How to enjoy Christmas without piling on the pounds

Martina Gallivan offers her tips for enjoying Christmas by making the correct food, drink and exercise choices.

There can be a lot of anxiety over the Christmas period in relation to eating. This year is no exception, and in fact, most of this is exacerbated since the impact of Covid. There will probably be even greater pressures around food choices.

It’s the one time of year where people tend to struggle and I am often asked how to cope through what can be a stressful eating time. Especially if you’re currently on a weight loss program.

“Your body doesn’t realise it’s Christmas”

To offer practical guidance I have compiled a few simple tips for you to consider if you’re one of the many thousands of people who wish to enjoy Christmas and yet don’t want to pile on the pounds.

The 12 steps of Christmas

Number one: Use mindful eating techniques. Mindfulness is about being in a state of general awareness at each meal. This means that you should be thinking about the preparation of food, how it is cooked, setting it out on a plate which is visually appealing, and when consuming it, that you’re really tasting the food by eating slowly and chewing thoroughly. Therefore, be aware of what’s on your plate and ensure that you put your knife and fork down after each bite.

Number two: Your body doesn’t realise it’s Christmas. In the weight loss arena, many people continuously break their cycle of losing weight by interrupting the process. Deciding to wait until the event is over is not going to help. In fact, by doing this you risk putting on more weight over the season. Successful weight loss means not using occasions like Christmas to over-indulge.

Number three: Be sensible about portion control. A large part of successful weight loss involves being aware of your food portions. I agree the last thing anyone wants to do is to make a fuss especially if someone else is hosting. However, if faced with this situation, of course eat it, but do ensure you leave some food on your plate.

Number four: Listen to your stomach. I have spoken in the past about the hormone leptin. This is the hormone which provides us with the feeling of satiety. The fact is your stomach will tell you when you have had an adequate sufficiency. Don’t be tempted to then overdo it and continue. We’re all familiar with the idiom eyes bigger than a belly.

Number five: Be alcohol aware. Alcohol is twice as calorific gram for gram as either protein or carbohydrate so do be sensible. Drink lots of water between glasses of alcohol so that at least you’re keeping hydrated, prompting you not to over do things. Also be aware that should you over indulge on alcohol, this inevitably leads to snacking and you’re sure to increase your weight that way.

Number six: Chocolates, confectionery and other sweet treats. We all love them and especially at Christmas time. There’s no harm in having a small quantity. However, all these tasty morsels are laden with calories and will play havoc with your blood sugar levels leading to further cravings.

Number seven: Take a mature approach. We’re all adults with a sense of responsibility and choice so try not to become rebellious just because you’re trying to lose weight. Look at the bigger picture. Think of the advantages of weight loss. In fact, a very good exercise is to write down what those advantages are. This reinforces your objective. Fundamentally you have an agenda and that is to succeed in your objective of sustainable weight loss.

Number eight: Don’t resent the occasion. It is after all Christmas so enjoy it. You are as entitled as anyone else to have a good time and relish the Christmas spirit, and in terms of weight loss, you’re just doing it a little differently this year.

Number nine: Give yourself credit over Christmas. I advise all of my clients to turn it into a personal mini game. For example, each time you succeed in avoiding temptation, congratulate yourself. You could even buy a set of gold stars and stick them in a notebook every time you successfully say no to a food temptation because this is probably the hardest event of the year to stick to any weight loss program. You could then reward yourself for having done so well over the festive season. With a non-food reward of course!

Number 10: Exercise. Take full advantage if you do happen to have a few days off over the holidays. It doesn’t have to be strenuous. Go for a walk, cycle, hike, whatever takes your fancy. However, the fact is that exercise alone will not assist in losing weight. So, don’t be fooled into thinking you can to walk off the calories. It won’t work.

Number 11: Visualise. take a few moments each day to visualise reaching your weight-loss target. Use the next season as your focus, for example next summer when hopefully the Covid travel restrictions will be a distant memory. Therefore, visualise what you’ll look like for your 2021 holiday!

Number 12: Finally. Relax. Christmas is about being sociable. It shouldn’t be about how much we eat or drink. At this time of year, it’s about catching up with family and friends. And yes, Covid has hindered tradition this year but a phone or zoom call can be supportive if you can’t actually visit your loved ones in person. Quiet reflection can also be a powerful tool to use. It calms the mind and helps us see through the fog.

So, enjoy Christmas for what it is this year and if you’re trying to lose weight you’ll be thrilled if you stick to just a few basic tips and therefore will be well prepared to greet 2021 with a sense of empowerment.

Happy Christmas and I wish you the very best for 2021.

Martina Gallivan is a nutritionist and director of RK Cardiology Healthy Living Ltd. If you are interested in learning more about health and lifestyle medicine for you or your family contact her at or follow @drrobertkelly

Published: 21 December 2020