The typical Tour de France professional cyclist will burn somewhere between 5000 calories on an average race day. As it happens, this is about the same number of calories consumed by the average person on Christmas Day. The difference, of course, is that most of us don’t jump on our bikes for a 200km spin to burn this off. Even if we do muster the willpower to go for a walk after Christmas lunch, we will probably only manage to get rid of 200-300 calories.
It is generally said that the average weight gain over Christmas is around 5lbs, but this is actually an over-estimate. Scientific evidence shows that, on average, the gain is much more like 1-2 lbs. This doesn’t sound like much, but it masks the fact that this is an average gain – which means that some individuals will put on a lot more than 1-2lbs. The other problem is that most people don’t lose the 1-2 lbs which they acquire over the holiday period. So, by the next Christmas holiday, they still have the 2lbs extra baggage they had from the year before. And in 10-years, they will be at least 20lbs heavier! Obviously, the best way of avoiding this is not to put on weight in the first place.
So, how is it possible to have an enjoyable Christmas without gaining extra baggage? Here are eight things you can do:
- Make a plan – if you go into the holiday period just hoping that it will all turn out OK, you will be disappointed. You need to write down the things you will do to maintain a healthy weight and make a commitment to yourself. Remember – if you fail to plan, you plan to fail
- Make a contract – choose dates that mark the beginning and end of your holiday period. Then on the first day weigh yourself and sign a written contract with yourself, that on the last day of the holiday, your weight will be the same. Put it where you can see it (on the fridge door is a great place!)
- Be calorie aware – wearing a coloured wrist band or piece of jewellery you wouldn’t normally wear, is a great way to remind yourself that unwanted calories are everywhere
- Be a calorie sceptic – remember that the nuts, or mince-pie or any other snack you are about to eat, will always contain more calories than you think it does!
- Spoil your appetite – a great way to avoid eating too much over the Christmas holidays is to spoil your appetite. Around 30 minutes before any large meal, take a protein/fruit shake. This will be about 150 calories and will make you feel full, so you will (hopefully) eat less at the table.
- Limit alcohol – alcohol is incredibly rich in unwanted calories, so set your own limits beforehand and stick to them
- Pre-lunch snacks – nuts, crisps and all the usual savouries served with drinks are hugely calorific – avoid them completely!
- Share a pudding – holiday season puddings are wonderful but bursting with calories! Avoid this if you can, but if not, why not split with your partner or friend?
Gaining weight over the Christmas period is not inevitable. By taking some simple steps and being constantly aware, you can have a great Christmas and start your New Year at a healthy weight!
Dr David Ashton MD PhD