Things are about to get dangerous. Parties, pub nights, lunches. And that’s before you even get to Christmas itself. The easy and obvious option for us all is to just surrender to the debauchery and pick up the pieces in January howver painful.
Or, bear with us, you could try to minimise the damage with some small tweaks and canny decisions that may just see you through to New Year without looking like Johnny Vegas.
Dieting in December? No, that would be madness. Let's just call it tactics. Here are some suggestions:
1 | Get Your Breakfast Right
During party season you’re going to get into situations that test your willpower spectacularly. The one part of your day where you retain absolute control is your first meal, so choose wisely.
“Starting your day right, will stop cravings and help maintain energy levels,” says nutritionist Sarah Ann Macklin.
Louisiana State University in the U.S found those who ate eggs for breakfast had more energy than if they ate cereal and helped them feel full.
“I would suggest making your porridge coconut milk/almond milk, and using gluten free oats to avoid bloating and inflammation of the digestive system. Top with fresh berries or a sprinkle of nuts for added protein.
2 | Get A Do Anywhere Workout Routine
This month, there are even more excuses for not going to the gym than usual – workload, hangovers, staying at the in-laws. The solution is to have an easy routine you can do anywhere that uses only your bodyweight and can be squeezed in whenever you get a spare moment.
Step forward this genius seven minute workout from the New York Times that also comes with a handy app/timer.
3 | Hydrate Yourself
You should know by now that water is your friend and is a further ally when it comes to keeping weight down – it combats hunger pangs, it helps with digestion, lowers fluid retention, helps eliminate excess sodium from the body and also is the easiest way to prevent or treat your inevitable December hangovers.
You can also take this hydration approach into the pub. "After every alcoholic drink let the next one be a soda water with lime or a simple tap water if you're not bothered by your friend's response," says Macklin. "You still have the feeling of sipping on a drink but these inbetween drinks will help reduce your dehydration and reducing those calories." Good luck with that one at the work Christmas party.
4 | Swap lattes for Americanos
A small switch that can make a big difference over time is what you choose on that morning coffee run.
“A single black americano contains only 6 calories but will still give you that much-needed coffee fix,” says Macklin.
“Lattes are mostly milk, resulting in much more fat and sugar and can contain as much 225 unessential calories.”
5 | Make red wine your pub drink
Alcohol, will be in plentiful supply over the next 4 weeks and these empty calories can make your weight creep up on you fast. "You can easily drink at least your RDA of calories in one evening," says Macklin. "If you can't manage moderation, at least opt for red wine instead of beer. It has fewer calories and is full of the antioxidant, flavonoids which is known to have heart benefits."
6 | Skip the bread basket
And not only the bread basket, canapés as well. SSimply choosing not to snack on bread before the main meal in a restaurant is an easy to way to limit the potential calorie attack of eating out. "You want to avoid sugar and starch as much as possible," says Macklin. "Supplement these carbs with sweet potatoes or brown rice to satisfy your carb cravings."
7 | On big nights, choose the right short
"If it’s a cocktail you're after, go for a highball," says Macklin. "This is a spirit such as whisky topped with soda. There's no added sugar or extra nasties in this. Keep your cocktails simple. Try to skip cocktails with fruit juice or cream liqueurs and go for a gin (89 calories) and slimline tonic with lots of fresh lime to add a little more flavour.
8 | Hit The Nuts Not The Quality Street
When snacking on the sofa, there's bound to be a tray of nuts on offer as well as the inevitable shiny box of chocolates. You know which one is the wise man's choice. "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people with diets which included extra nuts or nuts substituted for other foods lost about 1.4 extra pounds and half an inch from their waists," says Macklin.
If you really can’t fit the chocolate craving, opt for dark chocolate. It's rich in antioxidants and the richer flavour should be enough for you only needing a couple of squares. Maybe.
9 | Ask for extra turkey not potatoes
Let's face it, you're going to be topping up your plate at Christmas dinner. When you do, focus on the protein not the starchy carbs. "Turkey is a fat-burning food, " says Macklin, "and as with most proteins turkey causes your body to use 30% of its calories during digestion. Avoid the skin and fill up your plate with turkey breast and veggies."
10 | Get some sleep
Use the time-off between Christmas and New Year to catch up on some sleep before it all starts again in January. "Exhaustion raises your stress levels," says Macklin.