5 Tips to Avoid Excessive Christmas Weight Gain
You don’t need me to tell you that Christmas is fast approaching. Along with gifts, seeing loved ones and having time off work, the holiday season is also commonly associated with weight gain, excess, lack of exercise, overconsumption of all foods and drinks and chronic hangovers.
I tell all my clients that on birthdays, weddings and other special occasions (especially Christmas) to let their hair down and have fun – that is what we train for, after all. Enjoy these experiences and hopefully attract comments from others of how fit and healthy you look. However, one thing I do know is that the guilt trip that follows in January is not worth it – sure we should let our hair down, have fun, eat, drink and be merry! But no one wants to feel like rubbish in January, to feel like they’re starting their whole path to health and fitness all over again, do they? So what can we do about it?
1. Sugar is your worst enemy (even though it tastes like your best friend). Try as much as possible to keep sugar intake low. Sugar spikes blood sugar and therefore insulin, our fat-storing hormone, which means that the more sugar we consume over the festive period the more excess baggage you’ll carry around your waist in to the New Year. It’s impossible not to eat sugary foods around Christmas, but it is possible not to go overboard and binge on chocolate. Remember what your mum used to say, “You’ll feel sick and it will rot your teeth!”
2. Try avoiding naps where possible. Now usually I’m all in favour of a quick power nap to boost your energy in the middle of the day; however, if you feel yourself fighting an uncontrollable urge to drop off in the middle of the day the chances are you have over-indulged in carbohydrates (namely sugar). At this point your blood sugar has dipped significantly due to excess insulin secretion (remember that’s the one that stores fat) and now you’re excessively tired, this is essentially a mild form of hypoglycaemia (the opposite of hyperactive). Plus, it’s a well-known fact that sumo wrestlers, the fattest athletes on the planet, take a nap after every meal.
3. Never drink on an empty stomach. Besides the obvious reasons such as getting blind drunk in front of your kids at 11 in the morning, drinking alcohol on an empty stomach is a really bad idea. It’s the liver’s job to process alcohol, which is a difficult job as it’s essentially a poison. Whilst the liver is busy processing the alcohol, it can’t perform one of its other vital roles, controlling blood sugar levels. At this point once again your blood sugar drops taking you towards hypoglycaemia. You’ll start to feel a bit dopey, maybe even drunk, and then comes a massive sugar craving to get your blood sugar levels back up. Drinking prior to Christmas lunch is a classic example of this; people have a few glasses of wine on an empty stomach, their blood sugar levels drop, they crave sugar, eat masses of food in a desperate attempt to re-stabilize blood sugar levels. They eat a sugary dessert, which spikes their blood sugar levels once again then their body releases insulin (fat storage) to lower the blood sugar. It lowers blood sugar levels too much and the cycle starts all over again until eventually your body can’t take anymore and you fall asleep in front of ‘Only Fools & Horses’ Christmas Special. You finish the day 6lbs heavier with a felt-tip moustache that your nephew drew on your face whilst you slept…….I’m still bitter.
4. Family walks. Exercise doesn’t have to stop around Christmas time! You can still enjoy a little exercise without seeming like a gym freak to your nearest and dearest. Family walks on Boxing Day and the other ‘no man’s land’ days between Christmas and New Year are ideal for teaching Timmy how to ride his new bike, letting granddad try out Kelly’s new rollerblades and more importantly burning massive amounts of calories. As you know I’m not a huge fan of the whole ‘calories in calories out’ idea, it’s too flawed. However, burning as much as 600 calories on a 1 hour walk is never a bad thing. Right, that’s one box of Ferrero Roche down, 2 more to go!
5. Accept that you will gain a few extra pounds and get on with it. Christmas is a time to enjoy your friends and family’s company, to watch good television (or bad), to eat foods you normally wouldn’t, to drink and dance and be generally happy. It’s times like this that we train for! So we can feel fit and healthy and look good whilst we do it! You will gain a few pounds, don’t stress about it, I will too! But one thing’s for sure: if you apply yourself through January, come February 1st you’ll look just as good as you did before the holidays and that’s a promise.
Merry Christmas everybody, have fun and I look forward to seeing you all again in the New Year in our revamped and private health and fitness studio!
P.s Ask about our new Skierg machine, We now offer the most ski specific exercise programming in Bristol!
Ben Winter PT