Battle of the Post-Christmas Bulge

06/01/2014 11:14 GMT | Updated 05/03/2014 10:59 GMT

Are my clothes shrinking in the wash or what? Following non-stop dinner and cocktail parties over the Christmas/New Year period - with over-indulgence in food and drink and little rest - the evidence is now on display. A bulge at the waistline, skin filling out in the wrong places, extra layers added to chin and thighs.

What can you do about it? Dieting in this cold weather is not a sensible option. Instead you can try to reduce stress and eat mindfully.

First, know that accumulated stress - hosting a big Christmas do for difficult family members, Christmas shopping, hours of cooking and financial worries from Christmas overspending - can make you expand sideways. The more stressed you are, the more cortisol is released into your bloodstream, increasing your appetite to supply the body with the energy it needs to combat stress. Cortisol also encourages fat storage, especially around the belly. Hence the waistline expansion! On top of that, too many late nights' partying around New Year puts your body under stress. Again more cortisol is released which interferes with your sleep, resulting in further sleep deprivation. Thus we need to reduce stress and get enough sleep for less cortisol release.

We also need a strategy to eat less, one that works. No crash diet. No calories counting. We need to change our habits so that we are eating sufficiently and healthily for the body to operate and function at its best.

Most of us hardly pay much attention to our eating habits. We eat as we please, when we want and as much as we want. We indulge in tasty food, eat less when we don't like it and snack more when we're upset or watching TV. If we were to become mindful of our eating, we are less likely to overeat. Eating while watching TV, reading your emails or Facebooking means that eating is subservient to another activity: it serves only as a joyful enhancer to the primary activity. The sense of satisfaction derived from the consumption of food is minimised because we are not fully aware of it. Therefore we carry on eating without realising how much we have consumed - to gain satiety. Before we know it, the whole bag of food has vanished!

At a party, it is difficult to resist the canapé that comes by on a tray. Again the activity of eating is subservient to that of talking and listening, so we eat and drink too much. We also eat and drink to occupy our hands and conceal awkwardness when there is no one to talk to.

You will fully enjoy the taste of food when you are mindful of what you eat and you will eat less because there is a sense of satisfaction. This satisfaction acts like a natural brake - to stop further consumption. Eat and chew slowly so you can enjoy every morsel of food. Take your time. Don't swallow too fast. Be fully aware when you open your mouth and let food come into contact with your tongue. Be mindful when you move the food from the front of your mouth to the back and from side to side in the process of biting, chewing or grinding. Notice, too, that after a few spoonfuls, the degree of tastiness is lessened. The longer you chew it, the less appetising it gets, and you may want to stop eating.

If you go on a diet, your desire for food is artificially suppressed. The temptation to eat grows and grows and when the opportunity comes, you are likely to over-indulge, even binge. But with mindful eating, after a few minutes of chewing mindfully and slowly, there is little difference between tasty food and non-tasty food and soon your appetite will abate.

Mindful eating helps you lose weight slowly, naturally and healthily because it works in line with your bodily needs. With the mind contented, the body becomes satiated. No extra food is needed. And you can waive bye-bye to that post-Christmas bulge.