Many of us think of weight gain as an inevitable result of the festive season. However, you can still enjoy the holidays without piling on the pounds. Here are our top 10 tips on how not to gain weight.
Opt for short bursts of exercise
The holidays are notoriously busy and trying to maintain your usual fitness routine during this period can be extremely difficult. Consequently, many of us end up abandoning exercise entirely as the thought of trying to squeeze in our usual workouts is too off-putting. To maintain fitness levels on a busy schedule, try swapping your longer workouts for shorter, more intense bursts of exercise. These will help to maintain your fitness and waistline throughout the holiday season while not taking up too much of your time.
Although Christmas is generally an exciting time, it can also be a source of stress for many. Not only can this impact on your enjoyment of the festive season, it can also wreak havoc on your waistline. Stress can interfere with the balance of good bacteria in the gut, leading to bloating, and research also suggests that stress can lead to increased storage of fat around the middle. Avoid Christmas weight gain and have a calmer, stress-free Christmas by employing some relaxation techniques over the festive season, such as deep breathing, meditation or the use of calming essential oils.
Savour your food
Many of us are accustomed to eating on the go or while chatting with family and friends, particularly over the festive season. However, taking more time over your meals and focusing on what you are eating could make a big difference to your weight. Your body generally takes a minimum of 20 minutes to register feelings of fullness, so by eating more slowly, chewing your food and paying attention to signs of fullness, you will most likely feel compelled to eat less. Research results published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those who chewed each mouthful 40 times ate nearly 12% fewer calories than those who chewed just 15 times.
Get the family involved
Exercise can sometimes seem like a chore, but it doesn't have to detract from the festive atmosphere of the holidays. Rather than heading out for a solitary workout, get the family involved and make getting active more fun. You could organize a sports afternoon, play some fitness video games, or head out for a walk followed by a healthy picnic. Fun fitness games and family activities can be an enjoyable way to work some exercise into your family time and help keep off those excess pounds.
Get enough sleep
Many of us lack sleep over the party season; however, getting enough sleep can actually help you to keep off those festive pounds. Researchers at the University of Chicago have found that not getting enough sleep affects our appetite-regulating hormones, meaning that we feel hungrier the next day and are also more likely to crave calorie-rich, high-carbohydrate foods. In fact, a study by Columbia University found that when people are sleep-deprived they eat almost 300 calories more a day than when they have had adequate rest. To help reduce your cravings over the holidays, make sure you are getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night.
While those watching their weight can be tempted to skip breakfast to cut calories, a rumbling tummy can make you more likely to indulge on unhealthier foods later on and mean that you are more likely eat larger portions for Christmas dinner or pick on leftovers throughout the day. To help cut cravings throughout the day, opt for a nutritious, filling and low-GI breakfast first thing, which will slowly release energy throughout the morning. Good choices include porridge with berries, fruit and natural yoghurt, or wholegrain toast with scrambled eggs.
Get involved in the festivities
You might think that burning calories is all about sweating it out in the gym or heading out for hour-long runs; however, there are many fun, festive ways to work off your favourite treats without it seeming like hard work. Hoisting yourself into the attic and carrying down heavy boxes full of baubles and ornaments, lugging heavy shopping bags around the high street, kissing under the mistletoe and wrapping Christmas gifts can all burn off calories and help you to avoid weight gain over the holidays.
Load up on fruit and veg
While 'festive food' is often thought of in terms of indulgent and calorie-rich treats such as roast potatoes, Christmas pudding and chocolate, there are many healthier treats around to indulge on instead over the festive season. To help keep off those extra pounds and stay trim and healthy into the New Year, try swapping chocolate for dried fruit such as dates and snacking on nuts and roasted chestnuts, which are rich in healthy fats that can aid weight loss. Also, fill up on nutritious, seasonal vegetables with your meal and reduce your portions of less healthy foods.
Cut out alcohol
Alcohol is one of the biggest weight gain culprits for many over the holiday season, with its ability to add hundreds of calories on to your daily intake but offering next to no nutritional value. To avoid weight gain, try to reduce your intake of alcohol over the festive season. When out in bars and at parties try to avoid drinking in 'rounds', as this can encourage you to drink more than you normally would, and alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks. Also, opt for spirits such as gin or vodka with low-calorie mixers such as soda water with a slice of lime.
Watch your portion size when eating out
Restaurant portion sizes tend to be significantly larger today than they have ever been before and also significantly larger than the average person requires, meaning that frequently dining out over the festive season can easily add up to some serious weight gain. While we're not suggesting you shouldn't eat out at all over the holidays (where's the fun in that?) you can still indulge without gaining weight by watching your portion sizes and stopping eating at the first signs of fullness. Remember that it is not essential to finish everything that is on your plate!
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