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December 2022
How to cope with overeating at Christmas

Everyone who has made an effort to lose weight will be upset if that weight comes back on, whenever that might occur. Our modern lifestyle is geared towards eating and drinking as a central feature of our social life. However, this almost inevitably leads to us eating more than we really need – it seems nigh-on impossible to keep things under control.

While not wishing to spoil the festivities, I would like to pass round a few hints that might help the aftereffects be less pronounced.

Stress, and awareness of what you are eating

The first of these hints is very important: try not to get obsessed with exerting absolute control over what you eat. This will produce anxiety and stress, and that is just about as bad as going the other way, losing control. And it will spoil your enjoyment. Just keep in the back of your mind the idea that you need to be careful. If you find yourself reaching out for another chocolate, biscuit or slice of cake, even though you are already full, perhaps this simple awareness of what is happening will help you avoid the temptation. Keeping these foods out of sight can also be very helpful.

This is a first step towards “mindful eating”. If you haven’t practised mindful eating up to now, you might not develop the full concept in the time left before the festivities start. However, just thinking a bit about what you are eating is a great first step in using this technique.


Meals and snacks

Remember, the snacks that come out during these festivities are often even more loaded with sugar and fat than usual, and they seem to be permanently out on sideboards and tables.

And it is customary to cook far too much for family meals, so watch your portion size.


If you have used the PronoKal Method, you will be very aware of the effect of carbohydrates, particularly refined carbs. Remember that good feeling when you were in ketosis (a very low carb state). Although you are not going to be in ketosis, being careful with the carbs is very important both to feel better and to reduce the metabolic hit of excess eating over Christmas. You will meet large amounts of refined carbs in most desserts and in the treats (crisps, cake, biscuits, sweets, etc), as well as quite a bit of fat in most of them. How about some fresh fruit instead.

You will also find carbs in savoury foods, sometimes in considerable amounts, such as in potatoes, rice, pasta, bread and sauces, so eat sparingly.


If you are sitting down to turkey with all the trimmings, remember that turkey is a good source of protein (helps you feel fuller) without much fat, especially if you have breast meat and don’t eat the skin. Red meats have a 3 to 5 times more fat than turkey. Cocktail sausages, especially if served as “pigs in blankets”, are well laden with fat, so go lightly on those. Low-fat stuffing can be made using sweet chestnuts rather than sausage meat.

Some people hope to excuse their love of nuts by saying they contain “healthy fats”. That is true, but they also contain an awful lot of them, so go carefully. A small palmful (up to 3 walnuts, say) is about the right measure for a day.

Take advantage of the sensation of fullness given by green vegetables, so be generous with them to help cut down on the desire to eat other, more energy-dense foods.


Drink plenty of water?

Alcoholic drinks add to the calorie intake, so, as all the adverts say, drink in moderation. And sugar-sweetened beverages (cola and other fizzy drinks) can contain a mass of sugar (up to 7 teaspoonfuls of sugar in a single can of cola). Although I do not recommend regular drinking of the diet versions of these drinks, they are very useful for occasions like these. And have you tried sparkling water with a slice of lemon.


Stay active

Try to get out for walks or do other activities that get you up from the sofa and get you moving. Aim for those 10,000 steps a day. Your body will really appreciate the movement and you’ll feel better for it.


Final thoughts

I hope this guidance isn’t too daunting. The most important thing at this time of year is to enjoy yourself, be that with family, friends or colleagues. Please don’t let worries about food spoil the festive period. As I said above, just keeping it in the back of your mind will help you turn down that extra helping or snack that you really don’t need. It is very likely that many of us will put on some weight over these holidays; if that happens to you, don’t get downhearted about it, but do deal with it as soon as possible after the New Year. The longer you leave it, the harder it gets…and that means the longer it takes, too.

If you are quietly attentive to what you eat, drink and do, then weight gain is unlikely to be very significant. In that case, just getting back to a healthy, balanced diet and being careful about portion size after the festivities should get you back on track, without having to restart a diet programme. For those of you who have my healthy diet suggestions based on the Mediterranean diet, that is a good place to start. Do ask me for that article if you don’t have it already (email Dr Bazire).

For those who celebrate Christmas, I wish you a very happy time. If Christmas is not part of your calendar, I hope you enjoy the festive season and its parties. And I wish everyone a very happy New Year.

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