• “On Christmas Day alone an individual might consume 6000 calories: three times the recommended daily allowance..." (LightRocket/Getty Images)
If you're lucky enough to have Christmas with all the trimmings, the chances are that you'll put on weight in December. But all hope is not lost. Here's how you can prevent weight gain this season.
By
Yasmin Noone

11 Dec 2018 - 12:37 PM  UPDATED 11 Dec 2019 - 11:12 AM

As people living in wealthy nations throughout the world prepare to celebrate Christmas in culturally different ways, there’s one thing we might have in common this December: potential weight gain.

Research published in The New England Journal of Medicine shows that if you celebrate Christmas, it's the time of year where you're more likely to put on weight. It's also possible that you'll spend a fair bit of time in the months that follow the jolly season trying to shake it off.

The 2016 study looked at the weight of almost 3,000 people from the USA, Germany and Japan throughout the course of a year to examine weight gain over the national holiday, Christmas.

The researchers found that people living in all three of these developed countries, which celebrate Christmas as a national holiday, gained weight within 10 days after December 25.

What’s worse is that although participants lost up to half of the weight gained shortly after the holidays, they rest of the weight gained remained for months.

The researchers found that people living in all three of these developed countries, which celebrate Christmas as a national holiday, gained weight within 10 days after December 25.

According to Nutrition Australia, Australians gain an average of 0.8-1.5kg over the Christmas period. 

A new study, published in the The BMJ Christmas Edition today, also estimates that people in wealthy countries may gain an average of 0.4 to one kilogram every year, usually around December.

“On Christmas Day alone an individual might consume 6,000 calories: three times the recommended daily allowance,” the paper reads.

“Characteristically people enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle and participate in more social events during the Christmas holiday period, which presents situations for increased energy intake.”

The BMJ study also blames Christmas weight gain on the fact that we usually drink more alcohol, eat larger portion sizes, lose the ability to restrain ourselves around food when in the company of our families, and enjoy a greater variety of energy-dense feasting foods.

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How to prevent weight gain this Christmas

Although it seems like we are bound for weight loss failure at Christmas if we choose to celebrate, all hope is not lost.

The BMJ study also looked at a number of weight gain interventions, specifically suited to the Christmas season, to see if it’s possible to prevent the kilos piling on over the holidays.

As it turns out, where there’s a will and a bit of dietary encouragement, there’s a way. 

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Researchers at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Applied Health Research and the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at Loughborough University analysed the lifestyles of almost 300 UK adults – mostly women aged around 44 years old – with varying BMIs from November to January.

Participants were randomly divided into two groups. One group reflected on their weight at least twice a week and received tips to manage their weight. The idea behind this intervention was that if you check on your weight regularly over Christmas and see a sudden increase, you’re more likely to take immediate action.

“On Christmas Day alone an individual might consume 6,000 calories: three times the recommended daily allowance."

The participants were also given a list of physical activity calorie equivalents of popular festive foods and drinks to better understand the energy content of the foods they were eating around Christmas. “For example, the calories in a mince pie require 21 minutes of running and a small glass of mulled wine requires 33 minutes of walking to expend,” the paper reads.

Meanwhile, the control group received a healthy living leaflet with no dietary advice.

The good news is that people who received dietary advice and were reminded about potential weight gain risks over the Christmas period weighed around half a kilogram less than the group who did not receive any dietary help.

Although the difference in weight was small, the findings show that it is possible to buck the trend and maintain your weight (or lose a little bit) over Christmas.

“The results showed that on average, participants in the comparison group gained some weight over Christmas but participants in the intervention group did not,” the study found.

“There was also a significant increase in cognitive restraint – limiting food intake to control body weight) for the intervention group compared with the control group.”

Although the difference in weight was small, the findings show that it is possible to buck the trend and maintain your weight (or lose a little bit) over Christmas.

All that’s required is little bit of effort and education about what the foods we’re eating, and a reminder every now and again to step on the scales.

For tips on beating the Christmas bulge, visit Nutrition Australia online.

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