How to manage weight over Christmas

It’s easy to gain weight at any time of the year but Christmas seems to emphasise the ease with which our bodies take on extra calories. The British Dietetic Association estimates that we take on about 2.7kg – just under a half a stone – during the 2 week Christmas and New Year period.  This could even be when we are feeling like we are making special efforts to not gain weight.  Being  constantly faced with boxes of chocolates, mince pies, alcoholic drinks, and treats of all shapes and sizes everywhere we go makes not gaining weight tricky.  We are constantly saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ one way or another.  We might be saying ‘no’ to a department drinks party, only to be going home and meeting up with friends who we tend to see, once a year…   at Christmas. So, we have to have a drink. Right?  And if work or friends are not trying to make you gain weight then the plentiful family get-togethers will do it instead. It can feel like the world is trying to sabotage your efforts to keep to your normal weight, and if this is a hard-won weight, a weight which you have worked hard to achieve over the last year, the last thing you want to do is lose your momentum.

Here are some top tips to help you through the next few weeks.  You don’t have to do them all, just choose a few and make them happen.

Choose your events wisely

Remind yourself:

  1. You don’t have to go to all the parties or get-togethers to which you are invited
  2. You do not have to drink alcohol at every get-together
  3. You could try a pre-Christmas park run with your friends or family rather than mince pies and mulled wine

When attending Christmas dinners or Christmas drinks parties see below for best efforts:

  1. Eating out: choose 2 not 3 courses. It’s not obligatory to have all the courses on offer, instead choose your favourite courses and stick with them.  If you really want pudding as well as starter and main why not split a pudding between a few of you, or order 2 starters rather than starter and main.  There are lots of ways to enjoy all that’s on offer.  Don’t be afraid of the waiter or waitress.  Most restaurants are very happy to have your business and will try and accommodate your requests. If you want a half serving of something, then politely ask.
  2. Event running late? Have a healthy snack. Many dinners or supper events end up being served late, either because the restaurant is packed or you are waiting for people to arrive.  Be careful to not drink extra alcohol if this occurs, ask for some sparkling or soda water to keep you going.  If you know in advance that the meal will be later than your normal habit, bring a small snack with you in your bag e.g. a piece of fruit, or small tin of almonds.  Eat this about an hour before you go out and you will be less likely to over indulge and empty the bread basket at the table.
  3. Eating in: normalise your plate. Just because there is heaps of super rich food around doesn’t mean you have to have super-rich portions.  Use the same size dinner plate as you normally would and try not to pile it too high.  Enjoy small servings of those foods considered more calorific e.g. more steamed vegetables, less roasties.
  4. Drink lots of water before, during and after any dinners or drinks events. Try and start your evening with a large glass of water and then go for the alcoholic beverage. Either have 2 glasses on the go at one time – one water and one alcoholic – or alternate your drinks such that you reduce the number of alcoholic beverages altogether.  Think about the hangover from which you are saving yourself.
  5. Stick to your normal meal routine as much as possible. On days when there are no pencilled in events try and stick to your normal pattern of eating.  If like me you are a 3 meals and 2 snacks type, then try and keep going with that order, eating at roughly the same time each day.  Re-establishing this habit will help assert your normal eating behaviours, reminding yourself that it doesn’t have to be treat day every day.  We tend to enjoy a much more relaxed pattern of eating over Christmas and New Year, but trying to keep a little restraint going will protect you somewhat from holiday weight gain.
  6. Be active any day you can. Sometimes over the holidays it can feel difficult to get out and about, maybe because we are visiting and feel like we should stay in, or perhaps because it’s dark and the weather is a little miserable.  Remind yourself how much better you will feel if you get some fresh air.  Trying to keep to 10,000 steps every day can be a winner over the Christmas period – after all if we are out walking, we are less likely to be in eating and drinking.
  7. Weigh yourself at least a couple of times in the week, if not daily. This is not to make you feel bad about yourself, rather it’s to help you keep an eye on what can seem an inevitable trend upwards. If the numbers are not happy numbers you can try and make more efforts with exercise.   Interesting research published in the British Medical Journal last Christmas showed reduced weight gain in those of us who continue to weigh regularly, and act on the numbers, through the Christmas and New Year period.


And if you would like some help to better manage your weight I am here for you and would love to help.

Felicity Lyons

Hi there! My name is Felicity. I am a registered dietitian and sports nutritionist with a proactive approach to healthy living. My job is to interpret the complexity of nutrition science and translate it into messages and guidance that you can understand. Healthy Living? It's easier than you think!