Approachable Fitness & Physical Therapy

Can you keep your waistline and still enjoy Christmas?

Can you keep your waistline and still enjoy Christmas?
 
Christmas is associated with family, friends and too much food, frequently washed down with too much alcohol.
Christmas snacks appear at every gathering and they are usually high calorie, high fat foods.
Most people can't avoid eating and drinking more than they should at Christmas, but it is worth giving some thought to the effect on your body if you are to arrive in the New Year with your November waistline intact.
 
The two simple truths about weight gain:
1. Ghrelin & Leptin
Your body has hormones which control your appetite but these can become less effective if you consistently over-eat, leading you to eat much more than you need, and hence, put on weight.
So, for many people, a party season from early December through to the New Year can upset the hormone system and the kick start the body into a spiral of weight gain.
2. The Energy Equation:
Your body is a machine so energy in must equal energy out.
Food constitutes fuel, or the energy in. Heat, movement, and the laying down of fat make up the energy out.
If the fuel isn't used for heat or moving about, it will be stored for future use. In most adults this storage is as fat.
The long-term effect of over indulging
The whole process of how the body deals with food intake is complex. Hunger is controlled by at least two hormones, one that makes you feel hungry, and another that makes you feel replete. The levels of these hormones in your bloodstream are controlled by many factors but a period of overeating can permanently upset their effectiveness, leaving you hungry when you return to your usual eating habit.  If you indulge this hunger then weight gain will result.
 
Emotional drivers
Another factor is your emotional state.  Being stressed, upset, happy, bored or depressed will often drive people to eat, and Christmas frequently encompasses many of these emotions.  Once eating is associated with emotion the risk of weight gain is higher in the future.
 
So, how much food do you need?
There is an amount of energy that your body needs just to maintain life. This is called BMR. Everyone has a different BMR, and recent research seems to show that being fit has little effect on your BMR. The average number of Calories the body needs just to exist is about 1800.  Added to this is your energy usage which varies according to your level of daily activity.
Bear in mind that a typical Christmas day food intake can easily be 5000 Calories.
In this week’s news the worlds fattest man passed away, he was eating 20,000 Calories a day!  It’s a huge amount but easily possible.
 
Your Christmas coping strategy
• Check the Calorie content of party foods that you buy or prepare.
• Don't have that second mince pie or piece of cake.
• Use the same size portions as normal for all meals.
• Have some days of abstention in with the feasting - remember the 5\2 eating plan, it really does work.
• Take some exercise.  Get out of the house for some fresh air, a walk, cycle or swim – this can have multiple benefits: getting some exercise (using more Calories), less opportunity to eat and some stress busting effect. Add to that the fact that being out in the cold burns more calories and it’s a ‘win win’ activity.
• Remember that the food groups that have the most calories per weight are fat and alcohol! That bottle of wine or beer or the odd quaff of brandy etc. is very likely to end up being stored as fat - the saying 'a moment on the lips, a life time on the hips' really does reflect the truth.
• Try to stay calm, accept family situations and give yourself some 'chill time'.
• Make sure you get enough sleep over the holiday period.  Lack of sleep disturbs your hormone balance, this will result in you feeling hungry when you don’t need the food, hence weight gain.
 
It would be pointless to suggest being abstemious over Christmas, but if you can curtail the excesses to some extent, take more exercise, get out of the house from time to time and have  the odd day of rest from the food and drink, then you will be healthier, feel better and not spend January on yet another diet.

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