The Nutrition and Health Foundation (NHF) urges people to maintain their weight over the festive period.
New research carried out by Empathy Research* on behalf of The Nutrition & Health Foundation released today, Monday, 7th December shows that more than two fifths of participants (45%) had put on weight over the past twelve months. Of those who gained weight, 85% reported it to be unintentional with 6% reporting a dramatic weight increase during this time. The highest weight gain was among those aged over 45 years and over with weight gain slightly higher amongst women than men (50% versus 44%) across all age groups.
With the festive season upon us signaling the start of social engagements and the constant bombardment of enticing food, gaining weight during this time is almost inevitable and trying to lose weight is virtually impossible. With the above statistics in mind, the NHF is urging people to eat as healthily as possible this Christmas and to build 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise into everyone’s daily routine to maintain weight.
“A moment on the lips… is never truer than at Christmas,” says Dr Muireann Cullen, Manager of The Nutrition & Health Foundation. In many cases, people are unaware just how quickly the calorie count can stack up over the holiday period by consistently allowing themselves ‘that little bit extra’. It takes just 3,500 extra calories to put on a pound in weight and on average, people gain 5 lbs (2 kg) in the four-week Christmas period. It is very easy to get carried away, eat too much and cut back on exercise. People need to aim for stability.”
According to the survey, almost three fifths of all participants (59%) said that they had tried to lose weight over the past twelve months. However, only 36% of those actually lost weight with women having more success than men. On a positive note, the study reported that more than two thirds (68%) of participants who had tried to lose weight did so by exercising more. This was followed by eating less food (46%) and cutting back on eating fast food (46%). With this in mind, it is imperative that people continue to take these measures over the Christmas period and remember that keeping active is vital to counter balance the additional calories consumed.
“The most important thing to remember is that Christmas is not a time for denial and we should all enjoy ourselves. Indulge just don’t over indulge,” says Dr Cullen. Obviously while people find it very easy to gain weight during this time, they find it much more difficult to lose it afterwards. Perhaps this will encourage people to stick to their New Year’s resolution to eat more healthily and be more active after the festive season. Following a few simple tips can help everyone to make better choices right across the festive season,” concluded Dr Cullen.
The NHF’s Top Ten Tips to keep healthy this festive season
- Decide now to be more careful about what you eat this Christmas, but still enjoy yourself! Enjoy the company of friends and family you don’t see that often, dance at the work party and play games with the children.
- Know what your ‘Christmas weight maintenance’ goal is, your goal over the next few weeks can be simply maintaining your weight. That way, you won’t be disappointed if you don’t lose weight, while any loss will be a bonus!
- Exercise restraint – don’t go mad on food and drink you wouldn’t normally eat.
- Snack on fruit and nuts rather than crisps and chocolate. If you want a treat, choose Brazil nuts coated in dark chocolate, plain popcorn or dried fruit.
- Follow the Rainbow Rule – make sure you pile your plate with different coloured fruits and veg. Satsumas, Brussel sprouts, purple cabbage and cranberries are all classic Christmas foods that offer a range of colours to help keep you healthy.
- Eat cinnamon – not only is the flavour of this spice perfectly suited to seasonal foods, a teaspoon of ground cinnamon a day has been shown to help your body restore blood sugar balance, to help you cope with any sugary treats.
- Try to limit alcohol consumption, especially early in the day. Only fill your glass when it’s empty, so you can keep track of how many you’ve had.
- Try breaking up your drinking by having a soft drink, especially water, in between your alcoholic drinks. Have a small snack with protein or high fibre foods before you go out; never drink on an empty stomach. Ensure you drink lots of water before you go to bed to help re-hydrate yourself.
- Watch your portion: treat yourself to a nice drink, dessert, chocolate or sweets without guilt, but always watch your portion size.
- Physical activity: By all means take a few days to cosy up by the fire and watch TV but balance this with some exercise over the festive period such as brisk walking or cycling.