After a challenging year, the Christmas holidays can’t come quickly enough. But while the holidays are never a time for diets and deprivation, a little too much Christmas cheer can also lead to plenty of extra kilos — kilos many of us never lose.
Those keen to begin 2021 feeling healthy, there are some simple holiday hacks that let you partake in the holiday season’s delicious offerings while maintaining the health goals you have for the new year ahead.
1. Buy only what you need
The most powerful predictor of discretionary or junk food intake is availability. This means that if you fill your home with loads of extra treats, snacks and Christmas foods, you will eventually eat them all — even if you never really intended to. Put simply, the less high-calorie snack foods you keep at home — chips, dips, mince pies, chocolates, lollies and shortbread — the less of it you will eat overall.
Another simple trick is to keep food out of sight — you’re much more likely to grab a handful of nuts or chocolates if you can easily see or grab them, as opposed to have to go searching for them in the cupboard. As they say, out of sight, out of mind…
2. Give yourself the main holidays off
I’m not talking about the entire 4-6-week window, starting December 1 and running through to mid-January, but rather the main 3-4 celebratory days in-between.
Giving yourself permission to indulge and eat whatever you like on those key days in the festive calendar — Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, and so on — will mean that you can indulge to your heart’s content and not feel too deprived when it comes time to get back on track.
Remember that it’s not one-off indulgences that cause weight gain, rather overeating that occurs on a daily basis, over long periods of time. This means there is no issue overdoing the calories on Christmas Day, but the key is getting back on track with your regular healthy routine within a day or two.
3. Maintain the movement
Christmas calories would not be such a cause for concern if we maintained our regular exercise commitment but what tends to happen is that we stop all training and then overeat for several weeks, which inevitably leads to weight gain.
The easiest way to prevent this is to make daily movement or exercise a priority over the holiday period. You don’t have to spend hours at the gym, but rather making a concerted effort to do a walk or run each holiday day will go a long way in preventing weight gain throughout the perilous December and January. And you’ll feel a lot better as a result.
4. Buffer your overindulgences
In life there will always be times when we eat more than we need, and one of the easiest ways to manage this overeating is to buffer these days with a day or two of light eating.
Here, after a big celebration all you need to do is wait until you’re really hungry again to eat your next meal, and focus your food on low-calorie options — salads, fruit, light seafood or even juices or soups. A couple of days of lower-calorie eating will buffer your excessive calorie intake and prevent weight gain.
5. Get rid of the extras
There is nothing wrong with enjoying special occasions with indulgent foods and treats. The issue is that this overeating can continue for several weeks, if not months, after the big event.
One of the easiest ways to prevent long-term overeating that comes with Christmas feasting is to get the food out of the house as quickly as possible. This means giving away some of the leftover Christmas desserts rather than keeping it all for yourself, re-gifting extra chocolates and biscuits when you visit others and cleaning out the fridge and cupboards before New Year’s Day.
Then you can start 2021 having enjoyed plenty of yummy Christmas foods but ensure you don’t start the year with a few extra and unwanted kilos.
Author Susie Burrell is a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of Shape Me, and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in both print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.