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Monthly Archives: December 2008
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Merry Christmas to all The Office Diet’s readers!

I’m going to be away for a week or so, and the next update here on The Office Diet will be a round up of some of the blog’s 2008 highlights as we head into the new year.

I wanted to wish all of you a very merry Christmas: wherever you are with your healthy living goals, be proud of what you’ve achieved, and of what you have planned for 2009. Have a very happy time, however you’re celebrating, and you have my wholehearted permission to completely forget about calories, diets, nutrition and everything else Office-Diety on Christmas day (I know I’ll be tucking into chocolate as soon as I’ve opened my stocking… ;-))

Merry Christmas!

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Avoiding food-stress with relatives over Christmas

There are two big groups of people who we “have” to associate with in life, whether we like it or not.

One of these – your colleagues – are people who you probably won’t see much of for a week or two.

They’re going to be replaced, though, by the other group – who you might be seeing for longer than at any other point during 2008: your relatives.

So how can you make sure that your relatives don’t have a negative effect on your bodily and mental health this Christmas?

Accept that relatives may not understand your diet

Even if you’re trying to stick to a stringent diet over Christmas, be willing to relax on occasion. If your sister-in-law refuses to grasp the concept of “vegetarian”, insisting that “turkey’s a bird, not an animal”, don’t go into your meat-is-evil rant. Just stick with the veggies and potatoes, and make up for the lack of protein later on.

Don’t obsess – but do stay in control of what you put in your mouth

If you’re counting calories religiously, try not to worry too much when you’re being fed by relatives. Don’t by any means feel obliged to clear your plate, but don’t insist that they provide an entirely separate meal for you, either. If you’re being urged to eat something that you really don’t want (a giant slab of cake, for instance), simply say that you’re full and you might have some later.

Remember to follow the same sort of guidelines as you would with cookie-pushing colleagues: even if it’s your mom this time, screaming “Are you trying to make me fat?” is unlikely to make Christmas go smoothly.

Let other people eat what they like

When you’re the one paying host, especially to relatives with young children, do not under any circumstances comment on what the kids do/don’t eat. Sure, you might be rearing yours to avoid artificial sweeteners and E-numbers, but it’s just not good manners to remark on someone else’s parenting. If the kids turn their noses up at what’s put in front of them, ask their mum or dad what you should offer them instead. You might be appalled at their behaviour, but it’s not worth getting into a fight with your relatives over it.

The same goes for older relatives who are picky eaters. If your annoying brother always refuses to eat brussel sprouts, don’t make a big deal about it. If your (very rotund) uncle eats six helpings of Christmas pudding, resist the urge to comment on the growing similarity between him and the pudding…

Above all, enjoy spending time with your family this Christmas; don’t let food turn into a battle ground. The main thing is that you, and your relatives, should be able to eat what you like without negative comments from others.

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Keeping up your exercise routine over Christmas

If you’ve been reading The Office Diet for a while, you’ve probably noticed that my advice on exercise is often “fit it into your regular routine”. I advocate things like:

  • Cycling or walking to work
  • Going out for a walk with colleagues in your lunch hour
  • Fitting in a gym session at lunch or on your way home

…and so on. The problem here is that when it gets to Christmas and a few days away from the office, your exercise routine is likely to go out of the window.

I know that I’ll need to make an effort to keep up with exercising over Christmas. My regular exercise currently involves:

  • Walking to and from college (a total of an hour, and much of it up and down hills!) three days a week
  • Cycling to my childminding job twice a week (about forty five minutes there and back), and walking the kids home from school (about ten minutes)
  • Going to the gym three times most weeks (this sometimes gets shunted aside for extra childminding and running errands, but at least both are active!)

If you work full time in an office, you may get most of your exercise at around 8am and 5pm. This could present problems when Christmas comes and you end up enjoying long lie-ins and lazy afternoons in from of the television, or when you spend most of the day in the car, travelling for hours to visit some relatives who you’re just glad you can avoid for 364 days of the year…

So how can you keep up with semi-regular exercise when your days are following an unpredictable pattern?

Here are a few things I plan to do:

  • Manage at least half an hour’s activity every day, even if it’s just a stroll round the block or a big blitz on the housework.
  • Go for a walk every day when staying with relatives.
  • Try to fit in at least two gym sessions per week whilst at home.

As well as those “routine” exercises, I’d like to use the Christmas period as an excuse to try out some fun activities too. I’ve not been ice-skating for years, and though I know I’m terrible at it, I also know I’ll have a lot of fun!

Good luck sticking to some semblance of an exercise routine over the Christmas period; remember that doing something is better than doing nothing, and that a brisk half-hour’s walk every day can make all the difference to your health and happiness by the time 2008 rolls into 2009…

(Image above by fiskfisk)

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Staying motivated over the Christmas period

As December draws on, it gets harder and harder to stick to healthy eating and exercising plans. But staying somewhat motivated will really help you to stay fit and unstressed during the busy holiday period. If you’re finding your enthusiasm waning fast, try some of these:

Keep a food diary

Something I usually find in the run-up to Christmas is that the usual cookies, sweeties and cakes that occasionally appear in the office are a far more regular feature than usual. It’s so easy to just pick up a couple of cookies, or a handful of chocolates, when getting a cuppa – and all those little snacks add up, almost unnoticed, throughout the day.

Writing down everything you eat might seem like an extra hassle that you just don’t need during December, but it will do wonders for your willpower. It’s much easier to resist those chocolates when you know there’ll be a record in black and white…

Focus on good choices, not perfect ones

It’s very easy to fall into an all-or-nothing mindset when tackling a big goal like weight-loss or getting fit. Remember that it’s always better to do something towards your goal than nothing. You’re unlikely to be able to stick to a rigid diet plan during the holiday period, but that doesn’t mean you should give up entirely on healthy eating. When you have a choice over what to eat, go for the options which are good for your body.

Don’t worry about being perfect: a mince pie here and there won’t turn you into a Christmas pudding … but try not to let your good eating habits go entirely out of the window. Sticking to a healthy breakfast and avoiding sweets before lunch will help you stay motivated for the rest of the day.

Do some exercise

I’m always more likely to make healthy food choices if I’ve been to the gym: I don’t want to waste all that hard work by stuffing myself with sugary, fatty snacks! Exercise will boost your mood, give you an appetite for proper, filling foods (like wholegrains and lean proteins) instead of junk, and will help you to feel good about your body – all great ways to stay motivated.

If you’re really struggling to stay away from the office cookie jar, why not escape for a quick walk? Or if that’s going to cause your boss/manager to raise hell, get busy with running some errands around the building – perhaps catching up with your photocopying, or finally returning that CD you borrowed from someone on the next floor up. Don’t forget to take the stairs…

Want more tips to get you through the Christmas period? Grab The Office Diet’s RSS feed – or pop your email address in the box on the top right to get posts delivered straight to your inbox.

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Exercise gear for your Christmas list?

The Times newspaper had an interesting list of Fitness products which you can use at work this week.

The USB stepper sounds intriguing; if you stop stepping, your keyboard and mouse stop working (I suspect that I would use this to avoid both exercise and work, however…)

Some of the gear could be a bit annoying to your colleagues (the wobble-board to stand on, for instance), depending on your office set up. The air desk mentioned, however, really caught my attention as a potentially great way to rig up your laptop alongside exercise equipment – not too office-friendly in many cases, I’d imagine, but could be ideal if you work from home and have a dusty exercise bike tucked away that you rarely use…

Ultimately, though, my view is that these items are little more than fun gizmos; of course, doing something is better than nothing, but for ideal results, you want to be doing exercise that leaves you out of breath and sweating — not a state likely to endear you to your colleagues!

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Good Christmas snack foods for healthy dieters

Resist the urge to stock up on bags of crisps (chips), boxes of cookies and tubs of chocolates: if you’ve got them in the house, you’re likely to end up digging into them – even if you’re supposedly saving them for when guests come round, or for when you need a hostess gift.

Instead, look out for some yummy and healthy snacks, to enjoy yourself during December, or to serve at holiday parties.

A few great ones are:

Olives – much healthier than crisps, and lower in calories than nuts. They contain monounsaturated fat, which is great for your heart. The strong flavour means you won’t munch them like other snack foods. Buy stoned varieties to slow your eating even more.

Shelled nuts – although nuts are good for you, they’re high in calories so you should only eat small portions. This is easier said than done (especially when faced with a bowl of cashews). Try buying shelled nuts, like pistachios; these take much longer to eat since you’ll need to remove the shell from each and every one…

Spicy foods – another trick for slower snacking is to buy spicy nibbles, as it’s hard to eat too many of these without feeling like you’re breathing fire! Spicy Bombay mix is often a good one, as it contains healthy ingredients like lentils, split peas, peanuts and dried fruit.

Dark chocolate – if you must have chocolate, go for some rich, dark chocolate; the flavour is intense enough that you’ll be satisfied with just a small piece. For a low-calorie alternative to after-dinner chocs, try serving Amoretti biscuits or biscotti with coffee.

Satsumas – I love the sweet, juicy flavour of Satsumas, which are in season here in the UK, and on offer in most supermarkets. They make a palate-cleansing alternative to richer snacks, and look nice presented as part of a table centre-piece, perhaps with other seasonal fruits too.