How to have a holistic holiday

The festive period needn't mean piling in the food and lounging on the sofa. Diet and fitness experts share the secrets of a happier, healthier break


MATT ROBERTS

MATT ROBERTS

Matt Roberts is a personal trainer, whose celebrity clients include Natalie Imbruglia, Naomi Campbell and John Galliano. His latest book, 'The PHA Workout', is published in January

"Christmas Eve is our family's big day for celebrating. I start by getting up early and going for a long run. The day is then spent getting ready for the evening's celebrations, when we have a special meal. It's always healthy - usually fish. This year, we're having lemon sole.

When I was younger, Christmas Day began with my dad, my brother and me going for a run round Chester's city walls, where I grew up. A run probably won't be possible this year because I have two young children who will be more interested in presents, but we'll go for nice walks.

We'll have a roast, but I wouldn't dream of using fat or butter. Winter root vegetables provide enough natural sweetness. As for alcohol, we'll splash out on a good quality bottle of wine, which is always nicer to drink slowly to appreciate the flavour.

I think children make it easier to be healthy over Christmas. You get back to basics with cooking simplistic food, rather than specialities that they won't like, and they love getting outside.

I avoid feeling overtired and stressed by taking two weeks off. I also find preparation helps. All our presents are already bought and wrapped, and we are having the food delivered. It means we have plenty of time to do things we want to. For the children, that will mean doing things like visiting Santa, and for me, it will include plenty of time working out in our gym with my wife and going for walks and runs in the park.

I advise all my clients to make sure they exercise to the point of being hot and sweaty at least three days a week over the Christmas period - especially if they've overindulged. Exercising within 10 hours of eating fatty foods has a much greater impact than if you leave it longer."

IAN MARBER

Ian Marber is the principal nutrition consultant at The Food Doctor Clinic in Notting Hill. His book 'The Food Doctor Diet' was published this year

"I choose not to drink, so I have a great head start when it comes to a healthy Christmas. In fact, without being too puritanical about it, my biggest advice is to limit alcohol over Christmas - at the very least by waiting to have a drink until your main course.

Because Christmas involves a lot of socialising, I obviously have less control over the food in my diet. But I don't let this ruin my regime of eating, which tends to be little and often. If I go to parties, I eat something first so that I don't arrive famished and willing to eat anything. And if it's a meal out, I never feel I have to eat everything. I just pick and choose the things I want.

When I cook Christmas lunch, which I'm not doing this year, I'm really careful about what and how I cook. I'd never make stuffing, for instance, which I find is fatty and stodgy - an unnecessary carbohydrate when there are already too many carbohydrates around in nibbles and snacks. I like to focus more on proteins by making a smoked salmon starter, followed by turkey with lots of healthy vegetables. Mind you, I do like to cook roast potatoes in duck fat - a rare treat.

I'm careful not to eat too much because the more you eat, the more hungry you get, and that's when it becomes easy to go on overdrive. I get so many people contacting me in January wanting help because they've done just that and that cycle of reward and sin has never appealed to me.

I don't exercise rigorously over Christmas, but I do like walking."

DR MOSARAF ALI

Dr Mosaraf Ali is a pioneer of integrated medicine, which blends conventional, complementary and traditional disciplines. He runs The Integrated Medical Centre in London, and his latest book, 'Dr Ali's Weight Loss Plan', is published in January

"I have been working very hard, so I see Christmas as a great opportunity to recharge my batteries. I plan to take about a week off and wouldn't dream of overindulging. In fact, I'll probably do more exercise than usual, focusing on walking and yoga, which can help with the digestive system. For me, this time of year is about replenishing the system rather than doing exactly the opposite.

On Christmas Day, I'll be with my family and I plan to cook roast lamb, vegetables and saffron rice - very healthy and something a bit different. Then I'll probably fast on Boxing Day and perhaps again on New Year's Day, when I'll be down in Cornwall. At the very most, I'll have a banana for lunch and a raw green salad for dinner. For other people who want to detox - which I highly recommend doing at this time of year - soup and water is also effective. You can cook up a huge saucepan of soup for the whole family.

Detoxing is particularly important for people who overdo it before Christmas. Indeed, I think the biggest health problems come not from Christmas Day itself, but from the time leading up to it. That goes for Ramadan, Yom Kippur and Diwali, too. Whichever you celebrate, it's a festive time and traditionally involves lots of food and drink. So by the grand finale of the big day, people often feel very unhealthy. I can't think of a time when I get more people coming to me with coughs and colds.

My biggest pet hate about Christmas is all the adverts for antacids. They should not be necessary for people who are careful about what they consume. I can't understand why people would want to create pain for themselves, particularly at a time that's meant to be pleasurable."

SUSAN HARMSWORTH

Susan Harmsworth is the chief executive and founder of ESPA International (UK) Ltd. She is a leading consultant on the design of five-star spas, and the creator of the ESPA range of natural products and treatments

"Christmas this year is quite unusual for me because one of my sons is getting married on 3 January and the house will be full of guests from now until then. But I won't be stressed. I'm religious about baths and salts and oils, as well as meditating and listening to calming music. Often, I'll take an hour and a half to myself, even when the house is full. I'll encourage my guests to do the same, and all the bathrooms in the house are full of candles and lovely things to put in the bath.

Another stress reliever for me is going with the flow. It's inevitable that things don't always go the way you want them to, but my philosophy is 'So what?' The main thing is that everyone has a good time. I also take full advantage of people offering to muck in, rather than wanting to be seen to do everything myself.

Night time is an important time for me. I try to get to bed early when I can, I have calming breathing techniques and I'm a big believer in things like taking a hot-water bottle to bed.

I have a personal trainer and she will come between Christmas and the new year, so my exercise regime isn't messed up. And I won't eat anything other than what I call 'clean' food - that is, everything organic or fresh, nothing packaged. Breakfast is always protein to keep up the energy and I never cut meals or I get headaches."

LUCY WAKEFIELD

Lucy Wakefield is creative director of Calmia, a combined day spa and holistic store. She is also a health and beauty writer

"The perfect Christmas for me is low-key and that's how it will be this year. I prefer yoga to parties and am looking forward to spending time doing that and going on lovely walks. On Christmas Day itself, we'll spend the morning at the London Buddha Centre where they have food-sharing and meditation. Then we'll come home and my parents will join us. We'll have a small number of presents from each other to open.

Although I'm only taking a few days off this year, it's not a stressful time. Calmia is all about helping people rediscover what it's like to feel relaxed, stress-free and simply themselves once again. I've also planned ahead for Christmas to avoid the last-minute rush, buying special presents for people when I've seen them.

I don't eat meat or drink. Our treats will be more along the lines of nuts and fruits, with the odd home-made mince pie or chocolate. Christmas is all about having fun, but that can be in moderation.

My daughter will be seven months old this Christmas and that's helped me really appreciate that the magic of Christmas doesn't have to be about excess, but about simple things like putting up the tree.

For New Year's Eve, we'll probably go away to a country hotel with friends or we'll stay at home. I might have one glass of champagne, but no more than that. I don't feel good if I drink - all those toxins in the system put me out of balance.

Although that night will obviously be late, I like to go to bed early and will do so for most of the Christmas period."

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

    Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

    Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015