Christmas cracker: A guide to not gaining weight during the festive season
It’s that time of year when all those parties, events and foods play havoc with both our usual routine and our waistlines. The average person gains about 2-3 kilograms over the Christmas period, and the media tells us there is no escaping our forthcoming excesses – but is there really no way to avoid undoing the last 11 months of good work?
So, let’s be realistic – we are probably not going to lose any weight over the festive period, but we can certainly aim to keep the status quo by adopting a few sensible principles.
Plan your diary
Make a list of all your social events from early December over to the New Year. This will show how different this period will be from the normal routine. Denote the following:
- Days or events where you will be eating or drinking out, highlighting those with large amounts of (free) food and drink available that will easily lead to excess consumption. Additionally, mark the days before and after as priority time for balancing out the impact of these events.
- Days you plan to exercise and/or get to the gym, and what you plan to do. Additionally, mark days the gym is closed. Between Christmas and New Year, schedule some time to get some physical activity – even if it is just a daily walk (particularly beneficial after large meals…)
Remember that between Christmas and New Year you are likely to use less energy than usual – no commute to and from work and fewer gym sessions leads to more time at home, more television, and more time with friends and family – so your body has a reduced energy need.
Plan to go out and enjoy yourself. Deprivation generates resentment; instead accept that the evening will be one of moderation, regardless of what colleagues or friends get up to.
- About two hours before, consume a largish snack high in protein, with some slow release carbohydrate and fats and drink a few glasses of water. This way you won't arrive at the event with hunger pangs that tempt you to indulge in as much as you can as soon as you can.
- Find a friend or colleague who also plans to have an evening of moderation, agree a plan, and support each other through the evening.
- If the event clashes with a time where you would normally be in the gym, make an alternative plan for fitting in the gym session.
At the party
- At a buffet, fill half your plate with salad and lean protein sources such as chicken drumsticks (skin removed), prawns, lean beef and ham. Avoid bread, sausage rolls, quiches and handfuls of nuts and dried fruits
- For drinks, have a glass of water between every alcoholic drink and set a sensible limit before you go out which you will be able to adhere to. Stick to white wine and champagne as these tend to be the lowest in calories
- Avoid mulled wine and creamy liquors which contain the highest number of calories; a cup of eggnog alone will set you back over 300 calories.
Christmas day and eating out
The average person consumes the equivalent of 2 to 3 days’ worth of calories on Christmas Day, partly by snacking excessively before and after the big meal. It is the consumption of chocolate, nuts, shortbreads, mince pies, and crisps etc. that does the damage to our physiques, rather than the Christmas lunch itself.
- Start the day with a filling breakfast, use eggs and lean cooked meat, as well as wholemeal toast. Drink plenty of water – the brain often mistakes dehydration for hunger, encouraging further snacking.
- The traditional turkey and Brussels sprout are quite healthy, so fill the plate with these. Minimise the traditional extras of pigs-in-blanket (approx. 150 calories each), Yorkshire pudding (100 calories), stuffing and roast potatoes (each about 200 calories).
- When eating out, avoid eating breads and pastries for starters and choose a soup, salad, or cold meat option. For main meals, avoid creamy sauces: anything grilled, boiled or steamed is usually a good choice, and fill up with green vegetables rather than pasta and rice. Salad is a good choice; though avoid potato salad and a lot of dressing.
- Be wary of pudding – cheesecake, fruitcake and Christmas pudding will be approximately 300 calories per slice, and there is only a little less in a mince pie . A pudding with custard and brandy butter will contain at least 25% of your daily energy needs.
Remember if we get our eating regime right about 80% or so of the time, we can enjoy a combination of food, fitness, festivity and fun… We should plan for a little indulgence, just in moderation. Moderation is far healthier than all or nothing. If we deprive ourselves whilst everyone else is having fun, we feel resentful.
Above all, have fun!!
About the Author
Nick Owen is a qualified nutritional adviser, holding a Diploma in Non-Medical Nutritional Advice. Nick uses nutrition to support a wide variety of client goals including weight management, fat loss and muscle building, general health and well-being; and improved energy levels, concentration and complexion. Nick’s approach is practical and realistic, starting with an analysis of current eating patterns and lifestyle, making recommendations for change and then working over a series of consultations to support achievement of the desired goals.