10 Unusual New Year's Resolutions

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Get your photo taken in five interesting places

If you’ve got the travel bug and want to see a bit more of the world, why not make it a New Year’s resolution to visit five interesting places you’ve always wanted to see? Even better, make a visual record of the year by making sure you get a photo of yourself taken in each place. Good photo opportunities include inside an igloo in Lapland, on the Great Wall of China, inside a volcanic crater or floating in the Dead Sea, but use your imagination to think of your own – the world’s your oyster after all.


Learn a decent party trick

You know that party trick you’ve got, the one that always comes out after a couple of drinks? Think about it; is it really so impressive in the cold light of day? If the answer is no, it’s about time you learned a new trick; one that will really impress. Mastering a new skill – no matter how pointless – can increase your self-esteem, as well as earning you some serious social kudos next time you reveal it in public. For a physical challenge, why not work on your flexibility for a spot of contortion, or give yourself a mental challenge and learn how to recite the alphabet backwards in less than 10 seconds.


Break a record

Want to give your confidence a boost and work towards a new challenge? Then make this the year that you break a record! You could aim at breaking a personal fitness record or, if you want to aim a little higher, set your sights on a world one. With lots of diverse (and bizarre) records there for the taking, this may not be as difficult as you think. Perhaps you could burn off some calories with the world’s longest kiss, the longest time spent bouncing on a bouncy castle or the fastest one mile run completed wearing swim fins… Yes, these are all real world record titles if you fancy your chances!


Make a new friend a month

Fact: friends are great for your health, and the more you have of them the better. So, why not make it a New Year’s resolution to start collecting them? To expand your social circle, try to make one new friend a month by making a conscious effort to attend more social events, chat to strangers and get introductions to friends of friends. Making friends with people with different personalities and interests from you can be particularly beneficial in helping you to broaden your horizons, explore different sides of your personality and find new ways to get the most out of life.


Develop a good relationship with your body

Many traditional New Year’s resolutions centre around improving our bodies in some way, whether by taking up a diet or joining a gym. Next year, make it your resolution to start to love the body you’ve got instead. While this doesn’t mean you can’t make changes to your diet and fitness regime if your health requires it, it does mean starting to love who you are in the process. Work on improving your body confidence by focusing on the things you do like rather than those you don’t, and learn to dress according to your body shape, showing off your favourite features.


Learn something you never learned as a child

You may run your own company, pay your own bills and parallel-park like a pro, but do you know how to do a handstand or ride a bike? For this New Year’s resolution it’s time to nurture your inner child and learn that thing that you never learned to do. Whether it’s the number of days in each month, how to spell ‘necessary’ correctly, how to ride a bike or swim, we all have something we never learned as a child that everyone else seems to know. Set this to rights and have some fun at the same time by redressing this gap in your knowledge. Your younger self would be proud!


Try a new food each week

Rather than cutting out foods from your diet as with so many New Year’s resolutions, opt to add more foods into your diet next year instead (bonus points if they’re green!). Many of us don’t eat a varied enough diet, so ensure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs – as well as enhancing your enjoyment of food – by making a resolution to try a new food each week. Try hitting the fruit and veg aisle first to sample some exotic fruit and vegetables you may have yet to try, such as dragon fruit, lychees, romanescu and plantain.


Make the usual unusual

It’s easy to get into a rut where we do the same things day in, day out, with our days passing us by as a routine-filled blur. Next year, spice up your routine by vowing to do one small thing differently each day or week. Wear something you wouldn’t normally wear, run a different route, or order a different coffee perhaps. Also, don’t fall into the trap of postponing your happiness by saving everything special “for best”. Instead, brighten up a routine day every so often by donning your diamond earrings, swapping faded comfy knickers for your favourite silk underwear, or eating those fancy chocolates washed down with a glass of champagne!


Sort out a financial worry

To help get your year off to a good start, try getting your finances in order by making a resolution to sort out one area of financial worry. Perhaps you spend a fortune on petrol or maybe it is your food bills that are blowing your budget? Try to think of some alternatives to the main causes of financial stress, such as cycling to work instead of driving, growing your own vegetables or making your own beauty products. Not only will coming up with alternative solutions help you save some money, you may find that you enjoy them and that they boost your health too.


Do something nice for others every day

Many of our resolutions (these included) are inwardly focused, concentrating on ways to become thinner, healthier, wealthier people. However, while there is nothing wrong with improving yourself, it’s worth remembering there’s a whole world out there too. Next year, why not make a resolution to focus outwards instead and help make the world a better place. Plan to do one nice thing a day for someone else; whether it’s something small like giving a compliment, or something potentially life-saving like donating blood or sponsoring a child in need. By knowing you are making a difference, you will also indirectly boost your own happiness and sense of achievement.

10 Healthy Essentials For Your Christmas Stocking

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If you need a little inspiration on what might be a great stocking filler we’ve found 10 healthy essentials Santa definitely has in stock. Take a look at the 10 healthy essentials below for gifts that will make you look and feel great even after your Christmas euphoria has subsided.


Something sweet

There’ll be plenty of sweet treats to enjoy over Christmas, so rather than stuffing another chocolate-shaped reindeer into your stocking this year, buy a jar of manuka honey instead. This honey is produced in New Zealand and has lots of special properties that make it a great gift. Firstly, it contains high levels of methylglyoxal, which makes this honey more antibacterial than most. Therefore, when a dollop of manuka honey is applied to your face you get a fantastic cleansing facemask. It is thought manuka honey has other benefits too when eaten, such as reducing high cholesterol.


Grown-up lunch

Nipping to the local deli or fast food restaurant during your lunch break can be an easy way to perk up your day, but dining out is not healthy for you or your bank account. Therefore, a healthy essential for your Christmas stocking this year has to be a grown-up’s lunch box. Fun, modern designed boxes have hit the markets in the past few years and you can now get a sturdy box with sandwich, noodle, salad and salad dressing compartments depending on which product you pick. Get the right box and you’ll be keener to eat the lunch you prepared at home.


Kit bag

When motivation is low and your couch is calling, nothing gives you a boost like a new piece of sports kit and this is why a kit bag is an excellent healthy essential for you Christmas stocking. There are lots of great kit bags out there, but some of the best have different compartments for your shoes and for your sports clothes. Try to pick a bag that is both stylish and durable. It will also need to be practical for the person who is going to receive this gift. For example, if they like to run home from the gym, buy them a rucksack not a holdall.


Silk pillowcase

Want to give someone eternal youth this Christmas?

Although we can’t tell you where the elixir of life can be found, we can tell you that a silk pillowcase might help secure youthful looking skin for as long as possible. Regular pillowcases can age skin by drawing moisture away from your face and also leaving deep lines in your skin after a night’s sleep. Yet a silk pillow cover contains amino acids, similar to those found in moisturisers, which will keep skin hydrated in the night and will ensure you stay looking younger for longer.


Ice-pop moulds

After dinner most people want a sweet dessert, but munching on chocolate, ice-cream and cakes after your evening meal is a sure way to gain unnecessary weight. To satisfy your sweet tooth, buy some ice-pop moulds for your Christmas stocking. You could also make a healthy ice-pop recipe book and pop that into your Christmas stocking as well. To get you started, some good, refreshing and healthy flavourings include: papaya, pomegranate and watermelon.  


Sleep oil

A lack of sleep is a major obstacle that needs to be overcome. Some people really struggle to get enough rest and if you know someone who finds getting to sleep difficult some sleep oil might be the perfect healthy essential for their Christmas stocking. Some companies make their own blends of sleep oil, but you can also create your own by blending essential oils known for their calming properties, such as lavender and evening primrose oil.


Enter an event

Sometimes people need that little extra push to do something. If you want to make this Christmas extra special, why not enter someone into an event? It might be a trek that the person you are buying for has talked about, or a race or bike event that they’ve always fancied. Whatever it is, surprise them by signing them up to an event they would love to do but would never enter of their own accord. It’ll be a unique gift that will give them motivation and drive throughout the year.


Food diary

Although a sensitive issue for some (be warned, this gift isn’t right for everyone so choose wisely), for the health conscious a food diary is a handy and revealing tool that can help people to understand their eating patterns and solve their food issues. So, if you want a healthy stocking filler a food diary might be for you. Buy a normal diary that has a decent amount of space dedicated to each day. You might buy a diary with a patterned cover, but if you can’t find one that’s suitable you could also get some material and cover the diary yourself. This way the food diary is personal and special.


Organic cosmetics

Some cosmetics contain some not too healthy ingredients and your body and hair absorb these harmful ingredients and find it difficult to get rid of them. Therefore, a great Christmas treat for those who want to glitter and glow over the festive period is some organic cosmetics. Many companies provide a whole range of products, but good choices are mineral powder foundations and a plush lipstick or lip gloss. When browsing for this Christmas stocking gift, check out the ingredients of the item as well as the company’s principles and philosophy.



There’s not much space in those Christmas stockings, so if you want to give something that won’t take up too much room and will last the entire year, pop a subscription gift card in their stocking. Subscriptions to health magazines are always a great choice and you can’t beat that feeling when a good glossy mag thumps through the letterbox. For the more digitally minded people in your life you could always sign them up to a healthy app. There is a huge amount of apps on offer, so explore and shop around to discover the app most suited to the person you are buying for.

10 Unusual Ways To Burn Christmas Calories

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Deck the halls

You may not think decorating your house for Christmas is a particularly strenuous task, but boy does it burn those calories! Hoisting yourself into the attic and carrying heavy boxes full of baubles and ornaments definitely plays its part in the Christmas calorie burn off. Not to mention lugging the tree into your home from the car! Shifting boxes in this way for about an hour can burn around 350 calories. That’s the equivalent to burning off a mince pie with some cream.


Shop ‘til you drop

Facing the crowds and carrying all those bags of gifts sure does get your heart rate up. Pushing a shopping trolley up the aisles for around half an hour will burn over 100 calories and this number will surely increase at Christmas time, since you buy so much! Make sure you pack your own shopping at the checkout and take your goods to the car, remembering to take your trolley back, all to boost your calorie burn further. Lugging heavy shopping bags around the high street will also burn the calories too – so there’s even more reason to be generous this year and buy more gifts!


Clean up act

Cleaning up after all those parties or before your guests arrive will definitely burn some calories this Christmas. Changing bed sheets, tidying away and sweeping up all that Christmas glitter will all get your heart rate up, so get cleaning! Dusting for half an hour burns around 80 calories while mopping for 15 minute burns around 70 calories. Vacuuming for 30 minutes will account for around 120 calories, which equates to a 175ml (6.15 imp fl. oz) glass of red wine, while the same time spent ironing will burn around 75 calories –about the equivalent of a mini quiche.


Fresh air

After that rather hefty lunch of roast turkey and all the trimmings you may fancy a brisk walk to make room for the Christmas pudding. A one hour walk after lunch will burn around 280 calories (walking at the average pace of 3mph) which equates to 100g (3.52oz) of Camembert cheese. If you have a dog you can burn further calories by throwing a toy or stick, or running around with the kids will be sure to burn even more.


Ice skating

Not to mention being a super fun festive activity, ice skating is also great for Christmas calorie burn off. Whether inside or outside, you will burn around 165 calories for every half hour you’re on the rink. That’s approximately four roast potatoes from your Christmas lunch gone! Keeping yourself upright and using your core muscles for balance will also tone you up nicely – a fun workout without you knowing!


Cooking up a treat

With so much food to prepare and so many mouths to feed at Christmas you will be pleased to hear that half an hour on your feet preparing a meal will burn approximately 70 calories, and if you are going back and forth to set the table this will add more calories to your burn count.

The actual act of eating your meal will account for around 50 calories, and then you’ve got the washing up to do which will burn about 40 calories for every 15 minutes you are scrubbing, drying and putting away. Scrub harder for maximum benefit (and for extra brownie points from Santa).


Kissing under the mistletoe

Calorie burning doesn’t have to be hard work and luckily the Christmas perk of kissing under the mistletoe burns calories too! Half an hour of kissing could help you burn in excess of 30 calories. So for each cheeky mistletoe moment this year you could burn the equivalent to one chocolate coin – so pucker up!


Rock around the Christmas tree

All those party invites not only make you the popular one, but also a calorie burning machine! You can burn around 195 calories if you dance for half an hour on the dance floor. But if you keep going all night then you could end up burning the equivalent to a festive helping of cheese, crackers and wine!


Wrap it up

Wrapping gifts at Christmas is an essential, but it can be a lot more productive than you think. Wrapping presents for one hour can burn 120 calories. That’s a glass of champagne to celebrate! If you choose to wrap all of your gifts in one sitting then you will burn more calories than you’d expect, so get organised and set some time aside to wrap them all in one go.


Waiting for Santa

You’re going to be pretty worn-out after all that decorating, shopping and partying, but even when you finally get some shut eye on Christmas Eve you are still burning calories. Yes, an average night’s sleep of around eight hours can account for over 400 calories. That’s the equivalent of a glass of eggnog with rum. That’s more than enough reason to help you get to sleep before Father Christmas arrives! Find out more about burning calories while you sleep.

(Note: Calorie counts are based on an average female of around 65kg (143 lbs). What you burn depends on your height, weight, and how vigorously you carry out the tasks.)

Fitness At Christmas

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Yes, Christmas is a time of celebration, and often excess, frequently resulting in firm New Year’s resolutions to get fit and lose weight, so it’s not surprising that many people struggle to maintain a healthy focus in December. If your fitness takes a back seat at this time of year, you’ll probably identify with some of the following problems:

  • I’m too busy with Christmas preparations to fit exercise into my day
  • I get invited to loads of indulgent Christmas parties
  • I love Christmas but I know I overdo the eating and drinking
  • In January, I always have to try and make amends for the effects of the festivities

If any of those phrases ring a few bells, these tips can help you. To enjoy the Christmas celebrations and maintain a healthy focus, simply check out our festive fitness guide which includes:

  • Maintenance exercise routines
  • Time efficient exercise strategies
  • Calorie saving ideas

Following these will ensure that when the festive season draws to a close, you don’t have a mountain to climb to get back in shape.


Maintenance exercise routines

One of the hardest things to do when your time is in short supply is to maintain an exercise routine. If you usually exercise a few times a week, the extra demands on your time can mean that something has to give. However, reduced training doesn’t mean that your fitness levels have to plummet. Research has shown that a couple of weeks of maintenance training can result in minimal or even no fitness losses.

Indeed, in certain cases performance can actually improve after a short period of reduced training because the body has the opportunity to recharge and rebuild. Hence on returning to full training, you can find that you have renewed vigour and enthusiasm for your sessions. If you enjoy regular workouts, try the following tips for effective maintenance training:

Commit to stay fit

Simply plan, inform and execute. Plan in some shorter and/or less frequent exercise sessions. Explain to your friends and family the changes you’re making, but also the importance of keeping your fitness going, and then put your plan into action.

A little exercise is better than nothing

Accept that your workouts will be shorter but also realise that they can still provide training benefits.

For example:

  • If you usually enjoy several jogging or running sessions, cutting your training time by half will still keep you fit.
  • Instead of completing two or three sets of each resistance training exercise, reduce it to one or two sets. Your session will take less time but you’re still exercising the same muscles, so your strength won’t disappear.

Quality over quantity

If your typical training week includes some more challenging sessions, it is important to maintain them. Instead of interspersing them with recovery workouts where you exercise lightly, focus on every session being high quality training. You can then omit the easier sessions, which will save time. A recovery session now becomes a rest day. The key to success with this strategy is to make sure you don’t let up on the quality of each workout. That way you are keeping your fitness edge that you’ve worked hard to achieve.


Time efficient exercise strategies

In addition to focusing on maintenance training, you can also employ strategies within your workouts that save time. An additional benefit of some time-saving strategies is that the quality of your training session also improves.

Resistance training workouts

A typical session with weights in the gym involves completing two or more sets of a range of exercises, with a recovery period of anything between 30 seconds and several minutes between each set. This recovery period is an essential component of your training, but it is time during the festive season that you can ill afford to spare. Instead of relaxing and recovering between sets, for a change, try carrying out complementary exercises during the recoveries, for example: alternating between the following muscles:

  • Chest and upper back.
  • Biceps and triceps.
  • Abdominals and lower back.
  • Quadriceps and hamstrings (front and back of legs).

Cardiovascular (CV) workouts

Every workout should include a thorough warm-up and cool-down so there is no opportunity to save time there. However, in the main body of your session, there is an opportunity to reduce the duration but still get calorie burning and quality training benefits. Instead of doing a ‘steady-state’ CV session, try a few of the following time saving alternatives:

Five minutes brisk followed with five minutes easy

Whether you’re jogging outdoors or working out on a piece of gym equipment, alternate faster efforts with equal time recoveries. You get a greater training effect than just a steady workout and so you can cut your session time down yet still remain fit.

A short, intense time-trial

Again, any piece of gym equipment can be used, or walking, jogging or running outside. Decide on a time or distance that you’re going to exercise for and then after your warm-up, really go for it against the clock. It’s tough – but great training and a shorter session brings as many benefits as your usual longer workout. Always remember to include a thorough cool-down afterwards.

Hill training programmes

For a change, select a hill training programme, vary the resistance on the rower, cross-trainer or bike, or simply put more effort in on the hills for your outdoor training. This way you are substituting more quality for steady-state training, so a shorter workout brings greater benefits.


Calorie saving ideas

Christmas is always a challenge to keep your calorie intake at normal levels but with a little planning you can still enjoy all the festivities and keep the calories in check. Simply try the three calorie saving ideas below to keep your weight under control at Christmas…

Watch the home measures

If you only get three glasses of wine out of a bottle, your 80 calories a glass shoots up to 160 calories a glass, so stick to standard measures if you can.

Christmas trimmings

Standard potions of stuffing, combined with other trimmings such as bacon, sausage and sauce can easily total over 500 calories. Just sticking to stuffing and using the roasting juices as gravy will slash those calories by half.

Christmas puddings

Christmas pudding and mince pies are delicious – and also high in calories. However, when smothered in brandy butter or double cream, the calories go through the roof. Try some crème fraiche or yogurt as an alternative and you cut out fat and save calories.

Christmas all wrapped up

Most people will struggle with limited time and tempting fare at this time of year but with a little planning, the festive season can be enjoyed and healthy. By training smartly and following a few sensible eating strategies, you can maintain your fitness, balance out your calories and arrive at the New Year in good shape. Compliments of the season and enjoy your exercise!

Top 10 Ways To Improve Your Diet This Year

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We all have a vague concept of what constitutes healthy eating, but we may not have a good idea of how to do it in practice. To help you out, here are our top 10 tips on how you can simply and effectively change your diet for the better.


Eat more fruit and veg

You may have heard it a thousand times before, but eating more portions of fruit and veg a day really is the most valuable dietary habit you can develop. Fruits and vegetables contain a vast range of health-giving vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – including carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium, folate and zinc. Remember that the wider the variety of fruit and veg you eat, the wider the range of nutrients you will get. You should aim for as colourful a plate as possible – so think broccoli, bananas, green apples, or pumpkin. And you don’t have to eat these ‘straight’. Instead, try them in soups, sauces, salads, smoothies and desserts, or with dips.


Reduce your saturated fat intake

Saturated fats have been widely implicated in the development of heart disease because they increase levels of harmful cholesterol in the body while simultaneously reducing beneficial cholesterol. Saturated fats are predominantly animal fats. You can cut down on your intake of these by buying lean cuts of meat, trimming visible fat, and avoiding high-fat dairy products. Alternatively, avoid reliance on meat as the main constituent of your meals, and instead try pulses or other sources of vegetable protein.


Reduce your trans-fat intake

Trans-fats are chemically altered fats that are now thought to be as harmful to health – if not more so – than saturated fats. Fast food companies and mass food producers tend to use these – so if you avoid fast food and processed or pre-packaged foods such as cakes and cookies, you should go a long way to cutting these out. Trans-fats do not exist naturally.


Increase your unsaturated fat intake

Unsaturated fats reduce the levels of harmful cholesterol in the bloodstream. In fact, some even increase the amounts of protective cholesterol as well. You can find unsaturated fats in nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil.


Increase your omega-3 oil intake

Omega-3 oils are powerful anti-inflammatory agents which can help to protect the heart, lubricate the joints, and may even help to maintain good mental health. These can be found in seed oils (such as linseed) and oily fish (such as herring, mackerel and sardines). Those found in oily fish are more ‘bioavailable’ than those found in plant sources (that is, they are more available to use by the body). Aim to have two portions per week of food containing omega-3 oils.


Increase your fluid intake

Aim to drink around eight glasses of fluid per day. Water is vital for good health; after all, 60 per cent of body weight is attributed to water. Water is required for the majority of metabolic reactions in the body. Dehydration can cause fatigue and poor concentration, and can even affect your physical appearance. Reach your hydration target by re-filling a water bottle several times throughout the day, drinking herbal tea, and/or eating juicy fruits such as melon.


Eat breakfast every day

Studies have shown that those who eat breakfast tend to be slimmer than those who don’t. There is a huge variety of foods you can start your morning with: toast, porridge, cereals, fruit, eggs, fruit juice, black/green/herbal tea, pancakes, berries, tomatoes, rice cakes, peanut butter, the list goes on! Try to base your breakfast on starches, throw in some fruit, and avoid having a fried, sugary, or meat-heavy breakfast too often.


Go wholegrain

People with healthier hearts tend to eat more whole grains.

Whether this is a reflection of a healthy lifestyle as a whole or whether it’s due in particular to whole grain properties is uncertain – but whole grains do contain more nutrients than refined grains due to the inclusion of bran and germ. Whole Grains include insoluble and soluble fiber, phytonutrients, B vitamins and vitamin E.


Watch your salt intake

An excessive salt intake can lead to high blood pressure, which in turn can cause further health complications such as blood clots. Most salt is not found in cooking or even at the table; instead, it is hidden in snacks and processed foods such as canned soups and ready meals. Cut down on your intake of these to lower your salt intake.


Increase your intake of fibre

Your fibre intake will naturally increase when you start eating more fruit, veg and whole grains, but if you add pulses and legumes as well you are sure to hit the ideal target of 18g of fiber per day. Fibre will help to protect against bowel cancer, diverticulosis and constipation. Just make sure you drink plenty of fluid alongside to keep things moving.

Getting a balanced diet

To improve your diet, what you should aim for is a varied, balanced food intake that is packed full of fruit and veg, is based on whole grains, and incorporates high-quality protein such as lean meat or legumes. Also, ‘good’ fats should be used in place of ‘bad’ fats, and sugary and salty snacks should be kept to a minimum. So, now you know what healthy eating really means after reading our top 10 tips, why not make the year ahead the year you put it into practice?

Top 10 Ways To Escape The Christmas Mayhem

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Get away for Christmas

We’re not talking about running out on everyone; instead, you could consider getting away with your nearest and dearest and let someone else take the strain of organising your Christmas. Going on a short break can help you to avoid constant demands on your time from other people – and if you let someone else (a hotel or restaurant for example) be responsible for feeding you all, then that will take a large part of the headache away, leaving you free to enjoy yourself!


Go ice skating

Why not plan a spot of ice skating? Depending on your location, this could be on either a natural or artificial surface, and indoor or outdoor. Ice skating can be a great way to savor the festive atmosphere, as it will usually be surrounded by festive lights and scenery at this time of year – plus it will ensure that everyone gets some good exercise and will be nicely tired out by the time you all get back home. It will also help you to burn off those excess calories from all the mince pies and Christmas cake!



Outdoor walks during the festive season are a great opportunity to get out there either on your own or with your family. While many other people are sitting around and watching yet another festive TV offering, you could take the bold step of getting out and about. Simply pack a few turkey sandwiches for lunch, wrap up warm, and away you go! If you have them, take your kids with you as well, as they’ll enjoy it and it will give them the chance to burn off some of their energy.


Indoor ice climbing

It may or may not be icy outside, but you can enjoy ice climbing due to an increasing number of indoor ice-climbing walls. Ice climbing indoors is done in a huge room cooled by freezers, which cause sheets of ice to form on the walls. It’s all relatively safe as you will be safely roped to the top of your climbing wall. You will then be free to lodge your ice axes into the wall and make your way up. Indoor ice climbing is great for beginners and also climbers who wish to brush up on their skills. Check out our other ideas for indoor activities.


See the Christmas lights

Why not take a walk or drive around the local area and check out the Christmas light displays? Some of your neighbors probably put on some fantastic displays, but because they happen to live just slightly off your normal route it may mean you don’t usually see them. Take along a warming flask of drinks (or even your favourite tipple) to enjoy as you check out all the homes and shops with different decorations in your neighborhood.


Plan a seasonal outing

The festive season is a great chance to get out and attend a pantomime, free concert or other activity put on at a local theater, community center, library or shopping center. A seasonal outing is an opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy a change of scenery – so why not plan an outing and let someone else do the entertaining as you take a back seat and relax?


Take in a spa

With the excesses of the Christmas period taking their toll on you both mentally and physically, it makes sense to take some time out and give your body a chance to recover. So, take yourself along to a spa for the day and enjoy a sauna, steam, massage and all the other spa and beauty treatments on offer. As well as making you more relaxed, this will also have you looking and feeling your best for all those parties you may have to see your way through during the festive period.


Take in some sporting action

The festive season is traditionally the time of the year when lots of sports have plenty of fixtures crammed into a relatively short period of time – so it’s a good opportunity to get out and take in some of the action. Why not go along to see some Boxing Day football, rugby, or even cricket (depending on your location)? Going out to voice your support for your own particular team is a great way to get out and let off some steam.


Go golfing at Christmas

The golf course is one of the few places where you can escape for some peace and quiet, as there’s no way your family will want to be trailing around with you in the cold for a full 18 holes of golf! Just grab your golf bag, put on something warm and waterproof, and head out for some great hitting fun – all in tranquil surroundings. If the weather should prove to be a touch too severe, however, then you could always go off and hit some balls under cover at the driving range instead.


Running at Christmas

Just because it’s Christmas it doesn’t mean you have to neglect your running training if you’re doing any. In fact, Christmas is probably the time when your calorie intake is at its greatest – so it pays to burn it off! Believe it or not, there are still running events held over the festive period – and a Boxing Day run or even a New Year midnight run are real possibilities, provided you can haul yourself up after everything you’ve eaten!

Enjoy yourself…

At Christmas, instead of just sitting there feeling the tension building, try to put your energy into creating opportunities which allow you to escape the usual mayhem. By doing some of the activities we’ve suggested here, you should be well on your way to enjoying your festive season more!

Healthier Christmas Dinners

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Turkey, fish and other meat

  • If you’re having poultry as your main course, then stick to the white breast meat, which contains less fat than the browner meat. Flavour it with herbs and lemon juice and cut down on salt when you season it.
  • Choose turkey over more fatty birds such as goose or duck.
  • Tempting as it might be, avoid eating bits of crispy turkey skin, as the skin is the fattiest part of any bird.
  • Try having a fish-based starter. The protein in the fish will help fill you up so that you are less likely to overindulge on other courses. White fish is low in fat, while oily fish is packed with omega-3 oils – which are anti-inflammatory and will help to keep your heart healthy.
  • Avoid chipolatas wrapped in bacon. As well as saturated fat, these contain a lot of salt.


  • Load up half your plate with veg, so that this makes up a good proportion of your meal.
  • Try honeyed carrots, braised red cabbage and traditional brussels sprouts to increase fibre. Remember: the more colourful your plate, the more varied your range of health-giving nutrients will be.
  • Opt for boiled instead of roast potatoes.

Pudding and cheeses

  • Use skimmed milk to make custard as an accompaniment to your pudding, rather than using cream, ice cream or brandy butter. This will provide you with calcium while avoiding the extra fat found in the heavier options.
  • Try a fruit platter for dessert in place of a pudding in order to cleanse your palate and provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
  • A boozy fruit compote with half-fat crème fraiche would make a healthy yet decadent sweet. Try plums, berries, apples and sultanas stewed in red wine, vanilla and a little bit of sugar.
  • Pile up your cheese-board with strong-tasting cheese, as you will be satisfied with smaller amounts. Eat the cheese with crumbly oatcakes, celery and grapes for a dose of soluble fibre (which helps to reduce cholesterol), B vitamins and antioxidant flavonoid compounds (which help to keep the heart healthy).


  • If you’re tempted to nibble while waiting for dinner to cook, try crunchy vegetable crudités such as cucumber, pepper and carrot, along with a yogurt, garlic and mint dip; hummus; or fresh tomato salsa with onion, garlic, a pinch of salt and some coriander.
  • Make the most of the festive season’s satsumas (for vitamin C) and nuts (for healthy oils), and steer clear of the cheap milk chocolates that abound!
  • If you simply have to have chocolate, opt for the dark variety, which has a higher proportion of flavonoids than milk.


  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic liquid throughout the day. This will stop you mistaking thirst for hunger, as well as dilute your alcohol intake.
  • Avoid alcohol before eating. Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach will speed up its entry into your bloodstream, and also act as appetite stimulant which may encourage you to overeat.
  • Feel free to enjoy a guilt-free glass of red wine with your meal, as alcohol increases iron absorption.

And a final tip…

  • Go for a brisk walk when you get a chance. This will boost your metabolism in preparation for the next feast!

How Not To Gain Weight Over The Holidays

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Opt for short bursts of exercise

The holidays are notoriously busy and trying to maintain your usual fitness routine during this period can be extremely difficult. Consequently, many of us end up abandoning exercise entirely as the thought of trying to squeeze in our usual workouts is too off-putting. To maintain fitness levels on a busy schedule, try swapping your longer workouts for shorter, more intense bursts of exercise. These will help to maintain your fitness and waistline throughout the holiday season while not taking up too much of your time.



Although Christmas is generally an exciting time, it can also be a source of stress for many. Not only can this impact on your enjoyment of the festive season, it can also wreak havoc on your waistline. Stress can interfere with the balance of good bacteria in the gut, leading to bloating, and research also suggests that stress can lead to increased storage of fat around the middle. Avoid Christmas weight gain and have a calmer, stress-free Christmas by employing some relaxation techniques over the festive season, such as deep breathing, meditation or the use of calming essential oils.


Get involved in the festivities

You might think that burning calories is all about sweating it out in the gym or heading out for hour-long runs; however, there are many fun, festive ways to work off your favourite treats without it seeming like hard work. Hoisting yourself into the attic and carrying down heavy boxes full of baubles and ornaments, lugging heavy shopping bags around the high street, kissing under the mistletoe and wrapping Christmas gifts can all burn off calories and help you to avoid weight gain over the holidays.


Load up on fruit and veg

While ‘festive food’ is often thought of in terms of indulgent and calorie-rich treats such as roast potatoes, Christmas pudding and chocolate, there are many healthier treats around to indulge on instead over the festive season. To help keep off those extra pounds and stay trim and healthy into the New Year, try swapping chocolate for dried fruit such as dates and snacking on nuts and roasted chestnuts, which are rich in healthy fats that can aid weight loss. Also, fill up on nutritious, seasonal vegetables with your meal and reduce your portions of less healthy foods.


Cut out alcohol

Alcohol is one of the biggest weight gain culprits for many over the holiday season, with its ability to add hundreds of calories on to your daily intake but offering next to no nutritional value. To avoid weight gain, try to reduce your intake of alcohol over the festive season. When out in bars and at parties try to avoid drinking in ‘rounds’, as this can encourage you to drink more than you normally would, and alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks. Also, opt for spirits such as gin or vodka with low-calorie mixers such as soda water with a slice of lime.


Watch your portion size when eating out

Restaurant portion sizes tend to be significantly larger today than they have ever been before and also significantly larger than the average person requires, meaning that frequently dining out over the festive season can easily add up to some serious weight gain. While we’re not suggesting you shouldn’t eat out at all over the holidays (where’s the fun in that?) you can still indulge without gaining weight by watching your portion sizes and stopping eating at the first signs of fullness. Remember that it is not essential to finish everything that is on your plate!


Savour your food

Many of us are accustomed to eating on the go or while chatting with family and friends, particularly over the festive season.

However, taking more time over your meals and focusing on what you are eating could make a big difference to your weight. Your body generally takes a minimum of 20 minutes to register feelings of fullness, so by eating more slowly, chewing your food and paying attention to signs of fullness, you will most likely feel compelled to eat less. Research results published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those who chewed each mouthful 40 times ate nearly 12 per cent fewer calories than those who chewed just 15 times.


Get the family involved

Exercise can sometimes seem like a chore, but it doesn’t have to detract from the festive atmosphere of the holidays. Rather than heading out for a solitary workout, get the family involved and make getting active more fun. You could organize a sports afternoon, play some fitness video games, or head out for a walk followed by a healthy picnic. Fun fitness games and family activities can be an enjoyable way to work some exercise into your family time and help keep off those excess pounds.


Get enough sleep

Many of us lack sleep over the party season; however, getting enough sleep can actually help you to keep off those festive pounds. Researchers at the University of Chicago have found that not getting enough sleep affects our appetite-regulating hormones, meaning that we feel hungrier the next day and are also more likely to crave calorie-rich, high-carbohydrate foods. In fact, a study by Columbia University found that when people are sleep-deprived they eat almost 300 calories more a day than when they have had adequate rest. To help reduce your cravings over the holidays, make sure you are getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night.


Have breakfast

While those watching their weight can be tempted to skip breakfast to cut calories, a rumbling tummy can make you more likely to indulge on unhealthy foods later on and mean that you are more likely eat larger portions for Christmas dinner or pick on leftovers throughout the day. To help cut cravings throughout the day, opt for a nutritious, filling and low-GI breakfast first thing, which will slowly release energy throughout the morning. Good choices include porridge with berries, fruit and natural yoghurt, or wholegrain toast with scrambled eggs.

Healthy Ways To Celebrate New Year's Eve

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Host a pampering party

To help get your healthy intentions off to a great start, try hosting a party with a difference. Rather than the usual drinks and a buffet, get all your close friends round for a spot of pampering. Hire a mobile beauty or massage therapist to provide treatments for you and your guests, or stock up on face masks and manicure kits for a bit of home pampering. For refreshments, provide healthy snacks such as vegetable crudités and dips, and serve your guests healthy smoothies and mocktails.


Watch the sunrise

If you don’t fancy starting the New Year cooped up indoors, grab a friend, family member or your partner and head out for an early morning walk to watch the sunrise. Not only will you get some early morning exercise, but starting a New Year watching the sunrise with someone special is much more inspiring and conducive for a healthy new beginning than waking up midday with a hangover!


Go skiing

Want to get away from it all, stay fit and have a great New Year’s Eve? Then you can’t do much better than heading to a ski resort. Lots of ski resorts host parties for New Year’s Eve complete with a buffet dinner and fireworks to ensure your night is one to remember. Furthermore, skiing is a great activity for burning calories and getting in shape, meaning that you can hit the buffet later without any feelings of guilt.


Make some healthy cocktails

If you can’t resist seeing the New Year in with a drink in hand, you can still do it in the healthiest way possible by drinking in moderation and making your own healthy cocktails using fresh fruits and juices. Not only will making your own fruit cocktails ensure you are at least getting some nutrients and antioxidants with your alcohol, but the process of making your cocktails (rather than simply ordering at the bar) will help to slow down your drinking.


Go dancing

Most of us love a dance, and the good news is that celebrating the New Year with a boogie on the dance floor could help you burn off hundreds of calories.

While hitting the dance floor in a club or bar is as good an option as any, if nights on the town aren’t your thing there are plenty of good alternatives. If you fancy a relaxed night in, you could get your friends round for a dance session on the Xbox. Or, for something a little more formal, book tickets for a New Year’s Eve ball. Alternatively, get in on one of the year’s hottest trends by hosting or attending a New Year Zumba party.


Play some family board games

Research findings published in the journal Plos Medicine have indicated that having strong ties to family and friends can help you live longer, so why not boost your health this New Year’s Eve with a bit of family bonding? OK, board games may be a little bit cheesy, but they can also be a whole lot of fun and a great way to get the whole family involved. Try not to get too competitive though – we want everyone still on speaking terms once the clock strikes midnight!


Go for a midnight run

For all you keen runners out there, why not start the New Year indulging your passion and getting those healthy resolutions off to a flying start? For anyone celebrating in New York you could join in the annual midnight run through Central Park, or there are similar organised events in various worldwide locations. Alternatively, you could organise your own run at midnight with some friends or running club members.


Movies and popcorn

Do all these ideas sound too much like hard work? Well, the good news is you can boost your health right from the comfort of your couch. While watching television might not be quite as good for you as hitting the streets for a run, there are still health benefits to be had. Watching a comedy show or movie has been found to be beneficial for your heart, immune system and mental well being, while snacking on popcorn will give your body a boost of antioxidants, nutrients and fibre.

Top Tips To Avoid Christmas Hips

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You went out for drinks with friends and downed a G&T (90 calories) and two glasses of champagne (230 calories).

Damage limitation strategy: Go Christmas shopping – two hours trawling the shops burns 320 calories.



When the after dinner mints came round at your work’s Christmas lunch, you er, accidentally took five (50 calories each – yep, really).

Damage limitation strategy: Join in the local carol service – a couple of hours singing your heart out will burn 250 calories.



You only meant to taste those mince pies you just made but you accidentally scoffed two! (380 calories).

Damage limitation strategy: Well, the good news is that the hour it took to prepare and bake the pies burned 250 calories. You’ll get rid of the rest putting up the Christmas tree and decorating it.



It’s your office party and you can’t resist the buffet table. Before you know it, you’ve consumed three deep-fried tempura canapés (225 calories), two cocktail sausage rolls (130 calories), and a handful of peanuts (150 calories).

Damage limitation strategy: Work it off while having so much fun you won’t even notice – get down to your local rink and go ice skating for 90 minutes.



You are holding a children’s Christmas party and you’ve been tucking into the Pringles (154 calories per 28g) and Jaffa cakes (46 calories each).

Damage limitation strategy: Gather up the kids and get active with some energetic games like chase, catch and hide and seek. An hour will have you back at ground zero.



The gym’s closed for Christmas and you’ve missed your regular aerobics class.

Damage limitation strategy: Banish the winter blues by heading to the park to collect pine cones and other winter souvenirs. You should find plenty in an hour, and burn off 200 calories. You’ll work off the rest of your usual 400 wrapping presents and writing Christmas cards for an hour.



You’re heading off to a friend’s Christmas Eve gathering, where you won’t be able to resist her homemade mulled wine.

Damage limitation strategy: Don’t plan your party outfit in advance. Trying on and taking off clothes for 40 minutes burns 110 calories. And when you get there, circulate and chat instead of sitting down – you’ll burn 140 calories in an hour.



Christmas dinner was so good you couldn’t resist those extra three roast potatoes (380 calories).

Damage limitation strategy: Don’t flake out on the sofa – if there’s snow on the ground, building a snowman will burn off the tatties in 60 minutes – or get the family up playing charades for a couple of hours.



Christmas pudding without brandy butter just isn’t the same – so you went the whole hog, adding 195 calories to your dessert.

Damage limitation strategy: Work off your sweet tooth by chopping logs for an open fire. A half hour should produce enough wood to see you through Christmas and work up a good sweat!



You’ve overdone the Boxing Day chocolates and scoffed eight Thornton’s chocolate truffles (265 calories).

Damage limitation strategy: Wrap up warm and head out for a Boxing Day walk. Forty-five minutes of country walking will work those chocs off.