It’s that time of year when mummies around the world suddenly increase their own stress levels by trying to create a beautifully decorated house, buy perfect presents for family and children, plan drinks parties, bake their own Christmas cakes, mince pies and sausage rolls, supply never ending bubbles and all while looking like they just stepped out of a hair salon in designer clothes. Yeah, right!
This year, I think we all need to take a dose of ‘normality’ and throw the perfection out of the window. Kirstie and Nigella make it all look super-easy but most of us simply do not have the time, or the inclination, to blow our own glass baubles and hand-make eighty Christmas cards!
Whatever your personal view of the Christmas festivities, one thing is almost certainly true: Every woman wants to look and feel more attractive, happy, sexy or content. When you pull on your favourite little black dress you do not want to feel stuffed like the Christmas turkey!
Here are my top ten tips to feeling great before the indulgences begin.
- The intestines need to be kept in good health to boost our immune system
. The gut is responsible for around 80% of immunity; the bacteria within it responsible for fighting invading bugs and toxins. Boosting your intestinal health is easy. Start with a 1 month course of probiotics. You will find these in the fridge compartment of your local health food store. Probiotics contain friendly bacteria such as lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus. Take them in capsule form with water first thing in the morning and last thing at night. If you have no dairy intolerances you can also eat plain, live, natural yogurt on a daily basis. I’m not a massive fan of the probiotic drinks as many contain milk and sugar – something you may already be sensitive to and thus exacerbating the problem.
- Chew your food well and sit down at a table to eat all your meals and snacks. Sounds simple, but many thousands of westerners are grabbing food on-the-go, skipping lunch breaks, eating junk food late at night and washing everything down with litres of fizzy soda. Should we really be surprised when our bodies go wrong when we abuse them so much? From today, start giving yourself an extra ten minutes to sit, taste, chew and enjoy your food. This is especially important for children – give them a great start in life by eating family meals around the table, teach them table manners and enjoy good conversation and family time (preferably with home-cooked food).
- Increase your water intake. Aim for two litres of fresh, filtered or mineral water every day. Herbal teas are excellent and green tea provides fat-burning benefits. Ask any supermodel her beauty secrets and you can guarantee ‘water’ will be among her answers!
- Increase your green vegetable intake. Kale, spinach, broccoli and cabbage are full of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A,C,K, and Folate and minerals Manganese, Calcium and Iron plus fibre and antioxidants. Vegetables nourish the body and encourage cell regeneration. For maximum benefit start eating at least one cup of dark green, leafy vegetables every day, either raw or steamed. Drink vegetable juices every day for breakfast or before your evening meal. (Use a base of carrot, apple and celery and add either beautifully coloured, mineral rich beetroot or dark greens).
- Improve your sleep pattern before the party season by getting up and going to bed at regular times. Getting into a rhythm is better for the body than a mixture of early and late nights and lay-ins. Aim for between seven and nine hours a night, but remember that it’s quality not quantity that counts. Sleep disturbances can have a negative impact on your energy and emotional well-being, poor performance at work/school and relationship issues. As well as a regular bedtime, drink camomile tea in the evenings, avoid coffee and chocolate, drink enough fluids throughout the day, avoid heavy meals in the four hours before bedtime and avoid large intakes of alcohol, sugary sodas or heavy desserts.
- Start a regular exercise routine. This can be as simple as a twenty minute walk every day. The basic principle is: Get moving! Inside or out, in a gym or in your home, alone or with friends – just move that body! Try a new exercise class or buy a Pilates dvd; take advantage of pre-New Year gym offers and Personal Trainers offering short courses to slim down for Christmas.
- Start taking care of your skin. The combination of wind, cold weather and central heating mean that our skin tends to get drier at this time of year. The simplest option is to add a drop of oil to your water-based moisturiser. Almond oil is gentle for your face and great for your body. Alternatively, use a facial oil or serum every night before your night cream. The best way to treat your body is to have a warm soak in the bath, using a body scrub or exfoliating mitts and shower gel to buff away dead skin cells. Pat your body dry then apply a rich body butter (I love those from The Body Shop). For a mini home facial, follow this sequence: Cleanse, scrub, cleanse, mask, cleanse, tone, serum, moisturise. Use a clean flannel and hot water to wash off the cream cleanser between each stage. Use small circular massaging movements and never drag the skin downwards. Use a specific eye make-up remover around the eyes as other products may sting or cause discomfort. The steam from the bath will open pores and enhance the effectiveness of products.
- Boost your body with a multi-vitamin/mineral/antioxidant supplement, remembering that many of us become Vitamin D deficient at this time of year due to limited sunlight exposure. Buy the best quality supplement you can afford; visit your local health food shop where staff are trained in nutrition and supplements to give you the best options for your age, lifestyle and health factors. Most supplements should be taken with food but check each individual tub for details. Remember that vitamins are NOT a replacement for a healthy diet, but if you are going to be indulging and eating richer foods they’ll temporarily fill in the gaps in your nutritional requirements. You could also try immune system enhancing herbs such as astragalus and echinacea. (Don’t take astragalus with a fever)
- Swap to a diet based around lean protein and fresh produce, with occasional wholemeal carbohydrates. Here’s a sample day to give you some ideas: Breakfast: 2 egg omelette with tomatoes, courgettes, peppers (or any leftover veggies)and a green tea. Snack: 1 apple or banana with 6-8 Brazil nuts or 10-12 almonds. Lunch: 1 can tuna in spring water or 4oz chicken breast with chopped pepper, carrot, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, olive oil and fresh herbs. Snack: Celery sticks or carrots with hummus (half a regular tub or 1 mini tub). Dinner: 4oz chicken or 6oz fish (not breaded) with stir fried or steamed vegetables – kale, asparagus, green beans, broccoli. Use olive oil and fresh lemon or lime juice plus fresh herbs for flavour. Cayenne pepper is reputed to have fat-burning effects. Don’t forget 2 litres of water, herbal teas and a maximum of two portions of wholegrain carbohydrates on days when you feel hungry or have exercised for more than an hour at a moderate to high level.
- Love yourself! Put your personal health and well-being high on your list of priorities. So many women suffer from ‘Mummy-Syndrome’, putting everyone else’s needs before their own. I’d like you to remember a different mantra:
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