The holiday season presents an opportunity to reset and prepare yourself for the year ahead. It’s a time to relax and unwind, but also a time to set goals and improve both physically and mentally. With the right mindset, the holiday season can be the gateway to a new and better you in 2023, but it’s also a time of overindulgence. In a period packed with work function’s, family gatherings and new year’s parties, it can be hard to maintain healthy habits.
It’s easy to give in to an end of year blow out, but you’ll very quickly find yourself trapped at the bottom of the well that is over-indulgence. And the only way out is putting yourself through hours of painstaking exercise just to shed a few kilos you didn’t need to put on. If you want to skip the post-holiday grind and prevent yourself from setting “exercise more” as your new year’s resolution yet again, here’s a few tips from none other than NRL icon Billy Slater.
Billy Slater spent 15 years in the NRL as an elite athlete. He was a revelation throughout his career for the Melbourne Storm and Queensland as the best fullback of his generation. Slater has since transitioned out of playing and into coaching, currently presiding as coach of the Queensland Maroons team that pulled off one of the biggest ever State of Origin series upsets this year.
Staying healthy year-round has always been important for Slater. He doesn’t let himself go during the holiday season but believes it’s important to give yourself a break. “Like most people, I go through peaks and troughs,” he says. “I try to eat everything in moderation. I have the occasional blow out too, but I move on and get back on track.”
There’s a difference between giving yourself a break and slacking off. Slater doesn’t make any excuses for himself when it comes to staying fit during the holidays, “I try to keep a healthy exercise and eating routine throughout the holiday period as much as possible.” Slater says. “My family and I are always outdoors doing things, so staying healthy year round is a way of life for us.”
With potential unhealthy choices all around, how can you avoid the unnecessary calories and unsavoury dietary decisions this holiday season? Follow Slater’s lead, he has his priorities straight, “I make sure I prioritise sleep, keep hydrated and I keep moving and enjoying treats in moderation.”
The keys to staying healthy during the holiday season are self-control and keeping yourself in check. Accredited dietician Michelle Theodosi says there are four simple steps you can follow that will help you find the balance between depriving yourself and going all out: Keep a regular eating schedule, practice mindful eating, drink wisely and prioritise sleep.
Planning on skipping meals to compensate for the expected high caloric intake at a social gathering? Theodosi says that’s precisely what you shouldn’t do. “You’ll likely find yourself arriving ravenous and overeating beyond satisfaction.” Instead, just do what you normally do. Maintain a regular eating routine of nutritious meals and snacks throughout the day.
It’s great to practice mindful eating all year, but it’s especially important when the serving sizes ramp up. Theodosi says being careful about your intake will stop you from going overboard. “A great place to start is by checking in with your hunger and fullness before, halfway and after your meal. This helps you slow down and gives your brain the chance to register satisfaction and fullness.”
Many people enjoy a significant helping of alcohol towards the end of the year. After all, it’s a time to unwind and let loose as you celebrate a successful year. While a drink or two is fine, a prolonged party season quickly adds up and can take a toll on your health. Theodosi recommends experimentation. Try out some low-sugar, or non-alcoholic alternatives to your usual drinks.
The holidays are all about breaking out of routine. With a break from work, and fewer daily commitments, it’s easy to slack off from your typical schedule. But it’s important not to forget about sleep. “Getting enough sleep over the silly season has a ripple effect across all other areas of your life. Including your mood, energy levels, appetite and so much more,” says Theodosi. You can still take a break from your normal routine, but try to maintain a healthy 7-8 hours of sleep.
You don’t have to be so hard on yourself during the holidays. It’s not all about being strict with your diet and preventing yourself from having fun. “I think the new year is a great start for anyone wanting to change some habits that may have crept into their routine,” says Slater. The holiday period is the perfect time to readjust and make meaningful changes in your life.
Now that he’s retired from professional sports, Slater has transitioned out of the gruelling training regimen that he once required to reach peak performance. “As an elite athlete my job was to be in peak physical and mental condition most of the time. Every week demanded training programs that were designed to push the limits.” He still manages to keep fit by keeping a similar mindset and approach to training. “Since retiring, I’ve adapted some of those same principles to maintain my physical and mental fitness for everyday life.”
There’s one food that Slater can’t get enough of: Banana’s. He says bananas are his key to keeping a balanced diet. He’s always loved banana’s not just for their taste, but because they’re nutrient rich and a great source of energy. “I try to maintain a well-balanced diet so, for me, Australian bananas are a must.”
It’s difficult to always make the healthy choice at this time of year. Treating yourself occasionally is important, even Slater has a weakness for a banana with ice cream. But while you’re enjoying the holiday period, remember to keep your health in mind and use this time to start the new year revitalised and ready.