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9 ways to help prevent weight gain over Christmas

Belfast PT Alan Waterman looks at how you can curb you weight gain over the festive season.

Christmas can be a tricky time when it comes to your weight.
Christmas can be a tricky time when it comes to your weight.

By Alan Waterman

Let's be realistic for a second...

For all of us looking to shed some pounds, drop a few inches, or stay consistent with training, this time of year can make these goals much more difficult for us to achieve.

Christmas parties, social gatherings and work do's can mean our diets often go out the window.

We're surrounded by an overabundance of hyperpalatable (i.e. the "taste so damn good I could eat the whole pack") foods, which can cause our calorie intake to skyrocket and make it that much harder to prevent any weight gain.

But it's often used an excuse to let things go a little bit TOO much. It might be harder to make it through the month, but check out my best tips to help you get through to January whilst avoiding the fallout from Christmas.

1. Prioritise protein and veg

We all know we should eat our vegetables, right? Not only do we get a tonne of nutrients from them, but they do a great job at making us feel full for not an awful lot of calories.

Protein, too, is very effective at helping control appetite, much more than either carbs or fat.

So, when we're faced with an absolute mountain of food served up to us on our plates, diving into the protein and veg sources first can help prevent us from continuing on to overeat on the higher carb and fat sources later, simply by helping us begin to feel fuller, sooner.

2. Eat to feel satisfied, not stuffed

Ever eaten to the point where you feel as if you can't manage another bite? Likelihood is that if you've reached that stage, you've maybe overdone it a little.

With more meals out than you may be used to at this time of year, rather than aiming to eat until we're completely full, eating until we feel satisfied (about 80% full) can prevent us from taking on board excess calories.

By slowing down our eating, we give our body more time to register that point at which it begins to feel full, helping us determine that 80% point more effectively than if we just inhaled our plate of food.

3. Push the goalposts back

Aiming to drop a half stone across December? Ask yourself this - is it realistic?

It becomes much more difficult to achieve your desired weight loss across the holiday period- cue frustration, stress, and demotivation when you don't see the scales or inches moving the way you hoped.

Instead, consider a goal of maintenance by allowing for a slightly increased calorie intake, and aim to get through the month maintaining your current weight.

It may mean no weight loss for a few weeks, but it also removes the load of extra pressure we place on ourselves by trying to achieve further losses.

Sometimes, maintenance is our best, most realistic option, and that is especially true across Christmas - if you can at least prevent gaining weight or added inches, you've done a damn good job.

4. Control your food environment

Ever pick at the leftovers on your plate after you've already decided you've finished?

We're pretty much guaranteed to have a higher chance of eating the foods we have available to us in our immediate environment, which can easily lead to us over-consuming on calories (especially with the high calorie, hyperpalatable food choices around).

We can prevent this by removing ourselves as effectively as possible from these environments, or by improving them- stand away from the buffet table at the Christmas party, move out of the kitchen when having friends round at home, and even consider having slightly better food choices also to hand, instead of only the higher calorie, hyperpalatable ones.

5. Handle food pushers

We all have that friend or family member who tries force food upon us, and more often than not, we give in.

This often leads to eating more than we had planned to, simply by being put under pressure to do so.

Remember that we're under no obligation to eat however someone else thinks we should, and any issue with that is their problem, not ours.

Being assertive about our decision, rather than passive, will work in our favour- declining the offer, especially if we are already full, will keep us a little more in line with our own personal goal. If it causes offence, it will soon be forgotten.

6. Focus on what you CAN do

If you're up to your eyes with Christmas preparations, likelihood is that you'll have days where you struggle to find the hour or more you need to get to the gym and fit a workout in.

Yes, it's true that you may not have that hour, but what time DO you have?

When we're so busy, it's very easy to find an excuse not to train, but instead, we should aim to focus on making whatever use of the time we can still dedicate towards it- even if that's only a 20 minute bodyweight circuit in the living room.

It may not be much, but it's better than nothing.

7. Practice diet flexibility

Planning on having a few drinks with a dinner out? Maybe forgo dessert. Hitting up some snacks and nibbles with friends? Maybe go for a lighter meal at dinner.

Diet flexibility often means a case of attempting to balance out the books, in order to try to keep your calorie intake within target range.

Incidents where calorie intake is higher or food choices are more loose can be accommodated by a little more strictness elsewhere.

If we're too lenient with ourselves, we will have a much harder time managing to keep on top of an appropriate calorie intake, and make it more difficult to prevent unwanted weight gain.

Flexibility means we can still have some overindulgence, but is a means of allowing for moderation, not an excuse to go all out.

8. Choose when to blow your diet

The likelihood of making it through the entire month without any dietary disasters is pretty slim - typically we have so many social gatherings to navigate our way around that we're almost guaranteed to have a slip up somewhere along the way.

But rather than seeing every event as an excuse to see yourself derailed from your diet, we can pick and choose where we actually go overboard, and limit the damage done.

It makes a little more sense to anticipate that your diet will go south on your night out with friends than the work drinks you can't really be bothered going to, so we can certainly aim to make through one of those nights without any real issue.

Think diet flexibility, but on a bigger scale.

9. Forget about guilt

Have a day where you overdid it a little? Planning on starving yourself the next day, doing two hours of cardio, and beating yourself up over it? Chill out for a second...

Things won't always go to plan, and bad days are going to happen - it doesn't mean the whole week has gone to waste.

Focus on making your next meal better, put the extra energy to use in a great training session, and aim to just carry on as normal.

When Christmas rolls around, are you going to overeat? Almost certainly. Is it more important to enjoy the day spent with family and friends, and not worry so much about food? Absolutely.

It's one day, and it won't make or break a year's worth of progress.

  • Want more advice and tips to help you work towards your goals? Make sure to check out my Facebook page for daily content.

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