It is thought that the average person puts on around 5lb (2kg) over the four-week Christmas period. This isn’t surprising given the onslaught of calorie abuse that our bodies are exposed to over this period. To put on 1lb of body fat you need to eat an extra 3,500 calories, which isn’t that hard to achieve on Christmas day alone: Champagne breakfast, sweets and snacks through the morning, Christmas dinner (full works), Christmas pudding, trifle, turkey sandwiches and so on. Then there are the drinks – eggnog, sherry, wine – and as the list goes on, it is easy to see how the calories can creep up. In fact, it is often the parties that we find ourselves drawn to over Christmas and New Year that can be the real calorie hotspots – just one mince pie and a few extra glasses of wine can easily add an extra 500+ calories to your daily intake!
Generally, this may not be an issue for many of us, but there will undoubtedly be those feeling the consequences of the festive season as they step hesitantly onto the scales in January in an attempt to assess ‘the damage’. This is usually followed by a scurry around to find the best gym membership, along with New Year Resolutions encompassing self promises of new ways and new diets as the last few uneaten ‘coffee creams’ are emptied into the bin.
We are predicable as human beings, as each year the cycle of overeating is routinely followed by months of frustration as we attempt to shed those last irritating few pounds. However, by following a few simple rules, it’s possible to enjoy the party season, and still be able to squeeze into the same clothes once January arrives.
Firstly, and probably the most importantly, whilst the cost of Christmas can be high enough at the best of times, for many people, resisting the temptation to buy too much food for the Christmas period may save more than just monetary pounds. It’s only too familiar that each year we seem to forget that the supermarkets shut for just one day, and as such, we find ourselves hoarding food like there is a serious risk of running out of things to eat! Realistically though, how many of us find that we are still munching through nuts, gourmet cheeses, and a variety of cakes and treats, well into the New Year? By buying only what you need for the festive weekend and no more, you’ll not only save cash, but will also save running the risk of feeling you have to eat all these extras that have ‘appeared’ in the cupboard so as not to waste them, but which unfortunately add to your waistline in the process!
If you do have ‘extras,’ whether the habitual tin of Quality Street or sack of mixed nuts, resist the temptation to have everything out on display at once! Dividing out into portions using smaller bowls means you still have access but will be more aware of just how much you’ve had!
Limit your alcohol! Not only is alcohol considered to be ‘empty calories,’ as it offers no nutritional benefits, starting early in the day may also actually increase appetite, which then leads to more snacking. Given the usual increased availability of ‘nibbles’ over the Christmas period, it’s all too easy to eat much more than you realise. A handful of crisps or nuts, or the odd chocolate soon adds up, and can become equal in calories to a full blown meal!
Choose your booze wisely; sticking to wine spritzers, or spirits mixed with low calorie tonic are less calorific than beer or wine. Drinking a pint of water between drinks is also a good idea, not just for keeping an eye on calories, but also ensuring you remain hydrated, thus avoiding that heavy head the next day.
Finally, weight gain is simply about consuming more calories than your body burns. If you want that extra slice of Christmas cake, have it, but then, instead of settling down in front of the mandatory James Bond film, go for a walk. It is estimated that a brisk 60-minute walk covering around 4 miles can burn off as much as 500 calories! Realistically, most of us are unlikely to maintain a speed of 4 miles per hour after consuming a typical Christmas dinner, but it’s worth noting that the benefits of exercise can help reduce the risk of weight gain and can help to speed up metabolism.
There’s a lot of pressure to try everything at Christmas time, be it Auntie’s cake or just the random bowls of crudités and snacks that adorn most people’s tables. But enjoying Christmas treats in moderation, avoiding ‘seconds’, and eating because you’re hungry rather than purely for pleasure can all help towards avoiding weight gain. The winter holiday is also an ideal time to get a gulp of fresh air and, wrapping up warm, taking pleasure in family time and the joys of the crispness of the weather as you all walk off your meal.