Why indulging a little over Christmas isn’t always a bad idea

Overindulging is part and parcel of Christmas. But could indulging a little actually be good for your health?

From Christmas markets to Boxing Day feasts, December is a time for laughing, eating, sleeping, and the occasional drinking. But when January hits, so can the guilt. But how would you feel if we told you that indulging a little over Christmas could actually be good for your health? 

5 reasons why indulging a little is good for your health  

1. Eating keeps us warm  

When you eat, you create heat through a process called thermogenesis (where metabolising food warms your body up) [1].  

Yes, that’s right. There may be a reason why you crave stews and home-cooked roast dinners in winter. Foods such as root vegetables take longer to digest and can in turn help to raise your body temperature. Alongside root vegetables, Christmas spices, such as cinnamon and ginger, both help to promote blood flow [2] and increase metabolism. So, we could say, that the occasional cinnamon-topped hot chocolate served with a gingerbread biscuit might just help to keep you warm during your winter walks.   

2. Indulging creates endorphins 

Chocolate and wine may both have a bad stigma attached to them, but did you know the likes of dark chocolate and red wine boost the production of the feel-good chemicals, endorphins [3]? 

Endorphins help to relieve pain and reduce stress [4] – which is exactly what you want after a full day of shopping and wrapping presents.  

Food isn’t the only indulgence that creates endorphins, seeing friends and family can also help release those cheery chemicals.  

It is important to note that endorphins are only released for a short amount of time. It’s not a good idea to rely on chocolate and red wine as a long-term source of good mood. But every now and then, a little boost can’t hurt.  

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3. Surrounding yourself with others is good for the body and mind  

We’ve had two years of not being able to indulge in the festivities of Christmas, so it’s safe to say that you’re likely to have the whole of December booked out with events. Meeting with friends and laughing together has many proven benefits, including reducing stress levels [5]. 

Meeting with friends for a coffee and a mince pie (or two) over the holidays may just create a bit of calm during the chaotic storm that can be Christmas. You could even kill two birds with one stone and maybe take a walk around a Christmas market and tick some shopping off your list. 

With the possibility of work Christmas parties returning this year, there is the assumption that alcohol intake may also increase in social situations. Having a few pints or glasses of red is allowed but take it steady and be sure to read our tips on how to beat the Christmas hangover.  

4. Naps can be good for you

Yes, that’s right – naps are a good thing. So, get cosy on the sofa under a blanket without feeling guilty.  

Naps provide several benefits to both your physical and mental health, including [6]: 

  • Counteracting daytime drowsiness 
  • Boosting productivity  
  • Improving cognitive functions (such as memory) 
  • Lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease  
  • Relieving stress 

Naps may seem like a treat (or indulgence) to some, but the Christmas period is the perfect time to let your body unwind and give it the rest it needs. So, treat yourself to that guilt-free nap on Christmas Day afternoon – after all, it’s good for your health.  

Want to know more about sleep and its benefits? Read our blog: Sleep – the best medicine? 

5. It helps to create better habits  

It may sound counterintuitive, but indulging a little can lead to building healthier habits in the long run.  

If I were to raise the question: is it better to overindulge a lot occasionally or indulge a little every day? What would be your answer? The research suggests the latter.  

Research has shown that people who follow a strict or excessively rigid restrictive diet often fall off the wagon sooner than people who are on less rigid diets [7]. 

It’s all about creating healthy habits and a healthy and balanced diet, and this includes things such as fats, salt, and sugar – but in moderation.  

This isn’t just to be said about food either, this goes for other lifestyle habits such as trying to quit smoking (or vaping). Generally, it is better to wean yourself off slowly than go cold turkey (pun fully intended) because you’re less likely to crave it and more likely to create better health habits.  

Why indulging a little over Christmas isn’t a bad thing 

Ultimately, like most things in life, we tend to go overboard over the holidays. And honestly, a little bit of what you fancy can be good for you. But, with anything – moderation is key. It’s all about the balance between happiness and health. 

If you are conscious of how your lifestyle is affecting your health, why not try one of our comprehensive blood tests? You can use our tracker function to monitor how your lifestyle changes are impacting your inner health, and our doctor’s comments can help you to make any improvements that may be needed.  

Not sure which test is right for you? Read our Health and Wellness Buying Guide or try our test finder.  

References 

  1. Himms-Hagen, J. (1989) “Role of thermogenesis in the regulation of energy balance in relation to obesity,” Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 67(4), pp. 394–401. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1139/y89-063.
  2. R. Vasanthi, H. and P. Parameswari, R. (2010) “Indian spices for healthy heart - an overview,” Current Cardiology Reviews, 6(4), pp. 274–279. Available at: https://doi.org/10.2174/157340310793566172.
  3. Nehlig, A. (2013) “The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance,” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 75(3), pp. 716–727. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04378.x. 
  4. Endorphins: The Brain's natural pain reliever (2021) Harvard Health. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/endorphins-the-brains-natural-pain-reliever (Accessed: November 16, 2022). 
  5. Yim, J.E. (2016) “Therapeutic benefits of laughter in mental health: A theoretical review,” The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine, 239(3), pp. 243–249. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1620/tjem.239.243. 
  6. Napping: Benefits and tips (2022) Sleep Foundation. Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene/napping (Accessed: November 16, 2022). 
  7. Rogerson, D., Soltani, H. and Copeland, R. (2016) “The weight-loss experience: A qualitative exploration,” BMC Public Health, 16(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-016-3045-6.

 

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