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Eight ways to beat holiday weight gain

Lesley Dobson / 18 September 2015

What do you bring back from your holidays? Make sure it's not extra lbs with our guide.

Buffet items on offer on holiay.
Plan ahead and fill up your plate with salad or vegetables before choosing other items.

The good news is that we don’t put on as much weight on holiday as we think we do. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2000, studied 195 men and women in the winter holiday period from mid-November to mid-January. It found that the average increase in weight was under 1lb. Some people gained more, while others gained less, but only 10% of the people in the study gained 5lbs or over.

The not so good news is that a lot of us don’t lose that weight over the next 12 months. It means that each year our weight goes up. Over a period of years those small amounts start adding up to a larger weight gain. And that can have consequences for our health.

So whether you’re heading off on a cruise, seeking out the sun, or going for a city break, what can you do to prevent that holiday weight gain? 

1. Don't snack

“Stick to your three meals a day,” says Perryn Carroll, Specialist Obesity Dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. “Have breakfast, lunch and dinner, rather than lots of snacks. 

“When you’re on holiday you might be doing a lot of sight-seeing. Regular meals can help you spread your energy throughout the day, and so make the most of your time.

Learn how to take control of your snacking

2. Choose carefully

Think about what you’re going to eat before you sit down to a meal, or head for the buffet. 

“I’ve learned some useful techniques from my clients,” says Perryn. “If they’re going to a buffet, they might pick up their plate and head straight to the vegetable and salad area, and fill a third of their plate. It means they’re thinking about their food – this is the amount of space I have left on my plate, what am I going to put on here?”

Getting into the habit of thinking about your food choices can help slow down an automatic move to less healthy, and more calorie-laden choices.

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3. Plan ahead to avoid overeating

If you regularly have to deal with the temptations laid out in the buffet, plan ahead. “Something as simple as keeping your back to the buffet can help,” says Perryn. “If you’re facing the food you’re going to be thinking about it more, seeing and smelling it. All of these external factors can help us to over-eat. 

“Practice going to the buffet once, eating your food, and then leaving the dining room. With buffets, similar food is likely to be there again tomorrow, so you won’t be missing out.

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4. Don't beat yourself up

“If you have eaten too much at a meal be gentle on yourself,” says Perryn. “It’s hard to get it right all the time, and there are probably going to be some difficult meals, where you over-eat, and then we tend to be rather harsh on ourselves. 

“If this happens think about how not to get into that situation again. What should you do next time to help yourself have a more manageable approach to eating?

5. Drink water before you eat

A recent study carried out at the University of Birmingham found that drinking 500ml (just under a pint) of water before main meals helped obese people lose weight. Those who said they drank water before all their main meals reported a weight loss of 4.3kg (9.48lbs). So drinking water before your meals is a good habit to get into.

It’s OK to start slowly though, and build up to this amount of water if you find it too much at first. If you are on medication that could be affected by drinking more water, check with your doctor first.

How much water do you need to drink?

6. Don't give up

“If you start thinking ‘I’ve already eaten too much, I’ll just start watching my food when I get home’, you’re opening the flood gates to further over-eating, and more weight gain,” says Perryn. Keep trying, and congratulate yourself when you’ve resisted another helping. 

“If you put on less than on a previous holiday, that’s quite empowering, and shows that you do have control over your eating.

Learn some tips to boost your willpower

7. Don't forget about the calories in alcohol

Like a glass or two of wine with your meal, or a gin and tonic, whisky or beer? Remember, alcohol is laden with calories. A large (250 ml) glass of wine can contain 228 calories, while a pint of lager with 4% alcohol by volume (ABV) can have 180 calories. Cutting back on booze can help keep those lbs off.

Are you drinking more than you think?

8. Stay active

Exercise doesn’t just help to burn off the calories; it helps to keep you healthy too. Research has shown that something as simple as walking regularly can help protect you from heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and other serious conditions.

Walking at 3.5 miles per hour for 30 minutes has been found to burn off 120 calories in a 125 lb person, 149 calories in a 155lb person and 178 calories in a 185lb person. Don’t worry if you can’t walk this fast, or for 30 minutes, being active is what’s important. 

Most hotels have fitness facilities, while cruise ships often also offer exercise classes and you can enjoy a stroll around the decks.

“Don’t just sit, keep moving,” says Perryn Carroll. “It’s fine to take breaks. Exercise isn’t just about weight control, it’s also about our energy levels, and improved sleep, and it’s good for our emotional health too.”

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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.