How to avoid weight gain over the festive season
The festive season is a fabulous time – family, friends, presents, good times to be shared and memories to be made. But it can also be a challenging time if you’re trying to lose weight.
In fact, never mind losing weight – how do you avoid gaining weight over the festive season?
End-of-year work parties, family gatherings, Christmas feasts – food (and lots of it!) seems to be everywhere. In addition, it can be tempting to let your regular routine go out the window as you catch up with loved ones or treat yourself to a few days away.
This can all make it hard to stick to your healthy eating plan or to stay active. But don’t worry! You’re not alone.
Longitudinal studies show that each year – on average – everyone gains a small amount of weight (0.4-1kg), but that it’s gained more rapidly during certain periods, such as over the Christmas holiday season.
Studies of weight gain over the holiday season show consistent increases in weight of 0.5-1kg – and this weight gain is not always lost in the months after Christmas.
Although it only sounds like a small amount of weight, over 10 years it adds up to a 5-10kg increase in body weight. That makes the festive period a high-risk time for weight gain.
On Christmas Day alone, some people can consume as many as 6000 calories – three times the recommended daily allowance.
But fret not! There are some quick and easy steps you can take to avoid putting on weight over the festive season.
Weigh yourself regularly
Regularly weighing yourself can help prevent weight gain during the festive season. Even outside the holiday season, regular weigh-ins can help raise your awareness of your progress and keep you motivated to stick to your healthy lifestyle plans.
If you’re on the Allurion Programme, you’re probably already tracking your weight on your Allurion Connected Scale and Allurion app! Being aware of how far you’ve come in your weight loss journey can help you stay motivated to keep up the progress. (If you have not downloaded the app yet, now’s a good chance to start tracking! Download the app here.
Aim to weigh yourself at the same time each day. Wear the same clothes each time or, better still, weigh in without any clothes on at all. That will ensure your weigh-ins are truly comparable.
If continuing to lose weight over the holidays (or maintaining your pre-Christmas weight) is unrealistic for you, then set a “maximum” goal for any weight gain. For example, “I will gain no more than 0.5kg”. Make sure you keep weighing in with this goal in mind.
Don’t rely on willpower – make it easier to make healthier choices!
Willpower is a conscious effort to do something new or different to what we’d usually do or what we’d prefer to do. It can take a lot of energy and it often doesn’t work – certainly not on its own – when it comes to making decisions about food.
Instead of saying, “I need more willpower!”, say “How can I make it easier to make healthier choices?”
Here’s how you can work constructively towards that goal rather than just wishing or willing yourself to succeed:
Create healthy intentions: Make some ‘rules’ or ‘guidelines’ for yourself to help you handle tricky situations that sometimes cause a lapse in your healthy eating plan. This way, you’ve already got a course of action so that you don’t spend energy or rely on willpower to work your way around a problem. For example, you might make a ‘rule’ that instead of taking a piece of bread at dinner, you will just pass the basket straight on.
Modify your environment for success: Your environment is one of the most powerful triggers to eat – sights, sounds and smells all drive our choices. Set yourself up for success by thinking about changes you can make to your home and workspace. Also think about your or other spaces you use often. Set your spaces up in ways that make healthier choices as easy as possible. For example, fill a colourful fruit bowl and put it in the middle of an easy-to-reach table. Likewise, put Christmas cookies in a sealed tin where you can’t see it – such as at the back of a cupboard. That makes healthy nutrient-rich choices easier to see and grab.
Temptation bundling: Bundle the things you need to do with the things you like to do. This reduces the amount of energy and willpower you’ll need to be successful. For example, if you enjoy listening to podcasts, tie it to an evening walk so that you only listen to your favourite podcast while walking. Or watch your favourite Netflix show while you’re on your exercise bike.
Try to stick to your routines
We’ve already recognised that it can be hard to stick to a routine over a festive or holiday period, but it can be done. Plan ahead and work out clever ways of ensuring you stay on top of your healthy lifestyle habits.
Christmas Day aside, can you stick to your usual meal routines? Whether this is 2 or 5 smaller meals a day, consistency is key. Can you plan a clever meal schedule that you can follow while you’re staying with family? What snacks or foods might you need to take with you so that you can stick to it?
Reach for lower fat versions of food choices and try to use higher fat choices sparingly. What steps do you need to take to have access to try these healthier options at Christmas? Can you help plan menus or assist with the cooking at your friend’s house so that everyone eats more healthily? Perhaps you could even share the hearty nutritious meals you’ve been making and eating on the Allurion Programme.
Try to stay active every day. Aim to walk 10,000 steps a day. If you’re already on the Allurion Programme, your Health Tracker would clock in the number of steps you take a day and you’ll be able to track them with no effort on the app! If you’re going to a family gathering, can you walk or cycle there? Can you take a walk to do some last-minute shopping or suggest a family walk to look at the Christmas lights?
Get on your feet – stand up and move during the day. Use the upstairs bathroom rather than the downstairs toilet when you visit your friends. Volunteer to check on the turkey, volunteer to walk to the corner store to get that milk your host has run out of or play charades instead of Scrabble. Any activity that involves standing – or being a bit more active than you otherwise would be – is the way to go.
Don’t forget your 5-a-day – pack your snacks and plates with colourful and varied fruits and veggies to ensure you get the nutrients your body needs. Be creative if you’re out and about. Choose snacks that you can pack and take, or those you can take in bulk if you’re away from home and may have few other healthy options.
Be smart with your portions – fill your plate half full of veggies and then add a quarter of a plate of fibre-rich carbohydrates (brown rice, pasta or skin on potatoes, etc) and quarter of protein (meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, etc).
Track and motivate with Allurion’s digital tools
Don’t lose sight of your goals just because it’s Christmas or the holiday season!
If you already have an Allurion Balloon, keep using your Connected Scale, Health Tracker and app throughout the festive period. The Allurion Health Tracker monitors your steps, exercise, and sleep, syncing all this information effortlessly to the app. Aside from being a good way to stay in your regular routine, they can also help you to stay motivated to stick with your healthy eating plans.
Be realistic, though – if you know it just won’t be possible to get to 10,000 steps in due to changed Christmas plans, revise that goal. Don’t throw it away altogether – instead, adjust for a few days to ensure you still have a target. Aim to make some progress, rather than none at all.
If you don’t already have an Allurion Balloon, find out how you can start a new weight-loss journey before Christmas comes along.
Do the maths
Did you know that to burn the calories in one mince pie you need to run for 21 minutes? Or that a small glass of mulled wine takes 32 minutes to burn off?
Working out how much physical activity is needed to expend the calories in food and drink can actually help reduce intake and increase physical activity. It can help persuade you not to eat something or motivate you to be more active if you do.
Get support from your circle
You don’t need to go it alone! Research shows that both practical and emotional support from family and friends can help you to reach your weight-loss goals.
Include your loved ones in your weight-loss journey – let them know what you’re trying to achieve (and why). Don’t forget to let them know how they can help make things a bit easier for you over the festive period.
Maybe you can join forces – does anyone else want to prevent weight gain over the holiday period? Can your friend adjust their meal plans or get healthier options in for you if they’re cooking Christmas lunch? Success really can be and is most often, a team effort.
Planning ahead makes staying on track easier (and more likely). It reduces the need for making decisions in the moment and helps to make sure that you’re ready to face any barriers or challenges that might be on the horizon.
Do what works for you – plan, shop and meal prep for the week, plan tomorrow’s meals or write a menu for the entire week. We know this gets trickier around holiday time but it can still be done – and if you have a plan, it will make things easier.
Talk to your healthcare team if you’re on the Allurion Programme. Your clinic team will be able to help you work on a plan to get you through the festive season. That may include trouble-shooting advice so you can negotiate tricky situations or tried-and-tested ideas to help you adjust your usual routine. And if you’re thinking of getting the Allurion Balloon, know that personalised nutritional coaching and support are an integral part of the Allurion Programme —you’ll never be alone!
Don’t forget to celebrate!
Of course, the festive season is not just about food. It’s different for everyone, but it’s also usually a good time for rest and relaxation, connecting with friends and family, or reflecting on your religious or spiritual beliefs. Don’t forget to focus as much on your mental health as on your physical health. In addition to your plans to keep you on track with your healthy lifestyle, why not also make a list of fun things you want to do over the holiday period? Keep them strictly non-food-related – and enjoy all the beauty of this season!
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Mason F, Farley A, Pallan M, Sitch A, Easter C, Daley AJ. Effectiveness of a brief behavioural intervention to prevent weight gain over the Christmas holiday period: randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2018;363:k4867. Published 2018 Dec 10. doi:10.1136/bmj.k4867