How to shape up for Christmas
It's Christmas time, there's no need to be afraid . . . or is there? For many body-conscious ladies (and gents) the holiday season creates an awkward dilemma.
On one hand it's the time of year when we want to be trim enough to squeeze into our festive best. Unfortunately it's also the season of temptation, with an endless conveyor belt of work parties, Christmas drinks and selection boxes.
But don't despair. Two separate studies carried out in the US and UK concluded the same thing: that Weight Watchers is the eating plan most likely to produce results.
As its 40,000 Irish members will know, the plan is simple. Each food is allocated a certain amount of points (or ProPoints as of last year) in accordance with its calorific and nutritional content.
Members are allowed a certain number of daily points, based on their sex, age and weight as well as a weekly allowance of additional Propoints for treats ,with exercise building up yet more ProPoints in reserve.
The real reason why Weight Watchers works, especially at Christmas, is that it allows for real life. No food group is banned. Try navigating a table of canapés, mince pies and punch on the Dukan Diet or serving up a Raw Food diet Christmas dinner and you'll understand how important this little point is.
"Nothing is banned so it's completely possible to 'do' Christmas with just a few compromises, twists and wise choices," explains 2010 leader of the year Assumpta Dunne.
She's seen memberships rise in her classes across Killiney, Sandyford and Stillorgan recently, as hopeful slimmers sign up ahead of the holidays.
"It really is all about making good choices," explains Assumpta. "Just make one trip to the buffet table and opt for choices like smoked salmon on brown bread or crudités over high-pointed options like quiche, sausage rolls, crisps or nuts."
Simple measures also help. If you can't trust your willpower around a table of treats, then don't go to a party hungry, fill up beforehand on vegetable soup.
Booze is empty calories and it wracks havoc with your blood-sugar levels making you more likely to reach for fatty foods, so Assumpta's advice is to alternate alcoholic drinks with water and opt for white-wine spritzers made with diet 7UP or spirits with low-calorie mixers.
It's even simpler to fake throwing caution to the wind at home. "If you're entertaining it's easier to use effective substitutes like half-fat cheese, mayonnaise and cream instead of full fat," says Assumpta.
Even Christmas dinner can be dished up guilt-free by using vegetable oil instead of goose-fat, serving prunes wrapped in bacon over chipolatas, and steaming carrots and cabbage rather than drowning them in butter.
If you need further persuading: a turkey dinner made Weight Watchers-style amounts to 16 points per serving compared to 53 ProPoints for a feast of stuffed bird, brussel-sprout gratin, butter-glazed carrots and goose-fat roasties.
"It's completely possible to get through Christmas without going completely off the rails," says Assumpta. "But even if you do suffer a few slip-ups, don't give up entirely. Draw a line under it and get back on track the next day. Don't just decide to give up completely."