Calories can add up during the festive period but being worried about winter weight gain is perfectly normal. There are a number of things you can do to help minimise and prevent it. Read on for 10 tips to help avoid that holiday weight gain.
1. Sensible portions
It can be quite tempting to heap your dinner plates to the brim especially during those Christmas dinner meals. If you’re cooking, measure out ingredients and don’t rush in for seconds straight away, give yourself 30 seconds to recuperate. This can help you realise if you are actually hungry or just going for seconds for the sake of eating!
2. Veg is best
Those brownies, pies and desserts might look amazing, but they probably won’t help prevent those pounds from piling especially if you eat them in excess. Try to keep treats to a minimum and put more vegetables on your plate - most are rich in fibre so will help with digestion as well.
3. Keep active
When it’s freezing outside, the last thing you probably want to do is strap your trainers on and go hill sprinting. However, when you look at the fundamental reason why we gain weight, it’s because we gain more energy (through eating) than we spend it (through exercise). Varying your exercise routine, doing more cardio or even try going that extra trip to the gym each week can make a difference. And remember to reward yourself for sticking to your plan (in a healthy-ish way!)
4. Don’t starve yourself for the evening
5. Importance of sleep
Getting good, high quality sleep should be a priority. Research has suggested that poor sleep hygiene and habits can lead to weight gain. Limiting blue light exposure before bedtime, avoiding evening caffeine intake and late night snacks can help boost your sleep quality.
6. Snack wisely
Although snacking is all part of the festive charm, try not to eat everything in sight. Snacking on calorie dense and unhealthy options between meals can add a surprising number of calories to your daily intake. Try to swap those biscuits for a piece of fruit and snack only when you are actually hungry.
7. Limit alcohol and sugary drink intake
It’s a no brainer really, alcohol is loaded with calories but limiting intake can be a harder goal to commit to during the festive period. Those cans of fizzy pop seem to be everywhere during Christmas. Both can add plenty of excess calories to your daily intake and cause weight gain over a prolonged period. If you are drinking though, try switching to alcohol-free or sugar-free alternatives if possible.
8. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
This goes without saying. Drinking plenty of water, especially before meals, is the simple most effective way to reduce your hunger cravings and therefore your calorie intake.
9. Keep protein intake high
Protein is one of three macronutrients, along with fats and carbohydrates. Meals and snacks with good amounts of protein can help improve appetite control and therefore food intake.
10. Have fun and try to minimise stress
Cortisol, the main stress hormone, has various roles including controlling the body’s metabolism. High cortisol levels can lead to high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, sleep disturbance, weight gain and depression. Therefore, reducing stress levels is important not only for the festive period, but for long term health. Exercising, spending time with loved ones and asking for help when you need it can help to reduce stress levels.
Make the focus of your events and dinners to see people and celebrate, rather than the food that may surround you. Remember, life is all about balance - don’t let the stress of food or drink stop you from enjoying the festive period.
Dr Alexander, MB ChB, BSc (Hons) - Senior Writer