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With Christmas just round the corner you might feel the inevitable weight gain approaching. Maybe your local gym is closed for a couple of weeks, maybe you can’t escape those epic family meals where the food and drinks are endless, or maybe you just can’t resist that extra mince pie! Christmas is a celebration after all. Forget about crash diets, killing yourself with exercise and useless advice like eating off of blue plates and using large forks; these small steps can help you prepare for the holidays, keep you weight under control for a guilt free christmas.

Eat Eggs for Breakfast

Swapping your morning croissant or bagel for eggs could help you lose 65% more weight, according to a 2008 study published in the International Journal of Obesity. People who ate eggs for breakfast lost more weight, body fat and inches from their waist than those who ate the same amount of calories from carbohydrate rich foods such as sugary cereal, muffins etc. In addition, foods with high protein content like eggs help you stay fuller for longer and lead to eating less throughout the day.

Cut back on the dressing

One simple little change like avoiding sauces, salad dressings or the popular ketchup and mayonnaise could save you around 100
calories per day. A healthy alternative to add flavour to your plate is extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice.

Slim Down Your Daily Coffee

Removing just two teaspoons of sugar from your daily cup of coffee or using sweeteners instead can save you about 40 extra calories a day. Moreover, add skim milk or soy milk instead of full fat milk for fewer fats and calories. Consuming fat free dairy products is also a good idea for weight control without compromising on protein or calcium intake.

Add Fruits & Veggies and Increase your Daily Fiber Intake

Despite popular belief, weight loss doesn’t always mean a restricted diet. In fact, adding more fruits and vegetables helps you stay fuller for longer, with less calories and more nutrition due to their high vitamin, antioxidant and fiber content. Having a piece of fruit can also satisfy your sweet tooth with less calories, which makes it a great alternative to sugary desserts. The UK public health guideline is to consume at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day but statistics show the average consumption is less than 3 portions per day. Consuming more fruit and vegetables also increases your daily fiber intake which has been proven very efficient for weight control. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, both of which are essential for weight loss. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, but absorbs it, which helps you feel full and promotes quicker movement of food through the digestive tract. Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, slows down the absorption of glucose, allowing cells to burn sugar for energy, rather than storing it as fat. It also regulates insulin levels, a hormone involved in hunger regulation. Aim to eat a combination of both types of fiber by consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.

Choose Fresh

Gradually replacing processed foods with fresh alternatives helps reduce cravings and hunger. This is because highly processed foods are low in nutrients, causing the body to seek more food to find the nutrients it needs, leading to a vicious cycle of overeating. For example, choosing fresh fruit and yogurt instead of protein bars, crackers and biscuits helps you reduce the amount of empty calories and saturated fats and therefore helps with weight management and control. Furthermore, processed fruits which are usually canned in heavy syrups full of sugar should be avoided. You should try to use fresh or frozen fruit if it’s out of season but if you must use canned fruit, choose the ones that are packaged in water instead of juice. Avoiding enriched products can also help with weight management. Many popular breads or flours are labelled as ‘enriched’ which means the nutrients have been stripped and then added back in, leaving you with basically nutrient-empty calories. Instead, you can try whole grain products, such as oats, wheat bread, whole-wheat flour etc which have their nutritional value intact and are more filling.

Portion size matters

According to recent studies, people who ate smaller, portion-controlled meals consumed about 250 calories less per day than those who ate as much as they wanted. Portion control doesn’t mean you’ll go hungry, as long as you consume balanced and nutritious meals and regular healthy snacks such as fat free yogurts or fruit between the 3 main meals of the day.

Drink Water Before Meals

Believe it or not, drinking water can be more effective than diet pills when it comes to weight loss. The simple explanation is that people sometimes confuse hunger with thirst, so regularly sipping on water can help control hunger and cravings at bay. You can also try sipping on green tea or water with a fresh fruit or vegetable slice for variety.

Try Tabata Training

Even if you are already exercising on a regular basis, adding Tabata training to your routine may help speed up weight loss. This type of exercise focuses on quick intervals including 20-second bouts of heavy exertion followed by 10 seconds of rest, and the cycle is repeated 8 times. Whether you jog, bike or do other cardio, studies have shown this magic formula seems to help your body continue to burn calories long after you finish your workout.

Turn Off the TV

You know you probably shouldn’t, but sometimes you eat in front of the TV or computer. Studies show that people eat around 40% more when watching TV and are more likely to choose junk food while distracted. To lose weight without major sacrifice, turn away from your TV, computer or phone and concentrate only on your meal. In addition, try to eat slowly and regularly. This will make your meals a much more enjoyable experience.

Don’t Take Weekends “Off”

A common belief among dieters is that being ‘good’ during the week gives them a license to let go on the weekends, but if you add it up, eating poorly and not exercising Friday to Sunday comes out to 12 days “off” a month! Instead of letting the days of the week influence your habits, focus on creating a healthy lifestyle that is sustainable all month long for lasting weight loss. Of course, the occasional indulgence is a good way to avoid cravings and incidents of overeating.

Write Down Your Daily Plan

Studies show that people are 80% more likely to follow their meal plan and eat healthily if they keep a detailed food diary. Take five minutes in the morning to write down what you’ll eat for the day to make sure you stay within your calorie limits. Be realistic about your goals and honest with your food intake, and aim to consume a normal amount of calories per day as part of a healthy lifestyle.

In conclusion, while the build up continues for one of the most popular and loved celebrations worldwide, it is a good idea to think ahead in terms of weight control. Moderation is the key to sustaining weight loss over the long term. However, Christmas for most people is not a time for moderation. According to surveys, the average calorie intake on Christmas day in the UK is about 5000 calories per person when it should be about 2000 calories for men and 1800 calories for women per day. Taking into consideration the roast dinners, the huge variety of desserts, and of course the alcohol consumption, going so overboard in terms of calories is no surprise. By following a few simple tips and altering some of your daily eating habits you can afford going a bit overboard during Christmas without it showing on the scales!

By Kleio Bathrellou
Associate Nutritionist

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