Updated: Jun 30, 2020
Christmas is coming, and that means parties, celebrations and lots of delicious festive food. Whilst holidays can come and go in a blink of an eye, the extra kilos that result from over indulging can be a little harder shift. So whether you’re dieting currently, or just wish to avoid that festive weight gain, here are some insights into enjoying the silly season without gaining weight at the same time.
The ice cream made me do it
Firstly, let’s examine why overeating is so easy to do. When it comes to the festive season, there plenty of socialising with cheese and crackers, receiving gifts of chocolate and shortbread, Christmas day feasting on roast pork and potatoes, and finishing all of this off with Panetone or Christmas pudding with ice cream.
The problem with these foods is that they combine of fats, carbohydrates and salt. When these ingredients occur together, the resulting food is considered ‘hyperpalatable’, meaning it provides a greater sense of pleasure and reward to the brain in comparison to a normal wholefood.
Calorie dense, rich, salty and/or sweet – these foods override your appetite control mechanisms that normally signal: “you’ve had enough”.
When your brain senses a hyperpalatable food to taste so good, it pushes past normal satiety limits, a surge in brain chemicals (such as dopamine) occurs, and reward-seeking behaviour is established. All of this combined results in a brain that gets tricked into being addicted and driven to keep eating, even if you don’t need the calories for energy.
Avoiding too much of la dolce vita during the silly season
Whilst hyperpalatable foods will be everywhere this silly season, all hope is not lost! Instead, arm yourself with the below strategies to help you avoid them and mitigate excess holiday weight gain:
Consuming a protein rich snack or shake before feasting will help to satiate your body’s appetite and balance your blood sugar. This reduces your hunger signals and cravings for hyperpalatable foods, protecting your waistline!
If leftover food compels you to keep eating, plan to utilise leftovers in the days to come or make doggie bags for guests to take home – this not only prevents overeating, but also reduces food waste.
If you normally pile your plate high, and then can’t stop till it’s clean, halve your regular portion size, and wait 5 minutes after finishing to decide if you need more.
As hyperpalatable foods are pleasurable, your brain can often crave them to soothe itself if upset. As Christmas time can present stressful situations for some, brainstorm 5 ways before the festivities start that you can de-stress and create calm. A walk, 5 minutes outside or putting on your favourite music will help to soothe your stress response, and prevent unwanted calories from comforting through food.
For even more practical tips, read our blog ‘15 Tips to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain’.
Take a break during the holidays
If you’re currently on a diet, hyperpalatable foods can present a real challenge throughout the Christmas period. Beyond the tips above, another strategy to assist your weight loss efforts could actually be to take a break from actively dieting. Not only will it allow a bit more ease during an often busy period, it may also help you lose more weight in the long run.
Whilst this perhaps sounds counter-intuitive, recent research has found structured diet breaks throughout a weight loss program improve long term results when compared to continued caloric restriction.
How can this be? When reducing calories on a diet, the body often slows down it metabolic rate to match this, making it harder to lose weight long term. By taking a break from your active diet, you prevent your body from reducing its metabolism, whilst also giving your mind a period to relax from your diet. However, bear in mind a break does not equate to consuming unlimited hyperpalatable foods – still aim to use the tips above and follow a wholefood diet, and you’ll give your brain and metabolism a boost for ongoing success.
Whether you’re already dieting, want to avoid holiday weight gain, or know weight loss is a 2019 goal, a natural healthcare Practitioner is the best person to guide you. They can create a tailored program, provide personalised strategies to avoid hyperpalatable foods, structure breaks into your diet, and help you maintain your weight loss results into the future. In conjunction with the ideas above, click here to contact a Practitioner, and you’ll be well on your way to not only surviving the holiday splurge, but starting 2019 feeling energised and well.
Author: John Mitrev.
 Byrne NM, Sainsbury A, King NA, Hills AP, Wood RE. Intermittent energy restriction improves weight loss efficiency in obese men: the MATADOR study. Int J Obes (Lond). 2018 Feb;42(2):129.