If you consider that an extra mince pie a day will leave you with an extra 1kg of body weight over the course of a month, it is not difficult to understand how Christmas cheer can really pile on the kilos. So before you completely disregard your healthy eating and regular exercise habits and become victim to several weeks of holiday overindulging, you may be interested to know that there is good evidence to show that keeping your basic lifestyle habits on track is likely to prevent excessive weight gain. In fact, data collected from the US Weight Control Registry has shown that individuals who maintain their weight do not overly diverge from their usual diet and exercise regimes during holiday periods. While they may enjoy a few extra treats, they generally maintain their exercise and regular healthy eating regimes most of the time.
So on the eve of another holiday season, perhaps it is worth considering if there are any structural changes to your diet that are easily implemented but go a long way in reducing your kilo joule intake and supporting weight control, even during the holiday season. Remember, one off overindulgences do not cause weight gain – instead weight gain is caused by gradual, and sustained increases in kilo joule intake, or dietary habits that develop and support higher kilo joule intakes each day; an extra biscuit here, a large glass of wine there and before you know it, an extra kilogram has snuck on.
Here is a sample of the most common party season habits that are conducive to weight gain so you can avoid the extra couple of kilograms that appears mid January
1) Going to parties hungry
A common mistake made when it comes to party season is overindulging on high fat pastries, chips and dip which are consumed mindlessly while waiting for the “real” food. Avoid overeating at cocktail events by ensuring you do not arrive starving. Events held late afternoon and early evening pose the biggest issue so try a highly filling food 60-90 minutes beforehand such as a meal replacement shake, apple, protein shake, cheese and wholegrain crackers or a handful of nuts. Also aim to munch on a low calorie vegetable such as carrot or celery with this snack as your vegetable intake is also much likely to be low if you are eating party type foods. Try it and notice how much more in control of your eating you feel when offered various snacks and nibbles.
2) Ditching the exercise
The warmer weather and longer days presents a perfect opportunity to do more activity, not less. Make it a priority to maintain gym commitments, regular walks and take the kids to the beach, park or organized activities as much as you can to help compensate for the extra food you are likely to be eating.
3) Overindulging too early in the season
While supermarkets have been stocked with Christmas treats for weeks, the truth is that all of the treats and alcohol are really celebrating one day, not two months. Try and differentiate “special” occasions from run of the mill drinks and parties with work colleagues and acquaintances. This way you can indulge when there is a truly special occasion but keep on track with good habits for the several weeks beforehand.
4) Buying too much food
Remember, if food is there, you will eat it. Large Christmas hampers, cupboards stocked with excessive amounts of snack food, chocolates and lollies are a recipe for disaster, particularly if you have young children at home who are likely to find the temptation too difficult to resist. Shop in small amounts, purchasing only what you need, try and avoid extra large boxes of chocolates and lollies and give away leftovers to remove temptation after the big day.
5) Snacking on poor quality canapés
Good quality cheese, seafood, nuts and chocolates are examples of foods that bring much taste and enjoyment to the palate, while cheap crackers, pastries and chips do not. Differentiate run of the mill packaged snack foods from good quality food that you only ever enjoy in small quantities on special occasions and savour the experience of eating them rather than stuffing your face with high fat snacks that leave you feeling bloated and heavy for many hours afterwards.
6) Eating everything on offer
Next time you are at a party, pay attention to the thin partygoers compared to the overweight ones. Generally you will find that slim individuals are a lot pickier when it comes to their food choices, while those who have more difficulty self regulating their weight eat everything on offer. A simple question to ask yourself each time the canapés are on offer, “Do I really feel like eating this?” – This simple questioning is often enough to help you control the types and volumes of food you are eating. Another simple trick is to limit yourself to just 3-5 canapés at any one event in order to keep both your total fat and kilo joule intake under control.
7) Overindulging in alcohol
As is the case with activity, the festive season should not be seen as an excuse to forget your personal limits with alcohol intake. Try and have two alcohol-free days each week to give your liver a break, drink plenty of water and be aware of high kilo joule mixers such as juice, soft drink and flavoured drinks which can really increase the number of kilojoules you are taking in. A great refreshing, low kilo joule alternative is soda or sparkling water with a slice or two of lime or lemon.
8) Letting Christmas run until January
Aim to get back on track with your usual diet and exercise habits by January 2nd or before you know it, February will be here, you will be rushing to get the kids ready for school and the extra Christmas weight will be with you for the rest of the year.
9) Choosing high fat snacks
While pastry based treats, cheese and dips can be exceptionally high in fat and kilojoules, the good news is that there is also a range of many lower kilojoules snacks that still taste fantastic. Look for potato chips cooked in olive oil, low fat dips and crackers and seafood based snacks.
10) Developing an “all or nothing” attitude to dieting
Rather than mentally writing off the next four weeks in terms of your food intake and activity patterns, think like a thin person. Enjoy good quality, tasty treats in controlled amounts but balance them with nutritious Summer foods including salads, seafood and fresh fruits. Look as the time off as an excuse to move your body more and you will be well on your way to a fitter and healthier 2014.