Friday 18 January 2019

Three ways: How to indulge this Christmas without piling on the weight

We can all expect to put on a couple of pounds this Christmas, but experts tell Jack Rear there's ways to indulge without piling on the weight

You can use Christmas weight gain to your advantage by increasing your bodyweight training to put on muscle
You can use Christmas weight gain to your advantage by increasing your bodyweight training to put on muscle
A gin & tonic is a low-calorie alcoholic drink

Whether it's office treats, Christmas puddings or drinks at parties, there are plenty of easy ways to let our diets slip in the month of December. According to the British Nutrition Foundation, over the festive period, we can all expect to put on an average of 1-2lbs.

Of course, the easiest way to stave off the annual wintry weight gain is to turn down the turkey, say no thanks to the free drinks at the office party and spend every night in the gym instead of socialising with family and friends…

Nah, me neither. This time of year is meant to be enjoyed. It's not the moment to adopt the attitude of a monk.

"A healthy attitude to fitness and well-being means allowing yourself to celebrate special occasions with friends and family without feeling guilty," says Daria Kantor, CEO of personal training app TruBe. "That will help keep you motivated in the long-run. The holidays are there to be enjoyed, so make sure that you enjoy them."

Instead of cancelling out the good stuff, a better approach might be to mitigate its impact this December. Here's how...

Make your exercise routine go the extra mile

Of course, the easiest thing you can do to manage the Christmas bloat is to just be more active. Thankfully, despite the weather, December does offer us plenty of good excuses to get out and about.

Delivering your Christmas cards by hand, for example, is a great way to get outside and get moving.

David Wiener, training and nutrition specialist at Freeletics, notes that simply being outside and moving around "will help regulate your appetite by temporarily suppressing our hunger hormone, ghrelin, as well as boosting your mood and reducing your risk of stress". Surely that's something we'd all appreciate this time of year? And even if you do overeat, trainer Harry Aitken notes that you could see it as a benefit to your weight training: "Keep up your bodyweight training (press-ups, squats, dips, pull-ups) as the heavier you get, the harder they become and the more muscle you gain. You can use Christmas weight gain to your advantage!"

If you're looking for a quick and easy at-home workout to try, personal trainer Bradley Simmonds suggests a routine that will take no longer than 25 minutes. Simply do 40 seconds each of burpees, mountain climbers, jack knives, froggers, and bicycle crunches, with 20 seconds recovery time between each one, then repeat five times.

Drink like a pro

During Christmas party season, booze is arguably the easiest way to pile on the calories. Alcohol may feel light on the tongue, but it's calorically dense stuff, so going overboard can hurt your waistline just as much as your head.

Thankfully, there are a few easy swaps you can make that won't spoil the fun but will help prevent loading up on excessive calorie counts.

For beer drinkers, Carl Smith from Xercise4Less has a simple tip:

"Go for a lighter colour beer. The lighter the colour, the less additives it contains."

As for cocktails, John Ennis, co-founder of the Graffiti Spirits Group, noted that it's important to avoid "sugary liqueurs and fruit juices", but some of the classic cocktails "such as the gin & tonic, cuba libre or the mojito are low in calories and can be made even lower with diet soft drinks. A single gin and slimline tonic can be as little as 59 calories".

You'll have just as much fun with those simple swaps, but they'll be a little bit healthier for you too.

Deal with dinner

Of course, alcohol is only one part of making sensible choices around your health at Christmas. The other great temptation is food, obviously.

Stephen Pasterino, who trains Victoria's Secret Angels, says he checks the menu before visiting any unfamiliar restaurant and plans a healthy meal in advance rather than letting an impulsive decision ruin his diet.

He also recommends asking how food is prepared. "Some good rules of thumb are to ask for grilled, not fried; no butter, or substitute with olive oil; light or no salt; sauce or dressing on the side."

But don't be scared into not eating any of the delicious Christmassy food which is on offer at the moment. Jackie Hall, who works with AXA PPP healthcare, says there's actually a lot of health benefits in the food we consume in the winter months.

Turkey is "rich in protein and low in fat", while Brussels sprouts are a great source of folic acid and vitamin C. Even the dried fruit in Christmas pudding contains "plenty of potassium, and it's a reasonable provider of iron and fibre".

Simmonds has his own favourite Christmas snack too: "Almonds are high in magnesium, an essential nutrient that contributes to a reduction of tiredness and fatigue, which can often hit during the afternoon after lunch."

If you have overindulged and you're struggling to fit into the outfits you picked out for party season months ago, fear not. Registered nutritionist Rob Hobson suggests trying artichoke extract.

It can help with bloating as it "rapidly increases bile production to improve digestion".

There's no need to be afraid of the Christmas parties and the constant parade of treats, just try to make sure you find ways of cancelling out their impact on your health.

Irish Independent

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