How to avoid Christmas weight gain
Let’s face it – it’s no fun going into January, already the darkest, coldest, poorest month, with that sinking feeling you have to double up your healthy eating efforts because you’ve overdone it at Christmas. But guess what – you don’t have to. ‘We put on weight because we give ourselves permission to eat and drink whatever we want over the festive season,’ says dietitian Helen Bond. ‘You can decide not to do this. Weight gain at Christmas isn’t inevitable. There are plenty of healthy, seasonal and delicious foods about. You just need to catch yourself when you fall into the trap of giving yourself an excuse to overindulge.’ We’re most definitely not saying don’t indulge, just don’t indulge every day. And when you do indulge, is there a healthy treat you can give yourself? Here are our tips for avoiding Christmas weight gain.
Get some social support
‘A large body of evidence shows this is one of the most important factors in losing the extra pounds or keeping them off,’ says Dr Meg Arroll, a psychologist specialising in weight loss. ‘Having people around you who motivate and encourage you will help make a weight-loss journey much easier. So use this time when everyone is off work and connecting to start a new approach to cooking and some daily exercise.’ Tell loved ones what you want to do and ask them for their support over the festive season – you could even start a healthy family tradition, such as cooking leftover veggie soup together.
Set new habits
‘You’re out of your usual routine and this can be a good time to try some different things that may support your weight loss,’ says Arroll. ‘Without the daily pressures and stresses of work, you can start to replace old habits with new, such as a morning walk outdoors, or some new healthy recipes. By the time New Year comes round, new habits will be on their way to becoming automatic.’
Why not use the period between Christmas and New Year to discover what your gym has to offer while it’s nice and quiet, or treat yourself to some boutique fitness classes near you that you normally would consider too expensive? Then you’ll be well ahead of the fitness newbies and gym crowds come 1 January.
Take time to reflect
In 2019, research from the University of Pennsylvania confirmed those with a strong purpose were better able to keep to healthy choices. ‘Use this time of year to dig deep and figure out what your internal motivation to eat healthily is, as that can really help you stay on track,’ says Arroll. She suggests the ‘why funnel’ exercise to drill down into why you really want be a healthy weight. Take a moment to sit and think of the reasons, and then keep analysing the reasons you give. This will help you get to the core reason. For example, your initial answer may be that you want to feel happier in yourself. Ask why that’s important to you. You might realise it’s so you feel more energetic. Why does that matter? Is it because you want to feel healthier and spend quality time with your children? ‘Doing this exercise often gets you to a more meaningful reason for weight loss, and that’s very motivating,’ says Arroll.
Swap your seasonal eats
Christmas weight gain might seem inevitable when roast spuds and mince pies are some of the primary festive foods that spring to mind, but there are plenty of healthier options. ‘Chestnuts are lower in fat and calories than other nuts. Then there are satsumas, dates and seasonal root veg,’ says Bond. ‘These are all high in fibre, helpful for supporting your immune system, feeding good gut bugs and filling you up so you don’t reach for unhealthy choices. Instead of being drawn in by festive displays in supermarkets, see what else is available. Write a shopping list so you’re not seduced by things you don’t need.’ Pomegranate seeds make everything seem festive, while winter salads and street-food style winter slaws are on-trend and super-healthy.
Try these 4 healthy Christmas hacks
1 Watch those festive coffees ‘Gingerbread lattes may be tasty, but they’re very high in calories and sugar,’ says Bond. ‘Have just one on a special shopping trip, then stay away.’
2 Be booze-selective ‘You don’t have to avoid it completely but dodge sugary cocktails such as piña coladas and snowballs. Go for something like a gin with slimline tonic instead,’ says Bond. Sophisticated alcohol-free options are great ‘treat’ drinks with fewer calories (as long as you don’t replace the alcohol with sugary syrups).
3 Keep a food diary This helps you stay mindful about what you’re consuming, so you think before reaching for the high-cal snacks.
4 Have the odd treat ‘It’s better to have some treats than feel deprived – a perfectionist mindset can lead to anxiety and low mood,’ says Arroll.