Can you not over eat at Xmas?

The Xmas holiday season is a time of joy, relaxation, and fun with family and friends, but it can come with a dose of stress for those trying to eat healthy and maintain a training schedule. Well, fear not, with some smart forward thinking you can plan this festive period into your training/eating plan without losing sleep counting calories or fear of fitness loss – infact, enjoy it! …you’ll be amazed how a little R’n’R in this holiday season will actually go to help your overall year of wellbeing, health & fitness…

Holiday weight gain is not such a big deal, unless…

Popular articles often scare us with big numbers like 4,5 kg (10 lb) of weight gain. If you look at an actual study, the story goes differently. When scientists compared people’s perceived and actual weight gain, they found out on average people thought that they gained 1,5 kg (3.3 lb) whereas the actual average weight gain was under 0,5 kg (1.1 lb). Overall, holiday weight gain is not such a big deal as popular media make us believe, as long as you’re not already overweight!


Holidays…cue to overeat, right?

Most people are well aware of the overeating risk factor that holidays are. A lot of people even make an effort to change that. Why do so many still fail? There’s one thing that’s special about holidays for all people, fit and obese, holiday season is full of cues to overeat! If you’re not consciously aware of them and don’t deliberately respond in a different way, you’ll end up following the cues and overeating. What are they…?

Social pressure…

Studies show that people eating with a group change their food intake to be closer to the “average”. So, holidays being the time of abundance, indulgence, and not exactly caring about your health, everyone will feel a psychological cue to overeat at every meal, even if nobody is saying it out loud.


Let’s face it, holidays are stressful time for most of us. And stress is a powerful cue for eating. Plus cortisol, the stress hormone, promotes weight gain!

Broken routines…

People have time off work during the holidays, they travel, and stop participating in regular exercise. This much change can erase the cues for healthy eating associated with your normal schedule.

Emotional associations…

Food made to be eaten in excess is literally ‘in your face’ during the holidays. That alone creates a lot of visual cues to eat. All those treats are often homemade by your loved ones too, which makes it even harder to resist them.

So after reading that you’re thinking “what can I do?” …well, here are my top ten tips for beating the expanding Xmas waistline…

  1. Go easy at breakfast

Skip the croissants and buck’s fizz, instead have smoked salmon and scrambled eggs with a small glass of orange juice. It’s a healthier treat and will give you more energy – especially if you need to manage excitable children.

  1. Avoid grazing

Once you’ve selected your food from the buffet, step away. When food is within easy reach we’re prone to graze mindlessly.

  1. Scan before you serve

Faced with a buffet, resist the temptation to start filling your plate at one end of the table and continuing to add to it until you reach the other. Portion control at a buffet can be difficult for even the most determined healthy eater. So, before you pick up a plate, pause to look at all that’s on offer. Decide on three things you’re going to enjoy most and then help yourself to these and only these.

  1. Don’t skip meals

If you’re going to a party straight after work, don’t ditch lunch for fear of overdoing your daily calorie intake. You’ll be famished and hungry people make bad food decisions. Eat a light lunch and then shortly before you head out have a snack such as a yogurt or a couple of pieces of fresh fruit to take the edge off your hunger and stop you gorging.

  1. Keep healthy snacks in your bag

If you’re a post-Christmas bargain hunter head to the sales armed with dried or fresh fruit or a small packet of unsalted nuts and seeds. Keeping healthier snacks to hand means you won’t lean towards fat-laden coffee shop options (we all know those) when you need a mid-shop energy boost.

  1. Cut down on Carbs

Avoid overloading on starchy carbs – an example is replacing roast spuds with more veg…parsnips, celeriac or sweet potatoes!

  1. Earn your treats

Exercise will help you to maintain your weight during the season of excess, instead of sitting in front of the TV take the dog for a brisk walk, pull on the runners and run around the block, or even pull out the bike and get a cheeky 5 miler in while everyone is snoozing before the next round of festive treats come out of the kitchen.

  1. Factor in the drinks

Alcohol is packed with empty calories, a 125ml glass of 13 per cent abv fizz has 94 calories. Research shows alcohol not only increases our appetite but can weaken our willpower, meaning we’re even more likely to overindulge on festive nibbles. Adding ice to alcoholic drinks will dilute them, choosing lower-alcohol drinks such as spritzers and punch will cut the calorie count.

  1. Treat sweets as treats

If you have a tin of chocolates, avoid hoovering up the whole lot while watching Only Fools & Horses re-runs. Put a small handful in a bowl and the rest out of sight, making it an occasional treat means you’ll enjoy it more.

  1. Pace yourself

Look at the day before and after in your diary before accepting an invitation. It’s easy to cram in too much and then wonder why you’re feeling so frazzled. Burning the candle at both ends also affects your waistline. Too little sleep causes leptin levels to drop and trigger hunger, while levels of ghrelin increase telling the brain we need to eat…bad ghrelins!

Hope these tips help you through the forthcoming holiday season and help you enjoy the festivities and merriment that comes with it without counting the calories and worrying too much about how your waistline will look at the end of it…well too much 😀

Merry Xmas


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Jason Director
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