How to Not Get Fat This Christmas
Christmas is a famously indulgent time: mulled wine, mince pies, chocolates and second helpings all round. All well and good at the time, but many of us find ourselves regretting starting the new year that bit heavier. Nutritional therapist Jeannette Hyde has come up with five simple and non-punishing ways you can avoid getting fat this Christmas.
1. Don’t vandalise a good diet with binge drinking
People often ask me if a night out now and again is ok. When they then tell me the night in question involves 12 pints, followed by chasers and a hangover for two days, the only answer is NO. Your liver, your skin, your brain, your hormones, and of course your waistline won’t thank you for it. Some people are left with uncontrollable food cravings for days after binge drinking because of the impact on hormones. To me it’s like refurbishing a house at vast expense and inconvenience, then handing the keys over to a contractor for house demolition. Then having to start all over again. Think about who you go out with, and suggest meeting for dinner (which usually involves less alcohol), rather than just drinks.
2. The biggest dangers to weight gain are sugar and white carbs
Think carefully what drives you to the Quality Street tin or the bottle - we have no idea how much sugar there is because alcohol labelling in the UK does not require this to be stated. People often take comfort in sugary foods, commercial cakes made of white flour (which turns quickly in the body to sugar) and/or alcohol, to survive tense family gatherings, and “duty” visits. If you have noticed yourself getting tense before a gathering and using food for comfort, think about ways to plan your Christmas, putting your health and weight management first. Can you minimise time spent at a particular relatives' place? E.g. could you pop in for a cup of tea and a piece of home made cake (which you made and controlled the amount of sugar in), rather than a full day at the in-laws leaning on non-stop food and drink to get you through the day.
3. Beware sugar traps
Stick with a glass of red wine, rather than indulging in mulled wine – it’s usually loaded with sugar. Remember dried fruit is very high in natural sugar – when you eat a mince pie imagine at least half of it is pure sugar in the form of dried fruit and sugar added to pastry. Have a handful of Christmas nuts such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts for satiety instead. The good oils contained in them also help heart health. Studies have shown they do not make you put on weight and may even help weight management. More and more light is being shone on the calorie in/calorie out theory being an outdated, faulty model for weight control. Sugar, white carbs and alcohol are the danger spots.
4. Chew well and eat slowly
If you remember just one thing over Christmas, make it eating slowly. Chew each mouthful at least 20 times. It takes about 20 minutes for the signal of fullness to reach the brain. So if you’ve wolfed down your first course in ten minutes, and are loading up your plate for seconds, you’re on a slippery slope. I’ve heard of whole families making a pact to do this together (and share the fun of it) for a whole week – with great results on their waistlines.
5. Use Christmas as an excuse to load up on nutritious home-cooked food
Turkey is rich in the amino acid tryptophan needed for good mood and sleep. Quality sleep is vital to controlling weight. Brussels sprouts are a power house of nutrition, belonging to the cabbage family, which helps the liver function well. A sluggish liver can be a barrier to weight loss. Potatoes often get a bad press because they are white carbs and turn to sugar quickly. However, cooked in a stable nutritious fat such as goose fat (yes really – goose fat!), they will digest slowly, meaning fat-storage hormone insulin is kept more steady, which in turns means you are less likely to gain weight from them, than if you ate them without the fat.
Final note: My prediction for 2015: this will be the year that the faulty saturated fat hypothesis and the calorie in/out model (which just doesn’t work for the long term) will finally go mainstream. The growing body of science just can’t be ignored any longer.
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