give yourself the space to make a truly considered decision. This can be a lifeline of an intervention in offices and at kids’ parties where the sugar seems to constantly flow like Willa Wonka came to town. Give yourself an allowance and only pick the treats you truly love – they should be worth it!
- Enjoy savoury Christmas foods like pates, fine cheese (if you tolerate), gravadlax and going for it with the nut cracker. Those are all great protein sources, which are crucial for keeping blood sugar levels regulated and your ability to resist the mindless sugar fix at bay. Always accompany any alcohol with these to help your liver process it, and yes, alcohol is yet another sugar source!
- Walk away…. Literally go for a walk around the block if possible. Being sedentary, stressed, bored or surrounding by ‘the pack’ won’t allow you to make the decision you will necessarily be pleased with later. Getting moving and striding out (especially into a bit of cold air) can raise metabolism, circulation and clear away the stress hormones that make the sugar seem like a need rather than a want. This will make you feel healthier, a good feeling that can remind you it’s better than a sugar come-down.
- Appreciate other feel-good aspects of the season; wanting sugar is often craving a rush of the feel-good, happy brain chemicals, beta-endorphins. Yet there is so much about this time of year that can produce the same effects: the beauty of Christmas lights, finding just the right present for someone you love, feeling of community, old familiar songs, childhood memories, the absolute delight of children, feeling cosy in the cold and my personal favourites, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and The Muppet Christmas Movie – laughter is the best replacement for sugar!
Christmas Treats without the Payback
These two recipes are great examples of how a sweet treat needn’t be a recipe for recurring sugar roller-coasters to come. Including a host of ingredients like nuts, coconut and cinnamon that actively help our bodies ability to regulate blood sugar levels and manage cravings really help limit damage. A treat is only really a treat when it doesn’t leave us feeling rubbish after.
|Cashew Nut Gingerbread Ice Cream||Almond pastry mini mince pies|