Don’t Diet This Christmas: A PT’s advice
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Don’t Diet This Christmas: A PT’s advice

You’ve been working hard on your diet and seeing results, but you shouldn’t let that get in the way of a good Christmas. Christmas is a time of indulgence, with lavish lunches, extra drinks and plenty of socialising. If you think the silly season is going to completely ruin all your hard work, it won’t.

At Plexus, we believe in building a balanced and enjoyable lifestyle. That means no overly restrictive dieting, no “punishing” sessions in the gym and most importantly, no guilt.

This applies to Christmas, too. You shouldn’t be trying to “survive” Christmas without eating those foods you really enjoy. Instead, you should be able to relax, even if that means indulging a little more than you usually would.

Here’s why you shouldn’t diet this Christmas…

It’s just one day

Your long-term health is defined by your habits, not one day of indulgence. Just as eating well for one day won’t make you lean, one day of overeating will not make you fat.

You gain fat by consistently eating more calories than your body needs. For example, to gain half a kilogram of fat in a week, you need to eat an extra 500 calories every day.[1] To put that in perspective, that’s around the equivalent of a McDonald’s McFlurry every day. To gain half a kilogram of fat in just one day, you’d need to eat the equivalent of 6.4 McFlurrys. That’s a lot more than the average person can physically eat in one sitting.

Remember, long-term results come from consistency, which is why it’s impossible for one day to ruin it all.

Christmas is a time for celebrating

Over Christmas, you should be focused on spending quality time with your family, not calculating how many calories are in that serving of Christmas ham.

Christmas brings families together, so it may be the first time in a long time that you’ve caught up with some of your loved ones. Trust us, they don’t want to spend Christmas listening to you talk about your diet.

It’s hard work

Counting calories takes time and focus. When you are in your usual routine and preparing your own food, it’s much easier to prepare balanced, well-portioned and healthy meals. But when there’s no way to tell just how much oil your meal has been cooked in or how many grams your serving is, counting calories can be stressful. Furthermore, unless you’re bringing a set of kitchen scales with you (which we do not recommend), your calculations may not even be that accurate.

Restrictive diets are not sustainable

At Plexus, it’s not just during Christmas that we actively discourage our clients from embarking on a restrictive diet. We don’t believe in these kinds of diets because they simply don’t work. This is because depriving yourself of your favourite foods can activate the body’s stress system, which leads to anxiety and withdrawal-like symptoms. The result, is often binging.[2] Making small, easier lifestyle changes has proven more effective for improving long-term health than drastic, restrictive diets.[3] These changes compound over time into a more balanced lifestyle and better quality of life, without huge sacrifices or feeling deprived.

5 tips to not overdo it this Christmas

So, you’ve decided to relax and enjoy your Christmas, but that doesn’t mean you should go overboard. The key here is focusing on what will improve your quality of life. If that extra-large slice of grandma’s cake will make you happy, go for it. But if Christmas pudding isn’t really your thing and you’re already full, consider skipping it.

Here are our tips to not overdoing it this Christmas, straight from a Personal Trainer:

1. Don’t starve yourself

You might think that by skipping breakfast in preparation for a big lunch you’re doing yourself a favour, but you’re not. When you start a meal hungry, you are more likely to overdo it.[4] This is because your “hunger hormone”, ghrelin, has a negative impact on both decision making and impulse control.[5]

2. Eat until your satisfied

When you’re staring down a Christmas feast, it can be easy to keep eating even though you are full. Rather than eating yourself sick, eat until you’re satisfied. Try to not overload your plate and take note throughout your meal of how full you are feeling. If you’re still hungry when you’re finished, you can always go back for more.

Eating plenty of protein will also help you feel fuller for longer.[6] If you are trying not to overeat, first fill a quarter of your plate with protein. Next, fill half with salad or vegetables and the remainder with whatever you like (it is Christmas, after all!)

3. Drink lots of water

Have you ever felt good after a meal, until you reach for a glass of water? Water fills up your stomach and if it’s already full to the brim with food, it can lead to uncomfortable bloating.[7]

On the contrary, being adequately hydrated before a meal can reduce bloating and constipation. Drinking water with meals can also prevent overeating as it helps you to slow down and be more in tune with your fullness. For example, a 12-week study found that participants who drank 500mL of water before each meal lost 2kg more than those who did not.[8]

4. Save room for dessert

We’ve all been there – you’re hunched over, wondering how you managed to eat so much and then dessert arrives. You’ve already come this far, just one more plate won’t hurt, right?

If you enjoy dessert, you should definitely enjoy it on Christmas Day. However, to avoid force-feeding yourself when it arrives, try to think ahead and save some room when you’re loading your plate for mains.

5. Get back on track (later)

The day after Christmas is not the day you should step on the scales and declare that you “need” to go on a diet. Chances are, foods you will eat over Christmas will be high in sodium, which leads to water retention. You will also eat a larger volume of food which your body may still be digesting the next day. This additional weight is often food and water, not fat. You are going to be heavier for a few days after Christmas and you shouldn’t feel guilty about that.[9]

In addition, don’t try to increase your exercise to “make up” for a big Christmas. If you feel sluggish and want to do some exercise, then do it. But trying to burn off all the extra calories is not only ineffective, but it’s unhealthy. Read “Can Exercise Make Up For A Bad Diet” to find out more.

Remember, Christmas is just one day. Even if you’ve been working hard on your nutrition, just one day of indulgence isn’t going to ruin it all. At Plexus, we work towards improving our clients’ quality of life, helping them to be healthier and happier. This means allowing them the flexibility and freedom to achieve a balanced lifestyle, which includes the foods they enjoy. This Christmas, focus on what matters – time with your family, not your diet.