AH, the Christmas period, a time of enjoyment, relaxation and indulgence with the family. However, fast forward into the New Year and a question that is often thrown around social circles is: ‘How much weight did you gain over Christmas?’ The mind often ponders how the mince pies were eaten in their dozens and the selection boxes were left with just empty wrappers, but is piling on the pounds inevitable?

Studies conducted about weight gain over the Festive period have come back with contrasting findings.

A 2009 study of 195 American adults monitored between Thanksgiving and New Year (six weeks) reflected an average weight gain of just 0.81 pounds (0.37 kilograms).

On the other hand, a small study of 26 British adults over a two-week Christmas period found they gained an average of 2.2 lbs (1 kilogram) – even though five were suffering from illness and three lost weight. The maximum weight gain in the group was a staggering 9.7 pounds (4.4 kilograms).

Weight gain is often contentious as water weight is also taken into account. If somebody consumes a high amount of carbohydrates over the Christmas period, it is a given that not all of the weight gain will be fat.

This is because too much energy from carbohydrates over loads your glycogen stores. Glycogen is where the body processes and stores glucose, primarily in the liver and muscles. When the levels of glycogen are sky-high from over-consumption of foods high in carbohydrates, the body will store more water.

The science behind it is that between three and four grams of water is bound with each gram of glycogen. Fortunately enough, water weight is easy to dispose of as less than 100 grams of carbohydrates in a day will severely deplete your glycogen stores – this can be used as a quick fix in getting rid of that excess water weight. It is worth noting though that 100 grams of carbohydrates is the minimum amount the body needs to allow for efficient brain function.

On the other hand, this is not to say that over the Christmas period, no fat will be gained whatsoever. This is very much dependent on anyone’s activity levels vs their total calorie intake.

If you eat calories than you burn, then you will put on weight and in turn fat whereas if you eat less calories than you burn then you will lose weight. It is important to find that middle ground between calorie consumption and burning so you can maintain your weight.

Laura Johnson, a nutritional therapist from Swinton offered her tips to maintain weight over Christmas by staying full and preventing cravings.

5 TIPS TO AVOID WEIGHT GAIN AT CHRISTMAS

1. NEVER SKIP BREAKFAST – choose high protein options to stabilise your blood sugar for the day such as eggs, smoked salmon, beans on one slice of seeded bread, omelette or a protein smoothie.

2. HAVE NATURAL AND FILLING SNACKS ON HAND – nuts, spicy seeds, olives, low sugar dark chocolate such as Booja-Booja, home-made low sugar flapjacks, kale chips, Bombay mix, cheese and apple. These will nourish you with protein, good fats and minerals to help you feel full so you won’t fancy vast amounts of empty calories such as crisps and sugary indulgences.

3. STICK TO 50% VEGETABLES ON YOUR PLATE – particularly greens, and include a source of protein. But do enjoy festive main meals and eat what you like otherwise.

4. HAVE MINCE PIES/CHRISTMAS CAKE SOON AFTER A HIGH PROTEIN MEAL – between 1-2 hours afterwards, not on an empty stomach. This prevents your blood sugar from soaring then crashing, leading to more cravings for sweet treats!

5. REMEMBER PURE WATER 2 LITRES A DAY – Dehydration can lead to over-snacking, energy slumps, a groggy head and feeling frazzled!

Matthew Greaves, a personal trainer from Bury also has some advice for those looking to avoid weight gain during the Christmas period.

He said: “Eat slower, give your brain time to realise your body is full. Take a break between mouthfuls and drink lots of water and just enjoy your food. The obvious solution is to simply watch what you eat, there are no magical secrets or short cuts but also try not to deprive yourself too much. Enjoy Christmas, it only happens once a year!”

For more helpful nutritional information, you can find Laura’s website at http://www.sugarfreepicnic.com/

By Shaun Gray
@shaunwgray

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