With Christmas almost here and the weather getting colder we tend to eat more this month and exercise less. On average, people gain 5 lbs (2 kg) in the four-week Christmas period so trying to lose weight at this time can be hard and socially unpleasant for some. If you know you are going to be out a lot, don’t worry, you don’t have to put on weight, instead of trying to force yourself to lose weight, try and aim to maintain.
How Can You Aim to Maintain?
The Christmas meal is not your biggest problem. You can cut calories by choosing white turkey meat, removing the skin (saving about 50 calories per portion) and stacking high the unbuttered veggies but where is the fun in that? To put on 1lb of body fat you need to eat an extra 3,500 calories – not that hard to achieve on Christmas day. But one blowout meal will not push you up a dress size. The real issue is the weeks of abandonment on either side. Christmas for most has become a 4 week holiday starting from the 1st of December (or the RTÉ Late Late Toy Show is on) and the extra little treats are added and less exercise is penciled in due to parties, bad weather or just the “Ah sure it’s Christmas” excuse.
The overall average weight gain works out at just an extra 500 calories a day. That is the equivalent of a mince pie and a few extra glasses of wine. Parties, then, are the major calorie hotspots. Avoiding cocktails or creamy alcoholic drinks such as Baileys and instead sticking to wine or spirits with low calorie mixers can help to keep things under control. Alternating each alcoholic drink with a glass of water is another good moderation trick. You can also add fizzy water to white wine for spritzers that last longer with no extra calories.
Of course, drunkenness lowers the inhibitions and while the word “nibbles” may sound innocent party food can be disastrous. You can easily eat the equivalent of a whole meal just in finger food. With snacks try sticking to the one handful rule (one handful of crisps or nuts, then stop). And be strict with what’s on offer – avoid ones with creamy toppings or pastry bases. Allow yourself one or two others and then stop.
Living among mega-sized tins of chocolates can also be catastrophic for the waistline. Try agreeing with the family (or yourself) that you will only eat your Christmas sweets once a day where you open the tin and take out 1 or 2, then put it on the top shelf until the next day but remember to add these “few” sweets to your food diary as they ALL COUNT (approx 50 – 60 calories per small sweet) This avoids unconscious grazing, where you consume a chocolate factory’s worth in front of the TV without really noticing.
Mince-pie management is also vital (they are 256 calories a pop). A simple yet effective trick is to ditch the round pastry top. One flick of your finger cuts a third of the calories without impairing your enjoyment.
Get some exercise this Christmas and you really will be ahead of the game. Now I’m not suggesting a step aerobics class on Christmas morning but Christmas shopping or party going can involve a surprising amount of walking. Since half an hour of brisk walking burns off about 200 calories it is possible to erase the rest of that mince pie in a single trip out. And when you are out at parties, make sure you spend more time dancing than talking.
For maximum weight management you must first find your perfect walking pace. Start walking, and then once you’re warm try to increase your pace until you are just about to break into a jog. This is your personal breakpoint. Your optimum walking pace is 5–10 % less than this “breakpoint” between a walk and jog.
Obviously, you will want to slow down occasionally and actually buy presents or go to that party but never fear, studies show that cutting your exercise into five or ten minute bursts has the same fitness benefits as a single aerobic chunk. Walking to a further bus stop or getting off one stop early is another handy trick. Finally, do not forget to dance. Dancing is marvelously fat-burning and it is exceptionally hard to dance and eat simultaneously.
Stay Trim But Don’t Forget To…
- Choose your booze: go for spritzers or wine above calorific cocktails or hefty beers.
- Flick the pie: flick off the top of your mince pie and you lose a third of its 256 calories.
- Observe the singe-handful rule (then stop) with nuts and crisps.
- Beware of finger food: they can be horrifically lardy. Choose non-creamy, non-pastry varieties, eat one or two, and then just SAY NO.
- Walk it off: Shopping, trips to parties, the after dinner stroll – up your pace and you’ll burn off 200 calories in just half an hour.
So remember, you don’t have to put on weight, instead of trying to force yourself to lose weight, try and aim to maintain. Once Christmas & New Years is finished you are already a step ahead and on the right foot to tackle your weight loss and fitness goals.
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