Christmas weight gain: easy ways to avoid that unwanted 'gift'

According to Nutrition Australia, the average Australian puts on between 0.8 - 1.5kgs over the Christmas period, and has trouble losing it, but Bupa Dietitian Rosalyn D'Angelo has a few tricks up her sleeve to 'beat the bulge' this Christmas. 

From socks and jocks to home appliances, we’ve all received gifts that are far from our wish list. But Health and Care company Bupa has offered simple tips to help people avoid one of the most unwanted gifts this Christmas: weight gain.

Bupa Dietitian Rosalyn D’Angelo says there are a few easy things you can do to avoid rapid weight gain, while still enjoying your favourite festive treats.

“We tend to socialise more at this time of year which is great for our mental health, but depending on the choices we make, it can actually leave us feeling sluggish and regretful if we’ve over indulge,” says Ms D’Angelo.

“You don’t get high cholesterol from having one block of chocolate. It’s the small choices you make every day that add up. Health does not equal deprivation, in fact, it’s probably the opposite. If you can master the skills of balance and moderation, there’s no food that you can never have again.”

D’Angelo offers the following tips over the Christmas break:

Watch how much you drink at Christmas celebrations

Most alcoholic drinks are packed with kilojoules so limiting how much you drink is an easy way to lower your calorie intake, and of course you’ll feel better the next morning.

Alcohol is also a diuretic, meaning it promotes water loss from the body. If people are feeling thirsty, they’re likely to drink even more so make sure you drink a few big bottles of water every day. That way you’ll stay hydrated, and it will prevent you from drinking alcohol too quickly to quench your thirst. Alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. It’s not a new idea, but it works.

Choose the event that you’re least invested in, and declare yourself the designated driver for the night. If you do choose to drink, hold off having your first alcoholic beverage until later in the event.

Get moving and enjoy some fresh air

We’re lucky in Australia that the festive season happens at the same time as our beautiful summer. Make the most of the longer days and go for a walk after dinner. Get up after lunch and get outside with the family. Stepping away from the table will not only burn off some of that meal, but it will stop you grazing on leftovers for the rest of the afternoon.

Activity also gives us a burst of endorphins, which energises us, which might also prevent you from reaching for some chocolate to give you a 3pm pick me up.

Can you make any of your social engagements more active? A walk with a friend instead of drinks?

Stick to your favourite festive treats

You might be like me, and can’t say no to a crispy piece of pork crackling. Or perhaps champagne is your thing. Or chocolate? Whatever it is, Christmas is the time to enjoy.

Before the season kicks off, think about what your favourite treat is and look forward to it. When you eat it, savour it. This will help you say no to the things you don’t get as much enjoyment from. We get in to a bit of trouble if we just say yes to everything that comes our way.

Balance your meals

If you’re going out for a 5-course dinner, have a lighter lunch and breakfast the next morning. A banana and a coffee will usually suffice the morning after a big meal. Listen to your body, it tells you how much you need to eat when you really listen

We get the most enjoyment from the first bite of food. Our enjoyment goes down from there. So, do you need the huge piece of chocolate cake? A slither will likely give you the same if not more pleasure, especially because you won’t regret it afterwards.

Beware of the buffet

Aim to fill half of your plate with vegetables and salad. They’re low in kilojoules, but the fibre will fill you up. They’re also packed with micronutrients to keep your body ticking over at its best. Stick to lean meats like prawns or grilled chicken and try to avoid over doing fatty meats.

Wait 20 minutes and only go back for seconds if you’re truly still hungry. It takes about that long for the food to hit your stomach and for your body to register that it’s full.

Some final quick tips for avoiding weight gain over Christmas:

  • Don’t go to cocktail parties on an empty stomach. Find out what the food situation is before you go, and if you need to, eat a healthy meal before you go, to prevent you from filling up on salty deep-fried canapes.
  • Re-gift any presents that you don’t want to eat or drink yourself. If they’re in the house, you will eat them.
  • Take a healthy plate. That way you know you’ll have a healthy option even if you’re not in charge of catering.
  • If you can base deserts around fruit, they will likely be lower in kilojoules and more packed with nutrition. Make the most of the beautiful summer fruits. Chopped peach and mango, topped with a little whipped cream and crushed meringue pieces is going to offer you a lot more nutrition and less kilojoules than a piece of pavlova.
  • Place leftovers away after the meal. That way, you’re less likely to keep picking on them throughout the afternoon.
  • Think outside the box when giving gifts this year and make them more health focused. A tennis racquet, boogie board, yoga mat or gardening tools are all great ways to encourage your loved ones to have fun whilst being active.

When it comes to avoiding Christmas weight gain, you don't have to go without - you can still enjoy your favourite treats. Just make sure it's all in moderation, and that you're finding balance with exercise, plenty of water and plenty of delicious seasonal fruits and vegetables. 

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