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Is the festive season getting in the way of your fitness?

The festive season means an excess of eating and drinking. Lounge tells you how to find that sweet spot between enjoying your cravings and maintaining your fitness

Temptations of the festive season can get in the way of your fitness. (Photo: Istockphoto)
Temptations of the festive season can get in the way of your fitness. (Photo: Istockphoto)

After the protracted lockdown life of sourdough experiments, Zoom calls and home workouts, the festive season and its excesses (both food and beverages) have caught us by surprise this year. And, they have come thick and fast: Durga Puja and Diwali have just gone by and Christmas and New Year are already knocking on the door.

By now many must be feeling the effects of the good food days of the festive season. Nearly a week after Diwali, Radio Nasha RJ Rohini Ramnathan posted a story showing a gift hamper of indulgent desserts and snacks on her Instagram announcing, “Yeh Diwali khatam hi nahi ho rahi (this Diwali is unending)!” Her subsequent posts made a quick reference to her eating all the time while constantly working “trapped in flat”. There must be many around the country feeling the same.

Festivals are moments to celebrate and there is a reason every festival begins and ends with food, said Pallavi Barman, a Mumbai-based lifestyle coach. “We end up doing emotional eating during festivals because the idea of every festival is to enjoy and be happy…and food brings joy,” she explained.

Eating mindfully

For some time now, sugar and fatty foods have been demonised and the general advice from fitness trainers and nutritionists has been to avoid them at all costs. But the understanding of cravings is constantly evolving. The fitness and nutrition industry is now taking into account emotions (including the emotions triggered by food), the role that craving plays, and mental health. Most people would be better off with eating a nutritious diet that also includes a few indulgences here and there, says Shannon Beer, a nutritionist and educator with a certification from the UK-based Mac-Nutrition University. “I would encourage moving away from the idea of clean/unclean foods and focus on setting an intention for how you would like to feel during and after the festive season”, she says.

Sandeep Sachdev, co-founder and chief nutritionist at Mumbai’s Easy Human fitness studio and café, says you need to satisfy your cravings. “There is no point being sad after denying yourself some mithai, dessert or chocolate during a happy occasion and this year we have already denied ourselves of lot of things”, he says, adding, “Eat what you want but be mindful of how much.”

All things considered, people know well that this is a time when they would indulge in foods and drinks that will affect their fitness, health and looks. So, a little bit of planning, nothing meticulous, goes a long way in damage limitation. “A good strategy is to cover your essential needs first and then consider adding the foods you want on top of that. Including a lean source of protein (paneer, chicken, fish, tofu) and a couple of handfuls of vegetables with each meal is a great start. When you decide to indulge, be mindful of how you are eating. Don’t gobble things down. Slow down, enjoy your sweets, pause between bites and check how you are feeling. Do you want more or are you satisfied? This will help you find the sweet spot of enjoying yourself without feeling uncomfortable after,” says Beer.

Your exercise should complement how much you eat. (Photo: Istockphoto)
Your exercise should complement how much you eat. (Photo: Istockphoto)

Management, not punishment

A common strategy is to increase exercise to compensate for the indulgences. However, it would be futile, and quite likely a shortcut to injuries, to try and offset the celebratory season gains with extra workouts and runs. “Staying active is important but trying to offset overeating with exercise can be a futile and harmful pursuit,” says Beer.

The best way to rid yourself of the unwanted gains would be to manage your lifestyle and not punish yourself with extra exercise afterwards. Instead, your exercise should complement how much you eat. So make sure to include some regular physical activity all through the festive season. “Staying active is important but this should be done in ways that are enjoyable for each person. Walking is an underestimated activity which has tremendous health benefits,” says Beer.

Also, maintaining exercise routines, being conscious of portion sizes, and planning ahead are all associated with “successful” navigation of the holiday season, she advises.

Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness

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