Can your diet survive Christmas?

Christmas is coming and Will is getting fat.  I do every year.  Last year (from early December, before the first cork had popped, ‘til the 5th of Jan, when my tide of blubber finally turned) I put on 11 pounds.  Should I be telling you that?  It seems so gross that I can hardly believe it, but I’m looking at my old chart and the numbers don’t lie.  That’s a good-sized turkey I’ve managed to stuff up my Rudolph jumper.

It’s just so easy to do.  I love food and drink.  And I love Christmas.  Put them all together and what have you got? A tum to rival the big guy in red himself, that’s what.  

A few sombre voices always criticise the extravagance of today’s festivities but, for most of us, half the fun of Christmas is the sheer abandonment of it all.  It’s bred into us early, through toys and sweets, and by the time we’re grown-ups, our childish disregard of restraint at Christmas is fully mature.  And now, of course, it’s ably assisted by all the glasses of good cheer too.

They say you can’t drink all day if you don’t start at breakfast.  So on Christmas day I do.  A drink is last thing to touch my lips, and the first.  From the bucks fizz with a bacon butty to the scotch still in my hand as boxing day finds me asleep on the sofa, my whistle is never in danger of going dry.  

The food, of course, is the main event.  There’s not an opportunity wasted to add more delicious calories.  From a tasty treat, my healthy Burn-Day coleslaw is rebooted with full fat mayonnaise.  A sausage, being entirely too healthy alone, is wrapped in bacon, sprouts come buttered with pancetta, carrots just buttered with butter.  Why have anything remotely healthy when you can so easily quadruple its calorific content?

And then between all the eating and drinking there’s more eating and drinking.  There’s not a surface in the house that doesn’t offer up some treat to tempt the grazing hand.  Nuts and sweets and biscuits and crisps.  And if an excess of everything isn’t enough, there are so many silly extras just to help fill the moments between Pringles.  Candied lemon slices, for example.  Why do I eat those?  Or a snowball.  Who thought mixing egg yolks with brandy was a good idea?  But yes, I’m having them.

Some time ago Mona Chalabi wrote in the Guardian that she thought it was dubious that the average person would consume 6000 calories on Christmas day (a British Dietetic Association estimate).  I don’t.  I’d say that was just for starters.  Or maybe that’s just the calories I drink.

Yesterday, Rebecca Charlotte Reynolds, in the Mail Online reported that people put on up to 13 lbs over Christmas.  So I’m not alone.  The danger, of course, for most of us is that it sticks.  Not all of it necessarily.  One piece of research has shown that people permanently gain an average of 2lb over the festive season.  Year by year we tend to put on weight at Christmas more than at any other time of the year.  And year after year we tend to add a pound or two for good. 

So what can you do about it, aside from get fatter?

Some dieters will offer advice for how to avoid the Santa belly.  Rebecca C.R. recommends choosing healthier foods (like salads), listening to your hunger, recording what you eat, going for walks, and avoiding excessive alcohol.

How does that stack up with Christmas.  A walk?  Yes.  On Boxing day.  To the pub.  But really.  Record what I eat? I’m more likely to set a record with what I eat.  Listen to my hunger? I can’t hear it because I’m so stuffed.  And as for avoiding excessive alcohol?  Well let’s see what excessive really means.

This might all sound horribly like I’m some sort of M. Creosote, but I don’t mean it like that.  Successfully losing weight depends on how we behave for real, not on a set of ideal rules that turn out to be impossible to live by.  And the biggest favour you can do in getting into the groove of everyday weight loss is to be honest with yourself.  So this is just a big dose of honesty.

If you’re the kind of person that can follow Rebecca’s advice then that’s great, but for many of us Christmas is a calorie tsunami.  So how do you tie yourself to a tree, in a diet-y way, that is?

The most honest answer is to go with it.  Christmas for me beats every other time when I let myself Reload.   This is not just a bit of a blow-out.  It is such a fantastically enjoyable time that I think every extra pound carried for a couple of weeks is well worth it. 

But that’s a great way to see it.  You can carry Christmas weight for a couple of weeks but you don’t have to keep it forever.  It’s not like a dog, it’s just for Christmas.

This will be my third blow-out Christmas since I started dieting and I’m now happily four and a half stone lighter than I was then.  Yes, I will put weight on this Christmas.  And I think I’m going to start very soon (he, he), but it won’t stick. 

It took the best part of a month to acquire my extra seasonal layer last year but I shed it again just as quickly.   By 6th of Feb the scales revealed a new personal low and I was fully back on track.  That’s the joy of the Diet Groove.  Once you follow it you can cope with the most merry of Christmases and still keep losing weight year after year.

Perhaps one year I might try showing a little restraint.  And I have thought about what it would mean.  Obviously, it won’t be ‘listening to my hunger’ but it would mean setting out some workable grooves in advance.  Should I try and keep the weight gain down to say just half a stone this year?  Here’s what I would do if I decide to try.

1.     No restrictions on Christmas Day.  That’s non-negotiable.  And actually the day itself is just a fraction of the overall onslaught, so let’s leave it be.

2.     Keep weighing yourself.  Again, not Christmas Day, ..or Boxing Day, but checking in on the run up and between Christmas and New Year is the first step in making any real difference.

3.     Switch snacks.  Fewer chocolates.  More protein.  They can be as lovely as you like – satay chicken skewers, prawns with chilli dip, strips of salted beef, quails eggs, etc., etc…  I’d stock up on lots of delicious protein snacks and put out plates of them for afternoon TV grazing.

4.     A day off.  Could I throw a Fast day somewhere into the middle of it all?  Something like the day after the day after Boxing Day, or New Year’s Eve-eve?  That would give my digestive system a real break, and my liver too.  Maybe a day of vegetable bullets?  Perhaps a day when you go for a run in the morning.  It would be like a holiday from the holiday.  But you could only do it if you kept it clear of social arrangements too.

5.     Alternating Drinks.  A glass of water between every other drink?  Nice and cold and fizzy.  That will cut out a ton of calories.

I wonder?  I’m not sure that I can face it.   Let’s see.  I’m just being honest.  And I know that I can take any Christmas calorie tsunami in my stride and enjoy it for what it is.

What do you think?  Will you try to curb some of the Christmas excess?  Are you confident about just keeping any weight gained for a couple of weeks and no more?

Do let me know.

And have a very Merry Christmas!

Will x