How to really avoid gaining weight over Christmas
I don’t know if you saw the article recently saying that weighing yourself every day will help you avoid putting weight on this Christmas - but I’m here to tell you that it won’t. The key to losing weight and keeping it off is having a healthy relationship with food. Obsessive weighing and having ‘rules’ about what to eat and when just don’t help long-term with healthy eating.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that this year has brought with it unprecedented challenges to our mental health. Not being able to see friends and family indoors makes it hard to be social, so it’s also an unusually lonely run-up to Christmas.
That disjointed, isolated feeling can, of course, be negative for our diets. Loneliness and boredom can lead to increased snacking, and feeling like there’s not much to look forward to means we’re looking for treats wherever we can find them - and at the moment, that’s the Advent calendar or Deliveroo.
In theory, having fewer meals out and not drinking as much with friends this year should help us stay a little healthier during the festive period. If you’re still worried about your weight or how you’ll eat over Christmas, here are five ways to manage the big day (or two).
1. Stress less
Health goes a lot deeper than your weight or appearance, so my number one tip is to consider your mental health above all else. Be nicer to yourself, both before and after Christmas, and plan some me-time to decompress each week.
Being able to manage stress is important for weight management too. Chronic stress (feeling anxious over a long period of time) can raise cortisol levels in your blood, which can lead to water retention and a higher weight, or emotional eating and potential weight gain as a result. This often leads to more anxiety about the weight gain, when what your body really needs is for you to take some time out.
2. Watch the extras
Everything adds up, so keeping an eye on all the extras - the Quality Street chocolates, quick nibble of cheese, mince pies lying around - can help you avoid eating too much. Enjoy whatever you fancy, but if you’ve just eaten, wait until you feel a little hungry before your next snack.
Fruit and nuts are great snacks to break up the more indulgent foods, and excellent sources of vitamins and minerals.
Alcohol is another extra to be aware of. Apart from the calories, drinking alcohol can increase your perception of hunger, causing you to eat more than you might normally. Decide on what you want to drink and how much before the day and fill your own glass so you can stick to it.
3. Plan ahead
Picturing the day in advance can help you feel more in control and avoid slipping into a restriction-binge cycle. This means thinking about the foods you’re most excited about and allowing yourself to have them at the times when you’ll most enjoy them.
Don’t skip meals to ‘make up’ for the extras - plan a breakfast that will satisfy you and remember that it’s just one day - you won’t put on weight if you have more balance in your diet every other day.
4. Stay energised
Part of the problem on Christmas Day and Boxing Day is feeling tired and bloated. Whilst some relatives can be pretty exhausting, part of it is eating and drinking a lot without moving!
Plan a walk around the block or local park just to get some fresh air and clear your head a little. It will also help with digestion (and might be the perfect escape from annoying aunts or mothers-in-law...)
Drinking water can help too, so don’t forget to stay hydrated throughout the day.
5. Ditch the diets
Worrying about your weight at Christmas really isn’t worth it - the stress affects both your mental and physical health. Food is supposed to be social and enjoyable!
Quick-fix diets promising fast weight loss often mean cutting out important foods and following rules about foods that are not only unsustainable long-term, but can also lead to disordered eating patterns. When you inevitably ‘fail’ the diet, you feel guilty and think it’s your fault, when the diet was never possible to maintain anyway. Most people then eat more, which leads to putting weight on, rather than losing it.
It’s not as sexy to sell, but a long-term approach - making small changes over time to increase the balance of nutritious foods and decrease the less healthy foods and portion sizes - is how to feel better about your weight this time next year.
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