Christmas cassata

Christmas cassata

You’d be mad to suggest losing weight at this time of the year - but it does make sense not to put it on. Studies into weight gain and the festive season show, not surprisingly,   that this is a weight gain prime time, especially for anyone who’s   already overweight. This wouldn’t matter if, come January, the extra grams just disappeared along with the tinsel, but holiday weight gain can be sticky. If it stays put year after year it becomes   part of the kilo creep that turns into   midlife flab.

One blow out is no big deal, so Christmas Day itself is the least of our problems.  The real challenge is the drip effect of  the  partying  that  starts in November and trickles  into January -  the extra kilojoules  can add up,  especially  if  all the Christmas busyness snatches away your exercise time.

Even going to just one event a week in the lead up to Christmas through to the end of January could turn into an extra one and half kilos if you’re having a few extra drinks and eating a rich dessert, says Accrediting Practising Dietitian Kate Gudorf.

But Gudorf is no Grinch. It‘s possible to eat your cake and get through to the New Year without gaining weight, she says – if you’re selective with your treats.

“You don’t want to miss out on the foods that you don’t get at other times of the year so decide what you really enjoy   - like a special cake or pudding - and have those things. but leave the less important things alone,” she says. “The rest of the time fill your plate with plenty of vegetables and lean protein and try to avoid anything that’s deep fried, wrapped in pastry or has a creamy sauce.”

Pitfalls to be wary of are party foods that keep you coming back like cheese or creamy dips and crackers - these are easier to resist if you eat something beforehand so you’re not famished when you arrive.  

“Alcohol is another – while there’s around 400 kilojoules or less in a glass of wine there can be 800 kilojoules in some cocktails and cans of mixed drinks and the chances are you won’t stop at one. It’s not just the kilojoules in the glass either - the more you drink the more your defences fall and you’re more likely to over indulge,” she adds

If we’re the ones making the food we can be part of the solution and not the problem by making it easier  to eat lighter – and in my experience people appreciate lighter choices at this time of the year.  You can reduce the kilojoule load by offering raw vegetables with plant-based dips and skipping, or at least shrinking, the cheese platter or having an abundance of salads and vegetable sides to go with Christmas lunch. If you’re not the one making the food, you’ll have some control if you offer to bring a salad, a vegetable dish or a plate of nibbles, Gudorf suggests.

Her own alternative to fried finger foods is making bite sized rolls out of wholegrain wraps – spread wraps with a layer of goat’s cheese or ricotta, smoked salmon slices, capers and rocket, then roll up, chill  and cut into slices.

What else can help? Giving the waistline a reality check now and again isn’t a bad idea– we’ve all got one benchmark skirt or pair of jeans   that tells us instantly whether we’re heading in the right direction with our weight.  And grab  any opportunity to move  around rather than sit. Christmas  shopping will never become an Olympic sport  but it does involve lifting a bit of weight  and walking -  parking further away from the shops and moving up the escalator,  not standing  on it, helps  make the most of it.

How  do you avoid kilo creep over Christmas?