With Christmas right around the corner, a lot of people are contemplating how to enjoy the festivities whilst avoiding the extra few pounds—while it’s certainly the time to let your hair down, nobody wants to undo the rest of the year’s hard work over a couple of weeks. Fear not, because it is possible to savour your holiday and not lose sight of your fitness goals. Here are Ultimate Performance personal trainer Matthew Leeb’s top tips to help you stay on track and maintain your weight during the holidays.
Plan out your days in advance
Weight gain does not magically happen, it requires a caloric surplus. So, whether you have events that involve food while travelling or during the holidays, having a preemptive plan will enable you to minimise splurging. Understanding that calorie balance is ultimately what determines weight gain or weight loss will give you a frame of reference when deciding what and how much you will eat ahead of time. Find out what types of food will be served at events and consider implementing a kind of intermittent fast to allow more dietary flexibility. For example, if you know you cannot avoid a big meal it is sensible to reserve a larger portion of your daily calories for that by simply skipping breakfast.
Pack on the protein
Good news: turkey is in this Christmas. Or ham, chicken, beef, or whatever other meaty mains you love. A goal of anyone trying to change their body composition should be the consumption of more protein because of its thermic effect and influence on satiety. During holiday meals, fill your plate up with only protein and fibre sources first. The high thermic effect of protein will boost your metabolism and both protein and fibre consumption will allow you to feel full—reducing the likelihood of overeating desserts afterwards. Good sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, and plant sources like soy, nut butters, and quinoa.
Be mindful of snacking
Dietary awareness, or understanding how your nutrition habits affect your body composition, is a key factor in weight management. During the holidays, unhealthy snacks like baked goods tend to abound and their availability creates the risk of unmindful snacking or grazing. Overcome unnecessary snacking by keeping treats out of sight or opting for lower calorie, nutrient dense foods such as vegetables and fruits. Ultimately you want to always be aware of what you’re consuming and reserve snacking to times when you are legitimately hungry.
Inactivity contributes to weight gain and people tend to be more sedentary during the holidays. Doing some form of physical activity or increasing your daily step count is a must if you’re looking to control your weight this season. Maintaining your regular gym routine is recommended but if you don’t have access to that during the holidays, consider getting up earlier in the morning to get a few extra steps in and take a brisk morning walk. Or consider swapping out lounging on the sofa for an activity which will keep you moving such as hiking, cycling, or even shopping.
Limit liquid calories
The calorie count of beverages and alcohol can quickly add up and undo a lot of your hard work to date. Replacing high-calorie liquids such as soda or fruit juice for water is a simple way to save your daily calories for food instead. Alcohol, on the other hand, will be harder to avoid with all the social events coming up. You don’t have to avoid it but you have to limit it. Plan in advance how much you will be drinking and drink slow. Avoid mixed drinks with added sweeteners and stick to clean spirits with soda water and herbs or citrus, or a few small glasses of wine.