christmas run

Human Optimisation: How to Survive Christmas

December is odd. In our Human Optimisation series, it didn't seem to make much sense writing a post called "what to eat in December for Optimal Health." It didn't stick. Why?
Because what we eat in December is mostly out of our control. Christmas parties at work, Christmas parties with friends, Christmas eve, Christmas lunch... Whether you are cooking or not, you'll barely have a word to say about the menu until all the turkey has been wolfed down, well after Boxing Day sandwiches. And even then, it'll only be a short respite before the New Year's festivities take over. It's just the way it is.

The Impossible Post-Christmas Motivation

Next month, fuelled by the world's largest hangover, improbable targets will be set. The "New Year, New Me" mindset will be in full swing. Impossible training regimes will be sought out. Grim dieting plans will be written, cast by a newfound motivation for a slim waist. Gym memberships will double. Dry January will be the curse of pub owners. All in the name of 2018. Why put ourselves through this? Here's the problem. Motivation is a transient feeling. "Blue Monday" will hit, and it will hit hard. To reach human optimisation, you'll need a long-term view. Mainly, you'll need to enjoy feeling great. You'll need to love movement. You'll need to cherish post-workout endorphins (aren't they the BEST?). So whatever you do, don't rely on a Christmas party hangover to set impossible health and fitness goals - at best it simply won't work, and at worse you'll be setting yourself up for disappointment.

How do you prepare for optimal health in 2018?

Start by surviving December. Celebrate with the ones you love. Enjoy every moment of the festivities. But do this knowing that it is OK not to get completely smashed at the work party. It is OK to be able to get up from table without feeling like a mother bear ready for hibernation. You won't offend anyone by gracefully declining a third piece of pudding.

Here are some useful things to bear in mind as you traverse the perils of December:

  • Eat slowly, and eat mindfully. Take time to appreciate the food before you. This does not mean taking 12 pictures only to then devour your plateful before it goes cold. Smell it, relish it, chew it: truly enjoy it. You'll end up eating less, but appreciating it more.
  • Drink slowly. This may seem obvious, but it's easy to get caught up in the moment. The faster you drink your wine, the faster your glass will magically refill, one way or another. If you'd like to avoid a doom-day hangover, keep your glass half full so it's not on constant refill.
  • Learn to say no. Peer pressure can be crushing at this time of year. You are still allowed to make your own decisions.
  • Take time for yourself. When we catch up with old friends and family, it's easy to forget looking after ourselves. Take a time out. If it's impossible during the day, try getting up before the others and go for a run. Stretch out with some yoga; maybe do a little meditation. Taking 30 minutes to be on your own can make a big difference to how much you enjoy the holiday.
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