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How to have fun with food this Christmas season, without the surprise present of weight gain.

How to have fun with food this Christmas season, without the surprise present of weight gain.

During the silly season, healthy eating can get challenging! The nights of December are often spent with a cocktail in one hand and canapes in the other, with little room for your usual eating habits and exercise routines.

It doesn’t take long before you begin to feel overwhelmed with the non-stop eating and drinking and think “f**k, I may as well start the healthy eating in the new year”.

But the festive season should be merry and a time to enjoy beautiful Australian produce with your friends and family. So, here are my 5 hacks to feel in control around food and avoid gaining weight this Christmas season.

1. DO NOT SKIP MEALS 

This is a really common “strategy” I hear my clients adopting in order to “balance it all out”. But this often backfires. If you hold out until the 1:30pm Christmas lunch you will likely be in a hungry if not hangry state, where rational thinking is not quite as easy and our ability to pace ourselves and be mindful with our food is also a struggle. Sound familiar? 

Consequently, we tend to eat so fast our messengers in our stomach don’t have adequate time to let the brain know “hey I’m getting pretty full, you can slow down now”. This results in us overeating and feeling absolutely stuffed (like the Christmas turkey, sorry I couldn’t help myself!). 

So, whether your usual pattern is to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, OR main meals plus 2 snacks or whatever your habits may be, try to adopt a similar eating regime over the Christmas period as well. 

2. Focus on eating more veggies NOT fewer calories

Aim for ½ the plate to be vegetables and fruit, ¼ of the plate to be carbohydrates (such as potato, bread, pasta and rice) and ¼ of the plate to be protein foods (such as beef, lamb, chicken, legumes, eggs and tofu). Aiming for more veggies is not only great for our overall wellbeing due to their jam-packed vitamin and mineral profile but they are also not costly in the energy department, a win-win for your health and your waistline! 

3. Seek out movement that you not only enjoy but find doable with your social commitments

It is OK if your usual 1-hour gym session has gone out the window as that time slot has been taken up with Christmas lunches or cocktail hour. This just means we have to get creative! The type of exercise you’re doing in the middle of the year might be great for stress relief, but around Chrissy maybe you’re looking for something slower paced or outdoors. Could you commit to a walk with friends or family on most days of the week? Is there an opportunity to play some cricket or frisbee at your picnic? On your next beach day could you bring your goggles and go for a doggy paddle? Is there a dance floor at the bar that you can tear up (COVID restrictions permitting)? 

This time of year is different to your usual work grind, therefore it is completely reasonable that your exercise routine may need to be adjusted to work for your Christmas social calendar. Reassess what is doable and plan accordingly. 

4. Consider your alcohol consumption

An increase in alcohol consumption can be the biggest contributor to excess calories over the Christmas season. Therefore, aiming for moderation in this area can give you your biggest bang for buck in terms of maintaining your waistline. 

The Australian guidelines recommend drinking no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day. 

Some strategies to ensure your alcohol consumption doesn’t get on top of you this Christmas season is to:

  • Plan & block out a few alcohol-free days per week
  • Swapping cocktails out for drinks such as vodka lime soda, tequila & soda and wine
  • Alternating between an alcoholic drink and water 
  • Swapping full strength beer for a low carb option or alternating between the two

5. Prioritise sleep

When we have a poor night’s sleep, either by not enough or poor quality it can trigger hormones responsible for increasing our hunger and appetite. This makes overeating more likely, especially since more time awake spent at Christmas parties creates increased opportunities to eat and drink! 

This time of year, many of us tend to burn the candle at both ends, therefore it is important to give yourself permission to go to bed early when possible, and/or sleep in if necessary! 

I’m sure for so many of us this Christmas season will be extra special after the year of unprecedented changes. Be kind to yourself and your body, provide it with the nutritious fuel, nourishing movement and adequate sleep it deserves.

By Lauren Merakis

Dietitian | Kinematics Health + Performance