How to eat and drink well this Christmas

If you want to eat well over Christmas and avoid the annual weight gain it is worth having some tricks up your sleeve to help. Figures vary on how much weight people gain over Christmas but it is common to find you weigh more January than December - some estimates say by as much as 1kg. Here are ten top tips to help you avoid that weight gain and keeping your health on track for the new year.

1. Eat meals

Research gathered from monitoring what people eat using their smart phones shows many more people are snacking continuously throughout the day than eating regular meals. Continuous snacking causes a constant flow of nutrients through the body. This causes the body’s metabolism, particularly the immune system, to be in a constant state of alert and increases the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. The tradition of three meals a day allows time between meals for periods of when the body is not digesting food. It can then switch into fat burning and repair mode. Try to build in times of the day when you are not eating and reduce your ‘eating window’ to 10 hours, or less, a day.[1]

2. Don’t wear a sack!

Research has shown people tend to keep track of their weight better if they wear tighter fitting clothes. Wearing a belt around your waist can help you to monitor if you have eaten too much and are putting on weight. If you find your belt or a pair of trousers is getting tight it is a prompt to eat less over the next few days.

3. Eat less starchy, sugary “white stuff”

Christmas food is full of refined “white” carbohydrate. Chocolates, sweets, drinks, mince pies, sausage rolls, cakes and white bread are full of it. A recent study reported in the British Medical Journal showed 50% of people who are overweight and older than 40 have Prediabetes which can lead onto Type 2 Diabetes. Highly refined carbohydrate can play havoc with blood glucose levels and the extra calories can lead to weight gain. [2]

4. Fortunately, there are lots of delicious, nutritious foods to eat at Christmas

Make a mental note of the foods you can eat without worrying too much about your waistline. Turkey is low-fat and high in protein. Fresh fruit and vegetables like parsnips, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cranberries, chestnuts, satsumas, dates and dried fruit are all nutritious.

5. Keep an eye on what the kids are eating

After the age of five children have fewer breaks of how much they eat. Research has shown five year olds will eat 26% more when given bigger servings. Whereas three year olds tend to stop eating when they are full.

6. “The best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.”[3]

Most people who are slim don’t ever think of themselves as on a diet because they have adopted a lifestyle that keeps their weight stable. Learn to think differently about food and modify your behaviour around food without being draconian about it. Small comfortable steps taken towards achieving a healthy weight soon add up. Think of it as a slow steady walk rather than a sweaty painful sprint towards your weight goal.

7. Alcohol is a liquid and yes, it is full of calories

It also leads to what psychologists call the “what the hell effect”. This is when good intentions are abandoned after drinking a glass of wine or beer and you eat a whole bowl of peanuts! Think of ways of not drinking too much and offsetting the alcohol you drink by having a soft drink after every alcoholic drink.

8. If you love chocolate

There is a simple solution to the problem of eating too much. Eat very dark chocolate. People tend to eat much less very dark chocolate than milk chocolate in a sitting. Dark chocolate has a more intense flavour and is made with a higher percentage of cocoa butter which creates a delicious sensation in the mouth when it melts.

9. The average person will consume around 5,000 calories on 25th December

This is about 3,000 more than the body requires in one day. This number of calories would take about 6 hours of fast running to burn or 10 hours of walking. If you eat more over Christmas it is important to exercise more too.

10. Take the emotion out of eating

If you find yourself saying “If I eat this pudding it will make me feel better” you are using food as emotional comfort which can lead to overeating when moods are depressed. Explore other ways to feel emotionally better.

11. Portion size

The bigger the portion the more we tend to eat. Serve meals on smaller plates and adopt the “half plate rule”. This is where half of the plate is vegetables and fruits and the other half protein and carbohydrate. If you adopt this rule you will know that you must add a salad to the spaghetti and meatball dish you are just about to serve.

12. Mindfulness was the catch word of 2018

Being mindful means having awareness of your thoughts, emotions, and experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. Many people eat on auto pilot and do not register how much, or what they are eating. Being mindful around food can help you to have better control of your eating. Take time to make decisions about what you would like to eat and don’t be afraid of saying “no, I would prefer to eat this rather than that food.”

[1] Read more about this here

[2] Read more about this in the British Medical Journal

[3] Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink. Hay House 2010

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