It’s December 1st tomorrow. But Christmas started ages ago. At the beginning of November coffee shops started using their Christmas cups, mince pies went on sale, sandwich shops started putting cranberry sauce in their sandwiches and Christmas trees started appearing. I saw my first set of carol singers in mid-November. And now, before December has even started, every shop I walk into is decorated for Christmas. My first Christmas get-together is scheduled for December 2nd.
And that’s the problem with Christmas if you’re trying to eat healthily, lose weight or maintain the weight you’re at – it starts too early.
The average person puts on between 2 and 5lbs over Christmas, and that’s just the average, so that means some people put on more than that. In my unhealthy days I put on half a stone one Christmas. But actually I didn’t put it on during Christmas itself, because Christmas itself really only lasts for two and a half days – Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Christmas weight gain really starts as soon as we consume our first Christmas treat, and that could be several weeks before December 25th.
If you work in an office there will be more than the usual number of cakes, chocolates and treats sitting around for the whole of December, perhaps donated by grateful clients or bosses in a festive mood. And wherever you work or even if you don’t work you’re likely to be socialising a whole lot more.
Now I believe that Christmas is one of those times when you should relax a little and enjoy a few treats. But Christmas doesn’t need to run from the moment you first see an open box of mince pies to your New Year’s Day hangover.
I’ll illustrate how additional food adds up to weight gain over time by using a very innocent apple as an example. And although I don’t believe in calorie counting (not all calories are equal and the calories-in-calories-out approach is flawed) I’ll also use calories in the illustration as it gives me a simple means of quantifying extra food. If you eat one apple a day for a year, that adds up to over 18,000 calories a year, which roughly translates into 5-6lbs of body fat. Now let’s look at those chocolates laying around the office: if you eat an average of three a day from the first day in December up until Christmas Eve, that’s around 3,000 calories, or an extra pound of body fat. If on top of that you have a few extra glasses of wine, a few mince pies, a slice of stolen, canapes, a Bailey’s …..you can see how it all adds up.
Keep this knowledge at the forefront of your mind as the December treats start appearing. Ask yourself each time you’re offered a cheese straw, slice of cake, a handful of chocolates, glass of Prosecco, etc, do you really want Christmas to start just yet? And do you really like this food, or are you just eating it because it’s there?
Consider making a deal with yourself – set a date in December after which you’ll allow yourself some treats, but before which you’ll say no. Saying no to sausage rolls and crisps at parties in early December could be much easier if you know you’ll be eating them at other parties closer to Christmas.
Also, don’t let that first handful of Cadbury’s Roses mark a complete abandonment of your usual healthy eating habits. Don’t fall into the “I’ll start again in January trap” – try to make most of your meals as healthy as possible and you’ll minimise weight gain.
Then promise yourself that when it really is Christmas (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day), you can have the treats. Enjoy!
If you want to find out more about how I can help you improve your relationship with food, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org