Managing Christmas Calories
It is that time of year again. The holiday season, festive frolics, chocolate and cookie boxes, drinks by the fire and calories everywhere you look. It is undoubtedly a time to relax, unwind and enjoy time with your friends, family and loved ones. But that relaxation can have some unwanted side effects. A relaxed approach can lead to increased energy intake, increased sedentary behaviors, less time outside and poor quality sleep.
Holiday weight gain is a phenomenon that has been studied for many, many years. Researchers have found that between November and January most people gain between 1-2 pounds, certainly not as much as you think. But the issue is that those 1-2 pounds stick around. In fact that 1-2 pounds was still there the following winter in almost all of the individuals involved in the study. Therein lies the issue.
It may seem like an insignificant amount of weight, but 1-2 pounds per year is 10-20 pounds over 10 years. That is coupled with the unfortunate fact that as a woman going through menopause gaining weight is that much easier and losing it again is that much harder than it was in years gone by. Declining estrogen lowers metabolic rate, loss of muscle mass further reduces calorie burning and increases susceptibility to gain fat around the waist.
Now fear not, a study published in The British Medical Journal reported that individuals who maintained a level of restraint and activity during the holidays actually lost 0.3 pounds, while the other group who went into full relaxation mode with zero restraint gained an average of 0.8 pounds.
Top tips to stay on track over the holiday’s
1. Return to maintenance
If you are a Reverse Health app user and you are following your custom meal plan in the app then you will be in an energy deficit. That means you will be losing weight. However, this also means you have some wiggle room, in that even if you increase your energy intake by 400 - 600 kcal each day you would move the energy balance, where you simply maintain weight. This is a very nice position to be in, think of that as a comfort blanket so to speak. Use the meals set out for you in the app, but if you eat off plan once a day, whether that be breakfast, lunch or evening, the chances are you will simply maintain weight.
2. Do not skip meals
Try your best to maintain a normal eating routine of breakfast, lunch, mid-afternoon snack and evening meal. Skipping meals will reduce blood sugar, increase hunger and cravings, particularly for those sweet treats.
3. Keep protein high
Include a lean, high quality protein such as chicken, fish, eggs, low fat yogurt, soy or beans with all meals and snacks, this should be around 1 hand serving size. Protein helps to fill you up and increase energy expenditure, so you burn more calories.
4. Whey to go
If you do not ordinarily consume a protein supplement, then now is the time to start doing so. Whey protein is just an alternative source of protein, but it has been shown to reduce appetite and cravings as it sends signals from the stomach to the brain to say “I’m full, don’t eat more”. Research has shown that a 30 gram serving of whey protein can reduce energy intake at a subsequent meal by 12-17%. I’d recommend having 30 grams of whey mid afternoon and again in the evening, when relaxation mode is in full swing and cravings are at their highest.
5. Eat more veggies
Fiber fills you up, vegetables are packed full of fiber. They are also low in calories and rich in micronutrients, vitamins and minerals to boost your health during the holidays. Vegetables should make up around 50% of your plate during the holiday season.
6. Bank calories
Plan ahead, if you know you are going out for a meal with family, friends or work colleagues then simply adjust your calorie intake and serving sizes in the earlier meals to make room for some additional calories later. Look at the menu in advance and select what you are going to have, see how many calories that is in comparison to the meals set out in your meal plan and then make breakfast and lunch a little smaller and have a whey protein shake around 1 hour before you go out for the meal.
7. Go low fat
Where possible opt for lower fat options. Fat contains 9 calories per gram, meaning high fat foods such as cheese, butter, red meats, nuts, avocado, olives and alike. All may be considered healthy in moderation, but opting for low fat dairy, prioritizing lean meats like chicken or turkey and controlling serving sizes of nuts, avocado, olives (1 palm sized serving) is your best bet to manage calorie intake.
8. Portion caution
Be mindful of portion sizes at all meals, snacks and especially desserts. Remember the serving size suggestion of 1 hand serving size lean protein, 1 fist size serving of carbohydrate and around 50% of your plate a rainbow of colorful vegetables and fruits. When consuming desserts, imagine you are feeding a young child. The serving size should be small and where possible bulked out with berries and low fat yogurt. Think a small slice of apple pie with low fat vanilla yogurt or pavlova with a large serving of berries and fat free Greek yogurt.
9. Be active
Use the free time to walk outside, be active, try and stay on track with the in-app exercises and aim for 10,000 steps each day. Rather than meeting up with friends at a restaurant or coffee shop, how about meeting them for a walk, workout or yoga class?
10. Think about the drinks
Try to avoid drinking additional calories, prioritize water, sparkling water or sugar free flavored water. Opt for low calorie alcoholic drinks like light beers, white wine, spirits and soda water or sugar free soft drink mixers. Remember that calories from drinks can quickly add up and cause a catastrophe at the end of the day.
11. Smart snacks
Prioritize low calorie, high protein, high fiber snacks such as low fat Greek yogurt, berries, apples, oranges, Fiber One bars and protein shakes. Have these mid afternoon to manage blood sugar and prevent excessive hunger and cravings which could result in poor decisions.
12. Adapt your environment
Calorific food can be found at every corner at this time of year, so try and adapt your environment to make the low calorie, healthy snacks easily accessible - think fruit bowls, pre-prepared berry pots, single serve low fat yogurt pots, Fiber one bars and make the high calorie, high fat, high sugar sweet treats difficult to access, away from eyesight and in an awkward location. Make the default decision the best decision.
Managing the holidays can be a challenge, but it is possible. Enjoy this time and adopt some of these simple strategies to stay on track this Christmas!
Join Reverse Health now to get a head start into the new year and get expert help on how to get rid of those Christmas calories!