What a Christmas Meal does to the body
Christmas is upon us and at Skelian we embraced the festive season with a staff Christmas meal a tad early in the last week of November. We went to Cote Brasserie in Cheltenham and had a lovely evening catching up with the whole team. We were served a delicious three course meal. “Isn’t that the point of Christmas?”, I hear you say. While it’s true that traditionally the festive period has been centred around a feast of Turkey with all the trimmings on Christmas day; nowadays it seems that right from the 1st of December (or in our case even earlier) we are confronted with almost daily Christmas indulgences. Now don’t get me wrong, we love Christmas treats but the question is, does the body?
The impact of calories
Well the 5,000 calorie average is enough to fuel almost two days of hiking in the Himalayas according to a recent South African study so what happens when you are eating large quantities of rich food throughout the day…
- ‘Food coma’ or postprandial somnolence is the most common consequence of tucking into a festive feast. After overloading the stomach with carb-heavy foods, your body produces extra insulin to keep the blood sugar levels in check and blood is transported from your brain and other organs to the stomach to aid digestion, both of which can leave you feeling lethargic and sleepy.
- Feeling uncomfortable, bloating, flatulence and heartburn. A meal rich in protein and fats can sit in your stomach for two to three hours making you feel bloated. As our mothers have told us on multiple occasions, it takes roughly 20 minutes for the brain to receive the message that we are full. Unfortunately, at the Christmas feast, it’s hard not to wolf down the pigs in blanket as quickly as possible to avoid your siblings getting all the best trimmings before gorging on the rest of the meal and grazing continuously for the rest of the day. Further exacerbated by our modern lifestyle, we are accustomed to eating on the go which means that when it comes to eating slowly, we are a bit out of practice! Speedy eating leads to flatulence as we swallow excess air, not to mention the body’s difficulty breaking down raffinose, a complex sugar found in brussel sprouts. Your stomach produces hydrochloric acid to break down food but the more you eat, the more it will produce which can irritate your oesophagus and stomach lining. Taking antacids may soothe the burn but will definitely have you belching as the chemical reaction with the stomach acid produces carbon dioxide.
Alternative Christmas treats
Start the day with some slow-releasing energy porridge with a blueberry, banana and seeds topping. This will help you avoid snacking on the all too readily available chocolate treats at work. For lunch why not try some winter soups, some of our favourites are spicy parsnip soup and apple and celeriac soup. It can be hard to feel motivated to cook a healthy, balanced meal in the evenings after a long day at work so why not roast some vegetables in the oven with some ginger, garlic, turmeric and cumin for 30 minutes then add some coconut milk for a simple, winter warmer curry with minimal effort.
That’s our festive food sorted but let’s not forget physical activity. While a competitive game of charades might get you moving after the Christmas feast, it will take a bit more than that to keep you on track for the month of December. The big question is how to stay active when it’s cold, often raining and dark outside. Obviously, the gym is always an option and if you are feeling demotivated, why not sign up to a class where the instructor will make sure to keep you focused. If you don’t have a gym membership, all is not lost. While outside may seem uninviting during the cold month of December; a simple change of perspective will show you how wonderful the outdoors is in the build up to Christmas:
- Lots of people have Christmas lights up so you can gaze in wonder at the beautiful and sometimes downright bizarre decorations.
- Listen out for the carollers singing festive tunes a
- If you are running through the city centre, you can do some window shopping which might also inspire you for your own decorations and gift creations.
Top tip: stay safe by wearing a hi-vis and a head-torch to be seen, run with a buddy and sing Christmas carols loudly as you can to feel the full festive fun.
Want a challenge?
Anyone who uses a fitness app will know that apps like Strava will offer monthly challenges to keep us motivated. However, this December Alex and Georgie are trying the Marcothon, a challenged set up by Marco Consani who is an ultrarunner. The aim of the game is to run a minimum of 25 minutes or 5k every day for the month of December and yes that includes Christmas day! It is a great way to stay active especially when you challenge a friend or family member to do it with you. If you are not a runner, you could try a brisk walk, cycling, swimming or even dancing for 25 minutes a day. It is a personal commitment challenge that shows you that even in the busiest, darkest and coldest month of the year you can make time for your fitness and health. What better way to start the New Year!