December has arrived and for many this means the start of numerous celebrations, parties and family functions which translates into 4-6 weeks of constant eating and drinking. Unfortunately this tends to mean weight gain. In fact, research from The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that adults gain at least half a kilo over the holiday period, but more alarming is the fact that once the extra weight is there, it is rarely lost. Now while this may not seem that much extra weight at all, if you consider the number of mince pies you will actually be devouring; if you consider that just a kilo of extra weight equates to an extra 9000 calories or 20 extra hours of intense training, you may be a little more keen to keep a closer eye on the scales this holiday season.
Much Christmas weight gain can be explained by the simple fact that we tend to give ourselves ‘permission’ to gain weight over Christmas – indulging in large volumes of food, drinking way too much and skipping our regular training sessions simply because it is ‘Christmas’. So the first thing that you can do to take control is to not give yourself ‘permission’ to gain weight. Sure you can indulge in a little Christmas pud on the big day itself, and enjoy a few extra drinks at the work Christmas party, but you do not need to write off 6 weeks of exercise and good food habits just because it is Christmas.
Next keep a close eye on the scales over the 6 week holiday period – the simple act of checking your weight on a regular basis is often all that is required to keep it from creeping up. Always weigh in at the same time each week, ideally first thing in the morning to track any general trends. If you notice the numbers creeping up, all you need to do is cut your calories back slightly and exercise a few extra times to take control again. And if you need further motivation, keep in mind that it is always easier to prevent weight gain than it is to get it off once it is there.
From a food and eating perspective, the best party trick I can share with you is to never arrive at a party or function hungry. You know the drill – you have been out all day, you skipped lunch and then arrive at a cocktail function where the only thing on offer is high calorie canapés and free flowing drinks – what happens - you eat a million of the tiny snacks along with the 1000 or more calories they contain. And this is where the overeating cycle begins, without you even releasing it. The simple act of grabbing a protein and/or vegetable rich snack an hour or so before you head out will prevent this scenario. Not only will you be in a much better position to make better food decisions as your choices are not driven by ravenous hunger, but you are far less likely to overeat. The best pre-party snacks include a nut or protein based snack bar, low fat cheese and crackers, a meal replacement shake or a salad or vegetable based soup
Finally, the most powerful thing you can do to stay in control of your weight this year, it is use your holiday time wisely and do as much activity as you can. Plan active social events with friends and family, enrol the kids in holiday activity camps, and use the extra time to exercise more not less so that you are able to enjoy good quality Christmas foods knowing you are doing the extra activity to burn the extra calories off. A simple rule of thumb is to commit to at least an hour of exercise each and every holiday day, even on Christmas Day itself, and then you can enjoy your favourite Christmas foods without a subsequent increase on the scales.