5 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

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What can we do to avoid gaining holiday weight? Heed these 5 tips…

  1. Don’t over indulge– makes a lot of sense, right? Studies have shown that overeating on several days throughout the holiday season is unlikely to makes us fat, however, overeating and over indulging more than a couple of days throughout the season and continuing to eat that way well after the holidays might help us put on some pounds!
  2. Avoid Alcohol… tough to do but, as stated in my previous blog post about gaining weight over the holidays, the body sees alcohol as a toxin and acts swiftly to remove it from the body, which preferentilizes the burning of alcohol as energy of carbs, fats and protein. If you are going to drink, at let’s face it most of us are, try eating a protein source first as it has an appetite suppressing effect or avoid drinking alcohol when eating food. The old “eating is cheating” adage is right!
  3. Go for a walk straight after a meal: this study found that “There is a belief that walking just after a meal causes fatigue, stomach ache, and other types of discomfort. However, the author and one volunteer participant had no such negative reactions, and found that walking just after a meal was more effective for weight loss than waiting one hour after eating before walking. For people who do not experience abdominal pain, fatigue, or other discomfort when walking just after a meal, walking at a brisk speed for 30 minutes as soon as possible just after lunch and dinner leads to more weight loss than does walking for 30 minutes beginning one hour after a meal has been consumed.”
  4. Walking whilst fasting helps to improve biomarkers for cardio vascular disease. Try going for a walk in a fasted state. For several days during the holidays try skipping breakfast and try walking in the morning instead of eating breakfast. This will help to increase the effect of adaptive hormones and increase the rate of fat burning. It will also reduce the total caloric intake for the day, which helps to counter act the over eating from days previous (possibly a good one to do following Christmas or Boxing Day).
  5. Fill your plate with Protein (meat) rather than carbohydrates- excess carbohydrates are easily sent to storage. Protein can support fat loss, notably by suppressing appetite and boosting thermogenesis.

Getting out and being festive is what the Christmas season is all about. Seeing family and enjoying the company of others makes for a great time of year. It can, for some people, be a time of over eating and over indulging on alcohol. However, if you follow the advice of everything in moderation, then you should be fine. Top that off with avoiding combining eating and drinking alcohol at the same time, going for a walk after a meal, filling up with protein and fasting you should avoid gaining excess pounds.

Does Christmas Really Make you Fat?

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Do we gain kilos of fat after two day binges over the holiday period?

The answer is probably not! You’re likely to have an effect on your stomach microbiota, but not on fat stores.

How is this possible? Let me explain…

Studies have shown that over the holiday period the average weight gain is only 500 grams. Not a lot of weight, but it could be a problem if you continued to eat in the same way all year round.

Having said that, a small amount of binging over the Christmas period my only result in a small weight gain if your binges are only on a couple of days a few days apart. Continued over eating results in weight gain.

There are a limited amount of stored calories our bodies can handle. If we consume more than we can handle, some will be burned off as heat through thermogenesis and some will end up in the toilet.

And then there’s water. Blood volume, and total body water in general, can vary quite a bit with exercise, medications, salt intake, and carb intake. I have talked about the Carb Cycle in not one but two previous blog posts but to recap… ingesting any carbs forces the body to use some for immediate energy and the rest is sent to storage. To store the carbs you ingest in your liver or muscles (an adult weighting 70 kg can store around 100 g of glycogen in the liver and 400 g in the muscles), your body must transform them into glycogen, then attach the glycogen molecules to water molecules: 3–4 grams of water per gram of glycogen. So if you eat enough carbs to top out your glycogen stores, you’ll be carrying an extra 1.5–2 kilograms in water weight. “Incidentally, that’s why “detox diets” appear to be so effective: they make you lose a lot of (water) weight in a short amount of time. So this could also account for small amounts of weight gain, water molecules attaching to the glycogen molecule after a meal high in carbohydrates.”

According to examine.com…

 The holiday period “means eating a lot … and gaining a lot of weight; but little of that weight is fat. Most of it is water and soon-to-be-poop. Overeating for a day, even by one or two thousand extra calories, won’t cause much fat gain. (Not to mention that many overeaters won’t eat as much as usual the next day.)”

Obviously what you eat matters, but the biggest contributor to weight gain over the holiday period is alcohol consumption. When we consume alcohol the body identifies this as a toxin and acts to convert it to energy to help remove the toxin from the body. What this also does is it give preferential treatment to the alcohol as the energy source as it needs to get it out of the body as soon as possible. This preferential treatment puts the burning of fat, protein and carbohydrates as the fuel source on the back burner (so to speak) and aims to get rid of the toxic alcohol. Protein can support fat loss, notably by suppressing appetite and boosting thermogenesis. As for fat, it doesn’t have any benefits with regard to fat storage, but it still beats alcohol with regard to fat gain, not because your body will store alcohol as fat, but because your body readily burns alcohol for energy (to avoid toxicity), thus dampening the oxidation of fat and other fuel sources. Not only that, but alcohol can increase your appetite in the short term.

Examine.com again…

“Overfeeding on protein (e.g., turkey) will cause less fat storage than overfeeding on alcohol (e.g., wine) or fat (as is plentiful in delicious pumpkin pies, not in the low-fat abominations). If you’re prone to overeating on Thanksgiving, it may be wise to load up on a bunch of turkey first, to help with appetite suppression.”

In Summary…

Significant body fat is gained in weeks or months, not in hours or even in days. On the other hand, water weight can vary rapidly with salt and carbohydrate intake, exercise, and other factors. Eating a typical Christmas meal can easily increase your body fluids, tricking you into thinking you’ve gained lots of fat. Even over the holiday season, however, not everyone gains fat, and feeling like you’ve gained weight doesn’t always mean you have.