How to Stop Your Christmas Weight Gain when You are already Obese
Christmas is one of the most anticipated holidays all over the world. At its core, Christmas is an annual religious festivity among Christians and Catholics, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. However, throughout the years the holiday has become a cultural worldwide celebration.
The specific holiday is associated with the act of giving. It reflects on the number of gifts being given to our family, friends, and loved ones. The act of generosity is also shown through the abundant food offerings being laid down at every household’s table during this time.
It is common for people to get together during the Christmas holiday and celebrate together. And more often than not, the feast is the most awaited part of the get-togethers.
This, however, can cause many people to gain weight over the holidays, and it is especially true for people who are suffering from obesity. The biggest struggles that an obese person has is to resist strong temptations from eating fattening yet scrumptious food, and also having to control their food portion for every meal.
Christmas: A holiday full of deadly traps for the obese
Behind the glossy and cheerful image associated with the Christmas holiday, the celebration can be a trap for anyone who is trying to be cautious about their weight. Do not worry, it is not some Home Alone level type of trap. If you do not pay close attention to your habits, you may experience some holiday weight gain.
It is easy to get caught up in all the joy of the festivities. We get it, we all want to enjoy the holidays as much as we can. Especially now that the Covid restrictions are easing up a bit, this is the most freedom we have to celebrate the holidays together in almost two years. So, controlling how much you eat may be the last thing on your mind. But that is not enough reason to ignore how much weight you may gain during Christmas, especially if you do not want to pay the consequences of doing so.
To be more cautious on how you can celebrate this holiday season responsibly, it is good for you to know the types of traps that you might fall under during this time.
Large Portions. It is not surprising to see a table chock-full of various foods during this Christmas. Again, generosity is a core value of the Christmas holiday. That’s why many people usually serve an abundance of food choices to make sure that everyone has a full stomach. If that is not enough, celebrations typically are made up of a large group of people. So, the amount of food served during this time is twice or even thrice more than your normal food serving.
For people who are trying not to experience any Christmas weight gain, this is a hard hurdle to overcome. The image of a full table of delicious food offerings, most of which only come during Christmas, can be tempting for most people. Because you see large portions of food, it programs your brain to think that it’s fine to eat as much as you want to.
However, keep in mind that the more food you consume, the more calories you are taking in. Also, the holiday season does not only happen during Christmas day. Usually, there are separate celebrations you need to go to with different sets of family, friends, and colleagues. And during each of those gatherings, you can expect a large feast waiting for you. It means that there are more chances for you to get tempted and binge-eat, thus causing weight gain.
Christmas Food. Aside from the more than usual portion of foods, the types of food often served during the holiday season can also impact your Christmas weight gain. We all have that food that only comes once a year. It may bring a strong sense of nostalgia, or it can help get into the festive spirit. It is normal to crave and consume these types of food.
Sadly, not all these foods are as healthy as you may want them to be. The reason why they are such holiday favorites is because of their vigorous savory and sweet flavor. However, that is because they are heavily laden with salt, sugar, and carbs.
Source: Tesco Real Food
So, let’s take a common holiday meal as an example. In the center of every holiday feast is some sort of roast. Let us say you are served a pot roast. Even a lean version of meat can contain 7g of saturated fat. For every 85g serving of traditional beef pot roast, you are already consuming 280 calories and 20g of total fat.
Another popular protein option during the holidays is glazed ham. On its own, ham is lean meat rich in vitamins. However, holiday hams are usually cured with salt and glazed with a sugar syrup, which outweighs any nutritional benefit the meat has. 170g of it can accumulate up to 1,760mg of sodium and 6g of sugar. It might not seem a lot, but remember that if you pile them up on your plate, these numbers also add up.
There are also side dishes served with these meats. Gravy is a staple of holiday feasts. Sadly, they are full of fat and salt. A cup of gravy already contains 1,373mg of sodium, and it’s hard to measure how many ladles of gravy you’ve been consuming. The best partner for gravy are potatoes, another staple. Mashed potatoes are not much of a red flag for weight gain. However, the whole milk, butter, and salt added to it make it a bowl filled with calories, cholesterol, and fat. One serving- without added salt, butter, or cream-already has 237 calories with 9g of fat and 666mg of sodium.
Of course, any holiday meal is not complete with dessert. A lot of sweet treats are associated with Christmas. For instance, fruit cakes, which are usually only seen during Christmas, contain a lot of butter, sugar, and corn syrup. A single slice can have 410 calories and 13g of fat.
Another holiday sweet treat is sugar cookies. As the name suggests, the snack is full of sugar, but it also has great amounts of all-purpose flour, butter, and egg in its recipe. A cookie contains around 200 calories and 14g of sugar. As they are bite-size, it is easy to consume a lot of them in one sitting without you noticing.
Christmas dishes like these are hard to resist, however, these dishes can be very risky for people suffering from obesity. The high sodium content may bring them a step closer to falling for diseases like hypertension. The added sugar and calories are additional damage to the body’s health, as you can be more prone to getting chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
Source: South China Morning Post
Overflowing Drinks. Aside from what you eat, what you drink may also result in holiday weight gain.
Your favorite coffee shop might have limited holiday offerings you might want to try out. Be careful though; drinks like a Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha uses white-chocolate- and peppermint-flavoured syrups, whipped cream, and dark chocolate. All of these can add up to 76g of sugar, with 540 calories in a 473ml drink.
Aside from sweet drinks, alcohol makes its presence among Christmas holiday celebrations. Wine and champagne are commonly served to boost the festive spirit. Now, red wine is okay, as it boosts heart health, has no fats, and only contains 100 calories a glass. However, mulled wines contain up to 356 calories per cup, mostly because of added sugar in them.
Another common alcoholic beverage during this time is beer. Compared to red wine, beer is rather high in calories, especially when it is consumed more than the regular amount. Now, beer consumption does not automatically make you gain weight. Beer causes the body to slow down its metabolism, disrupting the process of burning fat. Pairing drinking beer with bigger food portions and sugary beverages then causes weight gain.
Here is a quick summary of the nutrition information for the mentioned food and drinks above:
Holiday Inactivity. Besides falling back to unhealthy eating habits, the inactivity caused by the holiday season also factors in one’s holiday weight gain.
Most Christmas celebrations are done indoors. If you are celebrating with your family, you will likely have it in the comforts of your own home. On the other hand, if it’s among friends or colleagues, it might happen in the office or a reserved restaurant. Either way, these types of sets up do not lend themselves to a lot of physical movements. Oftentimes, we spend most of this time chatting and hours-long conversations, again with the accompaniment of food and drinks. While you are consuming more food than normal, you are not burning them during this period.
Even if you are an active person on a regular day, the Christmas holiday may disrupt your workout flow. One, most of your days might be booked with parties and get-togethers, or you are occupied with preparations or shopping. You are not left with enough time to sneak in your exercise schedule. Also, it tends to be colder during this time. Even if you have time to do a bit of activity, you might be too tired to do so or the weather pushes you to be more lazy than usual.
Avoiding these traps are definitely challenging, especially when we hope to enjoy our Christmas fuss free. Christmas weight gain is hard to stop and comes when you don’t notice it. Before it is too late, here are some signs to check if you have gotten the holiday weight gain.
How do I notice myself gaining more weight over Christmas?
Let’s say that the Christmas season is over. You let yourself enjoy the celebrations and ate and drank as much as you wanted. You might be avoiding going back to the scale, not facing the consequences of your decisions during the holidays. However, there are still other signs that tell you that you might have experienced weight gain since the festivities.
One, your new year's dress you planned to wear since a month ago starts to feel tighter to fit in. That pair of pants you loved wearing all year, you may suddenly feel that it’s too tight around your waist. Or your loved one gives you a beautiful garment, but you find that it does not sit right on your body. It might be the case that you gained weight and not them getting your size wrong. If you do not watch what you eat during the holidays, that outfit that you spent money on for the new year might go to waste. If your clothes start to feel tighter, especially around the belly area, it might be a sign to start losing weight.
Source: The Independent
Another sign that you might have taken a step too far in your holiday habits is that you now have a bigger appetite. If before Christmas you can restrain yourself to eat controlled portions, you might notice that the same portions no longer satisfy you like before. In a way, our eating habits are about conditioning our body on how much food it needs to sustain hunger. Again, the holiday season stretches for weeks, not only Christmas day itself. So, if you continue to consume large portions during the period, you’re conditioning your body to eat a lot. It’s like you are stretching your stomach, and it needs more food to fill it up.
Along with having a bigger appetite, you might notice that your cravings have also changed. If you start to crave more food than in the past, it might be a sign you had the holiday weight gain. And it is not like you to crave healthy types of food, either. Most of the food you’ve eaten during Christmas was filled with carbs, fat, salt, and sugar. For another time, eating is about conditioning. Now that your body is used to consuming unhealthy types of food, you tend to crave them more. You have a greater tendency to reach for foods that are rich in carbs, fat, salt, and sugar. Having a bigger appetite for unhealthy foods is not helpful if you are trying to shed off that Christmas weight gain.
How can I stop myself from gaining unnecessary weight?
Now, you might be more cautious to avoid becoming a victim of the Christmas weight gain. So, how do you prepare yourself for the mental battle you will be facing?
Source: Stephanie Kay Nutrition
Balance Your Meals. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your holidays. However, you still need to be mindful, so you won’t fall into traps. A way to avoid gaining weight during this time is to find a balance in your food habits.
Most holiday celebrations may be over lunch or dinner. So, if you’re going to “cheat” for that one meal, then make sure to eat smaller portions of healthy foods for the rest of the day. Also, within this Christmas dining, make sure you get a balanced meal. Holiday foods are usually in carbs. Balance that with lean protein such as meat, poultry, or fish. Protein promotes fullness, which helps in weight maintenance and reduces calorie intake. Also, it aids weight control as it increases your metabolism and levels of appetite-reducing hormones. Include at least 25–30 grams of protein in each meal.
Source: Cooking Classy
If the event you’re attending is a potluck, bring a healthy dish to share with the others. That way, you are still taking control over the healthy options you have. Also, you can modify your recipes and substitute some ingredients like butter and sugar with healthier alternatives. You can still get the same taste without the same amount of guilt.
Control Portions. It is not enough to have healthy food types during this time. If you want to avoid the Christmas weight gain, you need to continue to be conscious about your food portions.
To maximize each meal, avoid unnecessary snacking. You may run the risk of eating snacks not because you’re hungry but because they are there. It is easier to avoid such temptation when you’re at home than in the office or a public gathering. If you do choose to munch on something, choose fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds that are not laden with sugar.
Limit liquid calories such as alcohol and soda that are filled with calories. Instead, opt for drinking water. Staying hydrated can help lessen the risk of weight gain, as the water takes up space in your stomach instead of food. Also, limit your eating of desserts, or if you do, decide one that doesn’t have excessive amounts of sugar.
Of course, those are easier said than done, especially in the setting of the holiday. However, some simple tricks can help you control your food intake.
Source: Dr Michael Murray
One, use a smaller plate. Even though there’s an abundance of food laid out for your consumption, using a smaller plate helps control the portions you are getting. It tricks the mind that you are eating a lot because your plate is already filled to the brim with food.
Another trick is to eat slowly. Do not rush through your meals because that will just urge you to eat more. Take advantage of the social setting to take a pause and chat with family friends while eating. That way, you are giving time for your stomach to digest the food you are eating.
Finally, do not go to celebrations hungry. Again, celebrations are usually over one meal. Eat a light snack before going to the event. If you have no time to grab a snack before it, drink lots of water before eating to fill you up. Or you can start by eating the healthier options at the dining table. By the time you get to the more unhealthy variants, you are already full and will only consume a small amount of it.
Stay Active. Aside from watching what you eat, you still need to remain active over the holidays. Even if you are busy during this time, do not skip on physical activity. Plan and carve a day during your exercise schedule, whether it’s yoga, spin class, or going to the gym.
If your time does not allow such physical activity, there are simpler things you can do. Going for a walk is a simple but effective way to control your weight. It is also a great time to catch up with your family or friend without it being on the couch.
It also helps to find a buddy to go through the season with you. Maybe you have a friend or family member who is also looking to control their weight gain during the holidays. You can be there to support and look out for one another.
Medical Options. If you are someone who is already struggling with weight problems even before holidays, there are a few medical ways for you to avoid gaining additional weight. The procedures include invasive and non-invasive weight loss surgery. Invasive weight loss surgery would be bariatric surgeries. For more information on invasive bariatric procedures, please refer to our procedures tab.
Another way to avoid that Christmas weight gain and to shred the current weight you have is through the help of weight loss balloons. It is a non-invasive procedure which allows you to manage your appetite within a period of 4 months, losing weight without feeling hungry.
These methods are a good preventive measure if you are obese, and it can help you transit to a healthier lifestyle without too much struggle in weight loss. This way, you may be able to enjoy all the Christmas delicacies without feeling regretful for overeating, as your body will be able to signal you when to stop thanks to these bariatric procedures.
There is a way to celebrate the holidays without the guilt of weight gain afterwards. Be mindful and cautious about how you approach your eating and drinking habits during this time. However, if you find yourself losing a bit of control due to the festivities, do not worry. There are alternative solutions that can aid you in shedding that holiday weight off.
Have a happy and healthy holiday!