I suppose I have to face up to the approach of Christmas and inevitable weight gain it brings. In years past I’ve managed to gain as much as half a stone over Christmas, other years it’s just been a couple of pounds.
The entire interweb is awash with articles telling you how to not gain weight over Christmas, I’ve seen articles advising me to choose raw vegetable crudites over crisps (not going to happen) and take satsumas into work as a festive treat for everyone instead of cakes (yes, they’ll LOVE you for that).
According to the British Dietetic Association we gain an average of 5lb over Christmas, meaning we eat about an extra 500 calories a day over that 4 week period. More importantly it seems that few of us actually manage to lose much of it over the following year.
I’m not a fan of self deprivation, but I don’t want to undo months of hard work for the sake of a box of chocolates, so here’s a few strategies I’m using to help me stay under control.
Watch your attitude.
One festive party doesn’t make you gain half a stone. The problem is that for the entire month of December we convince ourselves life is one long party. Even lunch at home has to come with a mince pie, and when you’re in the shop buying sandwiches it’s hard to resist the “Christmas Dinner” version. Try and think of your Christmas celebrations as isolated events rather than a lifestyle! If you’re going to a Christmas Party tonight have fruit for breakfast and soup and a wholemeal roll for lunch, then don’t worry about what you eat at the party. Desperate for a Christmas Sandwich and an Egg Nogg latte at lunch? Then have it, but eat salad for dinner.
Don’t buy it!
For some reason, at Christmas, we head to the supermarket and buy a Chocolate Orange, box of Matchmakers, some After Eights and a huge tub of Roses, even though we know there are actually only going to be 2 people to eat it all. Then we think it all needs to be gone by January. Well, if you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it, and you probably won’t miss it. Buy one box, or if you must buy several then make sure you put them in a cupboard and only open one box at a time. And keep that open box in a different room from the one you spend the evening in, out of eyesight so you have to get up and make an effort to eat them.
When you shop for the Christmas period, plan your meals AND your treats. Rather than just filling the house with snacks, think about what you will eat each day, and be realistic. It’s fine to PLAN to eat a load of Iceland frozen canapes on the day after Boxing Day, it’s not fine to pretend you’re going to have salad, and then eat them as a “snack”. Schedule in nutritious meals that still feel like a treat, like steaks or stews. Write a shopping list and be strong and stick to it. If you’ve planned to buy a chocolate orange and a tin of Roses, and the Celebrations are on special offer then buy them INSTEAD rather than AS WELL. All you have to do is get through the supermarket trip with your willpower intact, once you’re home it’s too late.
Keep up the exercise
It’s a busy time of year. But when you suddenly realise that going out for a 20 minute run means that mince pie didn’t count, those 20 minutes suddenly seem worth finding. You can balance a little excess by maintaining your regular exercise routine, walking to the shops instead of driving, and taking the stairs instead of the lift. Even pulling out the Wi Fit for some Christmas Day entertainment is burning more calories than vegging in front of the TV.
Eat what you want
It’s Christmas, for goodness sake don’t buy low fat cheddar. Buy the good stuff, but try and keep in your head that no one is going to take it away from you. Have a small portion, savour it, enjoy the flavour, and then have some more tomorrow. Chose a box of mini mince pies from the fancy supermarket range or a local deli, rather than buying 24 value versions that don’t taste good and still make you fat. Don’t deprive yourself, or you’ll end up at a party stuffing your face with sausage rolls that you don’t even want because all you have at home is salad.
Don’t eat for other people
You have to take responsibility for yourself. Just because someone has prepared a huge spread of food for a party doesn’t mean you are obliged to eat it all. I’m a terrible one for tucking into food I neither want, nor like, just because I’ve noticed no one else is eating much and I don’t want the host to feel upset that no one liked their food.
Read the packets and nutritional information
I adore Egg Nogg lattes. A few years back there was a Starbucks a short walk from my house and I would get one almost every day over Christmas. Then I found out that a tall Egg Nogg latte contains 353 calories, or the equivalent of 2 bowls of my morning porridge, and suddenly it wasn’t quite so appealing. Now I have one or two over the Christmas season as a treat. Research has found that Women who read the food labels while shopping weigh around 9lb less than those who don’t. When you’re doing your Christmas shopping read the labels and make an educated choice about whether it’s going in your shopping basket, rather than just flinging it in because that’s what you always have at Christmas.
I think the largest part of avoiding gaining too much weight over Christmas is adjusting your mental attitude.
We think of ourselves as on a diet or off a diet, so if we’re not dieting over the Christmas period we think that we have to stuff our faces for a month. Christmas should be a fun and celebratory time of year. I WANT Mulled Wine, Snowballs and Pringles, and I want them more than I want to not gain any weight. What I don’t want is to eat rubbish because I feel obliged, feel sick and bloated and start January half a stone heavier and tired and miserable.
Remember a few pounds aren’t the end of the world.
Even if you’ve worked really hard to lose that weight, putting a little of it back on isn’t the end of the world as long as you enjoyed doing it and you feel that what you ate was worth it. Being tense and feeling that you’re “not allowed” certain foods makes you feel deprived and more likely to binge on rubbish. Enjoy your food, enjoy Christmas and keep it in proportion.
Do you have any other strategies for avoiding the Christmas bulge?!