Stay trim as Christmas nears

Health
30 November 2018
A bit of good discipline now will help protect your waist from bulging during the festive season.

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat - and so will lots of people as the festive season brings with it a great deal of food.

As it happens, it is not the poultry itself - which is all good protein - that will cause some people to put on weight. Instead, it is everything else around it that will do that, such as Christmas pudding, the brandy butter, sugar-topped mince pies, trifles, pigs in blankets, numerous alcoholic beverages and chocolates given as gifts. 

While it may be your grandchildren who do most of the gorging - especially of the confectionary variety as they find bags of chocolate money and other sweet treats in their stockings - the truth is that people of all ages will be overdoing it. It's not just what you eat either, but how much.

It's not only Christmas itself that can expand the waistline. In the lead up to it, you may have many pre-Christmas events with lots of indulgence. Whether it is eating that extra mince pie after the carol service or overindulging at your local club or society's own festive party, there are many opportunities to eat more food - and less healthily - than normal.

Cut out fatty food before Christmas

Of course, it need not be this way. If you don't want to end up looking a little bit rotund by the end of the year - leading to a crash dieting resolution on 1 January that will probably be broken on 2 January - the best way forward is to take some pre-emptive action by getting fitter now.

Firstly, take a look at your current diet. As the nights draw in and the weather gets grimmer, you will be unlikely to go for many salads. Hot food is certainly the order of the day. But now is surely the time to get the cookbook out and look at making some healthy meals with lower-fat ingredients.

Try more white meat like poultry and fish instead of fatty meats like pork or lamb. And consider fruit rather than chocolate or stodgy puddings.

It may also be a good time to look at the kind of ready meals you buy in the shops. These are often filled with extra sugars, high levels of fat and salt. Fortunately, stricter food labelling now means it is easy to look at packages and see whether your food is high in sugar, fat or salt. If you see something in the red zone, think carefully about whether that is something you want to eat on a regular basis. 

The same should apply when eating out. Whether it is stopping for lunch in a cafe, eating in a restaurant with a loved one or getting a takeaway, the food you can select may be a healthy choice - or anything but.

Perhaps now would be good time, therefore, to lay off certain meals for a few weeks. Give fish and chips a miss. Resist that cream bun in the cafe on the high street. Go for a few healthier options.

Beware sugary drinks

What you drink can also have a major impact on your waistline. Alcohol is one means of inflating it, but there are a number of others. This is a time of year when you might want more hot drinks than usual, but aside from obviously sugary beverages like hot chocolate, many like to put sugar in tea and coffee.

Going without the latter can be an easy win, because although it can take a little while to get used to these drinks when they are no longer sweetened, after a while you may find you really cannot abide them with sugar in. What is more, less sugary drinks will not just be healthy for your waistline, it could provide good news when you next visit the dentist too. 

Exercise well

Eating better is only part of the equation. Good exercise will also help and now may be an opportune time to use the money you might have spent on a sticky bun on some warm gloves. At this time of the year, it can be very tempting to stay indoors because the weather is colder, but do try to get out as much as you can.

You don't have to be doing aerobics, working out in a gym or jogging into your 60s and 70s to exercise well. Just make sure you are walking a lot, but don't overdo it. 

Getting outdoors when it is light will also bring the extra benefit of providing more vitamin D at a time when it is scarce.  
 
Undertaking these steps will help ensure you are fitter and trimmer when the festivities get into full swing - and will also mean you can allow yourself to indulge in an a few extra treats without feeling bad about it afterwards!

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