How to fight Christmas weight gain

Siski Green / 01 December 2015

Find out why people tend to put on more weight over the Christmas period and how to avoid it.



First, the good news: research shows that people don’t pile on pounds just because they overeat on Christmas day. Various studies investigating weight gain over Christmas have found that the average person puts on a maximum of only around 1kg.

However, there is bad news – if you overeat over a longer period, throughout the entire holiday season, for example, you will of course put on even more weight. And that means a miserable January spent dieting.

Related: Defeating the sweet tooth at Christmas. Top tips from our diet expert

Food seems to be everywhere

At parties there are plates everwhere and so your judgement can go awry. Or you may simply not be able to access the healthier snacks as easily. When you’re hungry and someone passes you by with a platter full of high-fat vol-au-vents, it’s even more difficult to say no.

Give yourself a helping hand by eating something healthy and filling before you go to any Christmas social events. A bowl of porridge, an apple with some crackers and cheese, or lean meat and vegetables are ideal.

Related: See our guide to healthy snacks

Snacks and other easy eats

Chocolates, Christmas cake, crisps, sausage rolls and other easy-to-grab-and-eat foods served at parties and sold in the shops are particularly tempting because they’re instantly gratifying, especially when you’re hungry and it’s cold outside. But, rather than providing you with long-lasting satisfaction, they’ll just leave you hungry for more.

So, instead of going for the easy snacks provided, opt for nuts in their shells. Research from Eastern Illinois University, USA, shows that when we eat nuts in their shells, ie when we have to get them out, we eat 40% less calories.

Related: 10 healthy reasons to eat more nuts

High-calorie festive food

Chocolates and buttery sauces, not to mention sausage-meat stuffing, are all part and parcel of Christmas and if you overeat these types of foods over a longer period of time, you will put on extra weight.

However, even if you avoid the high-fat high-sugar foods this Christmas you may be surprised to discover you’ve still put on weight, but how?

Alcohol. Many people drink more over the holiday period and just a few extra beers or mixers can easily push you over your daily recommended calorie intake. So if you do plan to drink more, do more exercise to compensate (see below).

Related: How to make Christmas lunch lighter and healthier

Related: Read our guide to alcohol consumption

Losing track of what you're eating

When you’re busy chatting and drinking it’s easy to lose track of what you’re eating, all the more so if you’re nibbling. Yet popular Christmas party foods such as crisps, sausages, dips and smoked fish are often high in calories and salt, too.

Related: Take control of your snacking

Lack of exercise

It’s winter, the duvet’s warm... it seems almost unnatural to go out for a run or to the gym. But lack of exercise combined with greater calorie intake is one of the main reasons we all tend to put on weight during the winter months.

So stick with your routine or, even better, ramp it up. Try doing a vigorous session of cycling every morning and you might even lose weight over the holidays.

A study from the Appalachian State University, USA, found that a high-intensity cycle helped study participants continue burning calories for the following 14 hours after the ride.

NB Check with your doctor before taking on any new, vigorous exercise.

Related: How to exercise more without even noticing it

Related: 10 healthy reasons to go for a winter walk

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.