The booze, the sloth, the endless party nibbles: no wonder the run-up to Christmas is a time for weight gain. Dietary experts, however, say that with a few cunning tricks it is possible to enjoy the party season and still squeeze into your jeans come January 1.
On average, people gain 2 kg in the four-week Christmas period,” says Ursula Arens, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. “Trying to lose weight at this time is totally ridiculous and socially unpleasant. You just need to aim for stability.”
The Christmas meal is not the 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’s the fun in that? To put on 0.5kg of body fat you need to eat an extra 3,500 calories – not that hard to achieve on Christmas day. But one blow-out meal will not push you up a dress size. The real issue is the weeks of abandonment on either side.
The overall average weight gain works out at just an extra 500 calories a day, according to The British Nutrition Foundation. That is the equivalent of a mince pie and a few extra glasses of wine. Parties, then, are the major calorie hotspots. Drinking wine instead of cocktails or creamy tipples such as Baileys 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 consume the equivalent of a whole meal just in canapés. With snacks, sticking to the one handful rule (one handful of crisps or nuts, then stop). And be strict with your canapés – avoid ones with creamy toppings or pastry bases. Allow yourself one or two others, then stop.
Living among mega-sized tins of chocolates can also be catastrophic for the waistline. Arens suggests “a glorious sweet eating time” once a day where you open the tin, scoff a few, then put it on the top shelf until the next day. 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 240 calories a pop). A simple yet effective trick, says Arens, 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. Nobody is suggesting step aerobics here: 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.
For maximum weight management you must first find your perfect walking pace. Start walking, 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 marvellously 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 240 calories
Observe the single-handful rule (then stop) with nuts and crisps.
Beware canapés: they can be horrifically lardy. Choose non-creamy, non-pastry varieties, eat one or two, 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
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