[By Charlotte Wong]
Nutritionists estimate that the average Christmas meal ranges from 3,000 to 5,000 calories. Considering our daily requirement should not exceed 1,600 to 2,400 calories, it is not surprising that people complain about weight gain during the holidays. However, it is not the meal’s core that makes you put on the pounds, but rather the nice trimmings and goodies that come with it.
It happens every year to so many of us. We spend the months between March and November working out and losing weight, to a point we look and feel good. Come year end, we are faced with three giant feasting holidays, namely Christmas, New Years and culminating in the biggest tidbit bonanza of them all, Chinese New Year’s.
After the skirmish, we are left feeling guilty and unhealthy… then the entire cycle repeats itself year after year.
Apart from the health risks in having a fluctuating bodyweight – some studies have indicated that a constant bodyweight is better for good long-term health, this never-ending battle is stressful, and may have an impact on our mental well-being.
The following tips may help slow down, and even prevent the seemingly inevitable weight gain that occurs during the coming months, starting with Christmas:
1. Don’t skip meals.
The worst thing to do is to skip lunch, arrive at your feast later in the evening starving, and pig out at the worst possible time- dinner. When humans are super hungry, they tend to eat considerably more than those who are not.
Digestion starts when we chew. The longer you spend chewing the fewer calories you will be consuming per minute. You will feel full more rapidly, compared to gulping everything down quickly.
3. Turkey skin.
Avoid it. Turkey skin has considerably more calories than the breast. Turkey skin is very high in fat.
4. Hidden fats.
Supposedly healthy low fat foods, such as some vegetables, carrots, soups, or mashed potatoes may have been prepared with lots of butter and cream which are laden with fat. If you are cooking, try putting a little less than you did last year. If you were not involved in their preparation, try to find out (discreetly) how they were prepared. If they are high it fat, go easy on them.
5. Side dishes.
Be careful. They may seem like delicious afterthoughts that you can slip in with no significance; unfortunately, many are high in calories and are easy to eat fast. The more lean turkey and vegetables you can eat the better.
6. Physical activity.
Try going for a walk during the morning of Thanksgiving before your meal. If you limit your meal to 2,500 calories, the walk might represent 10% of that. Compare that to consuming from 3,000 to 5,000 calories in one sitting and not walking at all.
7. If you love it, eat it.
If you really crave something, have it, but not too much. Portion control is the key, rather than virtuous abstention (which rarely works for long).
8. How many dinners?
The majority of people will sit down for more than one big meal during Christmas. Be careful. Two huge meals will push your calorie intake for the day off the charts. Some people find that eating some foods at one sitting, and then the other foods during the next meal works better than trying to hold back on everything.
9. Fluid intake.
To prevent dehydration, remember that alcoholic drinks, sugary sodas or coffee are no good – drink plenty of water. Sugary drinks are laden with ’empty calories’, while water is calorie-free.
If you are trying to watch your calories, don’t have a second helping. You should not be hungry if you have chewed carefully, consumed plenty of water, and selected a good quantity of low calorie foods. If you are an invited guest, your hosts may pressure you into having some more. Be polite, but firm; simply say “That was really delicious. But, no thank you.”
11. Be realistic.
This is a festive occasion; a time for celebration. It is a feast. It may be more practical and effective if you try to focus on maintaining your body weight, rather than trying to lose weight on this occasion. If you eat carefully, do some exercise, and watch the size of your portions, there is a much better chance of success.
12. If you want to do eat whatever you like.
Some people can get away with it, but it requires a certain amount of discipline. I have known people who will do two hours that morning on a treadmill, elliptical machine (cross-trainer), or even run a semi-marathon. When the meal arrives, they eat to their heart’s content and do not put on any weight. If you plan to do this, make sure you are fit enough. If you are not sure, check with your doctor.