Avoiding the Christmas Blow-out
At this time of year there are plenty of tips from people like me on how to avoid gaining fat around Christmas time. Most of them will revolve around 'the worst foods you can eat at Christmas', 'how many hours of walking it will take to burn off some chocolate', 'gift ideas (and even bad gift ideas)' or 'how hard it is to lose weight gained at Christmas.'
Chances are you hit this article with the idea that I’d have something similar, or even a secret tip I use to prevent weight gain. Unfortunately, I don't. Even if I did, I would only share that with the Integrated Insider’s anyway, because that's where the magic happens!
But I haven't written this article just to tell you I have nothing to share - it's just what I am sharing isn't secret! I will provide a simple strategy and context that can help anyone avoid Christmas weight gain, no matter what they are doing now.
Let’s be clear, too much of any food will lead to weight gain, you need to walk a lot to burn any foods (plus your body burns about 1500kcal a day – just chilling) and weight gained at any time of the year is equally difficult to lose. So the Christmas specific articles are really just the same advice we give year round, but with a ribbon and some reindeer poop on it.
The real reason we write these articles is to a) make you think about what you eat and b) place us - the trainer/nutritionist/herbal medicine gypsy at front of mind - so when you decide to lose weight as part of your new years resolution, we are the person you want to work with.
Also, as a trainer/nutritionist/I’m assuming the herbal medicine gypsy too, we have this annoying habit of freaking out when you won’t be around us. That's necessarily a lack of faith in you, more so a lack of faith the industry has in itself (but that's for another day). That gets transferred to telling you not to eat certain things, because we don’t want to ruin your transformation photos that are the backbone of our marketing.
Since I'm confident you guys can live without me and I don't use transformation photos for marketing - I'm happy to share my simple strategies for avoiding the unwanted gains.
One: Keep exercising before and after Christmas
If you are already exercising, keep doing it. If you can't see your trainer, get them to write you a program for while you are away. It doesn't need to be intense, just something basic that will maintain your current strength and progress. My clients are mostly doing three bodyweight training sessions, some band work and easy cardio, during the weeks I am not seeing them.
Two: Keep eating well before and after Christmas
Maintain a similar nutrition intake to what you were previously doing.
Three: Eat and do as you please on Christmas day
Yes, do whatever you like on Christmas day!
Even if you eat an additional 10,000 kcal above your daily requirements, you won’t put on a huge amount of fat. You see 1kg of pure fat is the equivalent to 9000 kcal. So if you assume you store all of the additional energy intake – which you don’t – you should only gain 1kg of body fat from that huge day of eating.
The real reason people gain weight over the Christmas period is a sustained increases in daily energy intake (eat more food) and decrease in energy output (exercise less), both caused by a lack of routine or structure.
If your daily energy intake increases by +1000 kcal – let’s say four pale ales and a few rashers of bacon – plus you miss your daily workouts of -700 kcal, then we have a total change in energy balance of +1700kcal. Repeat that daily for three weeks and all of a sudden, that’s an increase of 35700 kcal, which could be 4kg of new fat tissue.
Weight gained around Christmas is no harder to lose than any other weight. However, where people go wrong is they slip back into their previous energy balance (no weight gain or loss) at the start of the new year. The problem is that now the weight gained will be maintained instead of being lost (which requires an energy deficit).
To do so, training or nutrition will need to be varied to get the gains to shift. This is where many people fall down... they gain the weight, go back to exactly what they were doing before (likely a maintenance program) but it doesn't disappear. Then they get frustrated that they are eating well and training hard, but the weight hasn't shifted!
If you throw in a little more exercise or are a bit stricter on their diet for few weeks into the new year, you won't have this problem!
One big day of eating won’t make you gain much of body fat. Worry less about the Christmas meal selections and focus more on maintaining a healthy nutrition intake and exercise output over your holidays.
If you do gain weight, cut back your caloric intake or increase exercise in the new year. If you’re not having success with the basics, get in touch and we can get something more advanced in place.