Avoid gaining a belly like Santa’s over this festive season. Of all things on your Christmas wish list, I’m sure weight gain isn’t one of them. However, with the festive season fast approaching, I bet you’re already dreaming and drooling of the infinite amounts of roast dinners, chocolate, sweets, biscuits, alcohol… Mmmmmm is you’re mouth-watering yet? No matter if you’re a hard-core gym-goer, fitness fanatic or just a beginner; over-indulgence is a standard procedure over the Christmas holidays for the majority of people. Although it is a joyful, exciting time of the year, many of us dread the consequences all the Christmas goodies have on our waistlines. The average Christmas day consumption is a colossal 6000 calories alone, never mind all the food and booze- heavy parties in the lead up and following the main day. So how can you keep your nutrition on track during this temptation period?

Now, we don’t expect you to stick to a strict nutritional and fitness plan over Christmas- after all we are only human and Christmas is a time to relax and unwind with family and friends. So put your feet up, crack open that box of celebrations and pour yourself a glass of wine. However, be conscious and make smart choices- simple practices and changes could save you heaps of calories and allow you to relax, and not have to worry about gaining those extra pounds.

So, follow these tips and advice below to keep slim and fight that Christmas bulge:

  1. Eat a big breakfast

A big hearty breakfast will help kick start your day the right way, controlling your hunger and blood sugar levels. Enjoy a breakfast full of both fibre and protein, for example eggs on wholemeal bread. This will keep you full till your dinner and stop you from nibbling on those chocolates and mince pies.

  1. Watch your portion sizes

Over the holidays, majority of us let loose with our eating habits and often overdo it with our portion sizes, those who eat larger than recommended portions tend to gain more weight over the festive season than those who don’t. To determine the appropriate portion size of a certain food, read food labels and the recommended serving size for an average person. The best way to ensure you aren’t eating too much is to:

  • Weigh and measure your food, following the recommended portion
  • Use smaller plates– people usually consume portions off larger plates, which may lead to overeating. This simple tip may help you control your portions and reduce the likelihood of holiday weight gain.
  • Skip seconds- buffet style meals often lead to many of us helping ourselves to seconds and maybe even thirds. These extra calories all add up and contribute to weight gain. So, take your time to assess your hunger when you finish your first serving, have a glass of water- if you’re still hungry then have a little more food. But if you’re not, then you’ve probably had enough.
  1. Keep active

Sedentary activities, such as snuggling up on the couch with a hot chocolate, watching movies are common holiday traditions for many families. Inactivity may contribute to weight gain, especially lounging around eating excessive amounts of food around this time of the year. Exercise is one of the best ways to keep your weight stable over this party period! Whether you do a quick at-home HIIT workout, go for a winter walk, have an energetic boogie around the Christmas tree or go ice-skating for some festive fun – any activity will burn off some of those extra Christmas calories and can increase your metabolism for up to 72 hours. So, grab your coat and winter woollies, and get outdoors.

  1. Think before you drink

Christmas is a time of the year when alcohol, fizzy drinks and other high calorie sweetened beverages seem to be unlimited. However, these beverages can contribute to a significant amount of sugar and empty calories to your diet, leading to bloating and weight gain. Alcohol consumption is also often linked to increased appetite, who doesn’t enjoy some crisps or peanuts while having an alcoholic beverage? If you’re trying to control or improve your weight, it is best to reduce the intake of these calorie costly beverages during the holidays. Why not have a night off and be the designated driver? Save yourself both calories and money.

  1. Snack smart- be mindful!

Just because the house is overloaded with lots of sugary, tasty cakes, sweets and biscuits doesn’t mean you have to indulge on them every opportunity you get. Be mindful of your snacking, if you find yourself unnecessarily snacking just because these tasty snacks are available, then its best to avoid snacking altogether. However, if you are genuinely hungry and need a snack, be wise and choose real filling foods that don’t contain added sugars or unhealthy fats, both of which can lead to weight gain. Instead, why not snack on fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and even the leftover cold ham or turkey. Remember the saying “Out of sight, out of mind,” so only open one box of celebrations at a time, and put all unopened boxes away – you will never think of them if you don’t see them.

  1. Relax, take it easy

Christmas can be a stressful time of the year, stress can cause negative effects on your body by releasing high levels of the hormone cortisol. High levels of this hormone has been linked to greater food intake, increasing the risk of weight gain. Studies have also shown that a stressful lifestyle cause us to have a higher craving for junk food, therefore its especially important to control our stress levels over Christmas due to our busy schedules and surrounded by unhealthy foods. To control or reduce your stress levels over this busy period, take time out to practice some mediation, yoga or why not get outdoors? Take the dog for a walk or take the kids to the park.

Take home messages

  1. Don’t be afraid to eat- enjoy yourself!

HAVE FUN! Christmas only comes once a year, so remember the 80/20 rule and if you do indulge in some Christmas goodies, enjoy them and don’t feel guilty about it. No food is forbidden in a healthy balanced diet, it’s all about moderation and enjoying some treats.

  1. Be prepared

It’s all about planning ahead, whether you are catching up with family or going to your work Christmas party- find out what foods will be served and decide what you will choose to eat ahead of time. This will help keep you on track and avoid gaining those extra pounds.

  1. Think about maintaining, rather than losing

Don’t try to lose weight over this festive period, just try and maintain it! Keep it simple, do the easy things right and you’ll be on the right track!

  1. Draw the line- don’t let it last a month!

Over the Christmas holidays, majority of us slack off with our eating habits and have a “I’ll start tomorrow” mind-set, which can lead to a vicious cycle of unhealthy eating habits. If you are serious about maintaining your weight over Christmas, you have to draw the line, set yourself limits and stick to your goals. Make smart food choices and expect a few slip ups, don’t allow these to abandon your goals. Simply move on and make a healthier choice the next time you eat.