Christmas is the hardest time of year for many when it comes to watching your weight or keeping weight off. And if you are dieting you may as well forget it! Putting it bluntly, many people will put on weight over the festive season. (Studies suggest an average of around 4lb and for some even up to as much as 10lb!) So is it possible to still have a brilliant Christmas and New Year without becoming the Christmas pudding yourself? Can you indulge without the budge?
I have been fat most of my adult life. In 2008 I lost nearly 8 stone in weight and I have kept weight off ever since. Using my personal experience, and 3 years of research into food I have developed ’21 Keys to Keeping Weight Off’ and I now help others to keep weight off too.
I think it is possible to have a great time whilst keeping Christmas ‘lite’.
You can hear a lighthearted short radio interview about the Five Golden Rules here :
In the weeks running up to Christmas and between Christmas and New Year it’s party time! But that means nibbles, buffet food, mince pies, cakes, sweets and chocolates – and loads of extra alcohol.
So you have to think about how are you going to deal with this. Staying at home is not an option. Instead work out which of these things you can’t do without, and then make deals with yourself about what – and how much – you’ll have. So for example I’m not bothered about crisps or buffet food but I find it hard to resist chocolate and cake. So I’ll allow myself one or two per party and not eat the stuff I don’t really want just because it’s there. And when I do have cakes and chocs, I really enjoy them!! And fill up with low fat food before you go to parties so you are less tempted to pick.
Are mince pies a problem for you?
If so, accept it and work round it. Many shop-bought mince pies have high levels of sugar and fat. Processed food is more likely to turn into fat on you than home-made. So if you love mince pies, make your own and take them with you to parties. Click here for a quick and scrummy no fat or sugar added recipe. Then you can still have them – but manage your weight. You might make yourself popular with your host as well!
You really need to watch alcohol intake
Alcohol represents empty calories. It has no nutritional value at all but contains plenty of calories. It’s very easy to drink too much over the festive period. So monitor how much you are drinking and think of ways to cut down. Alternate between alcohol and soft drinks – just watch out how much sugar there is in some fruit drinks.
Think about what else you will be eating
Try to fill up at breakfast with a bowl of home-cooked porridge with fruit and nuts (avoiding quick cooking oats). If you go to a lunch or tea-time party and there are loads of snacks but you know you’ll probably end up going out to eat that night, then avoid the snacks. And when you go out to eat, think carefully about what you choose. Click here to some advice about what to choose.
Don’t be scared to ask for your own version of the Christmas menu
If you go to a party with a set menu think carefully about what you choose, by using the eating-out guide. Even if you have to chose from a set Christmas menu don’t be afraid to ask for your meal to be adapted so its lower-fat. Choose a low fat option for your starter and pudding (or at least one of them, such as salad without dressing to start or fruit for pudding).
On average, people consume 4000 calories on Christmas day
On Christmas day we drink lots and eat endless snacks, sweets – plus the big dinner. Just a few small chocolates add up – there are between 40 and 60 calories in many individual chocolates, so keep a count of how many you munch; it’s just too easy to pop them in your mouth without thinking. I keep them out of reach, for example in a cupboard. That way you have to think about everyone single one you have.
Make your Christmas meal that bit kinder too
It will always help if think about the calories of your Christmas dinner and to try and reduce the impact of your Christmas meal. Some handy tips for stuffing the turkey, not you, include…..
And finally – remember just because there are certain foods and drinks around, it doesn’t mean you have to consume them!
Unfortunately we all know someone who finds it hard to accept other people’s decisions about food and drink. For example people who want you to eat loads – like Mrs Doyle in Father Ted (Go on, go on, you will, you will, you will!) This can be really hard if you are staying with others over Christmas and you feel you have to follow their food and drink habits.
So remember that mostly, this is THEIR issue, not yours. Think about anyone in your life with whom, when you spend time with them, you find it hard to keep to your food and drink decisions. Have a think about why this is and try to talk to them BEFORE the holiday period about why you want to make certain food and drink choices, about how important this is to you, and ask them to help you keep to these decisions. Offer to sort out your own food if this will make it easier. How about asking for this as your Christmas present! Remember, just because other people eat or drink to excess this doesn’t mean you have to.
Do a meal plan for the whole festive season, including after Christmas. Think about your meals across a day and week so that if you know you’ll be at parties and/or eating out and eating high-calorie, sugary, or fatty food you can balance these against other meals which are fat-burning and slow-release. You can download a Festive Season Meal Planner here.
Remember that not all calories are equal. Some foods turn to fat more quickly than others (such as refined, fatty, sugary and many processed foods) and should be avoided. But others, like low GI foods and fat-burning foods keep you feeling fuller for longer, help boost your metabolism or take more energy to digest. So you need to fill up with these foods and plan meals that include:
Planning your meals will also mean you’re less likely to end up having take-aways. It’s easy to think they are quicker, cheaper and easier, but in fact I don’t think they are any of those things. They are also more likely to make you put on weight. So when you plan your meals, plan a number of really quick easy meals for the times you can’t be bothered – such as stir-fry, pasta or quick rice dishes like chilli. Another good hint is to make extra when you do cook and freeze it, so all you need to do is pop into the microwave.
Manage your sugar rushes
Remember that when you have a lot of sugar it brings on sugar rushes which means you are more likely to crave more sugary food. So on Boxing Day and the days after Christmas, plan to eat as much slow-release Low GI and fat-burning food as possible. This will help you manage your blood sugar and help to reduce sugar cravings. Get Low GI and Fat Burning foods here.
It’s just too tempting to be a couch potato over the holiday period. We’re often indoors for longer and our usual routines go out of the window. So be conscious of this and try and find ways to get as active as you can during the holiday period.
Even if you follow all these tips you may still end up putting on SOME extra weight. It’s pretty inevitable if you eat or drink more than usual, you eat different foods and do less exercise. So don’t beat yourself up or give yourself a hard time; accept it’s inevitable and decide that you will deal with it in January. BUT MAKE SURE YOU DO! Research suggests that most people don’t lose the weight they gain over Christmas – and year on year that could add up.
From just cutting things out through to a full-on diet
For some people, all they will need to do to get back to normal is to cut out the extras they’ve been having – such as cakes, chocolates, take-aways or even alcohol – for a few weeks.
Other people may need to go a bit further and cut out foods like bread, pasta, potatoes and rice for a few weeks. This isn’t as hard as it sounds. A bolognaise sauce or a chilli can be just as good on a bed of salad leaves as on pasta or rice. Just swapping your morning toast for a bowl of porridge may be easier than you think, and it will keep you feeling fuller for longer. If you do have carbs such as bread, pasta or rice, always keep them brown as wholegrains don’t turn to fat in the same way as refined carbs.
You may decide you need to go on a formal diet. Research shows that people who follow a recognised programme where they are part of a group or structured programme do better than those who try to go it alone. Remember there are loads of different diets and different ones suit different people. So think about the diet you choose carefully and whether it is one that will suit you. If you try one and it’s not for you, look at others rather than totally just giving up; there’s bound to be one that suits you.