Flab is not inevitable at Christmas

British study: regular weighing avoids extra pounds.


‘And it came to pass in those days ...’ This is how the evangelist Luke recounts the traditional Christian Christmas story in the New Testament and how it is still being told to this day, especially during church services at Christmas. It describes how Jesus of Nazareth was born in humble surroundings. All too often these days, though, Christmas stories deal with almost uninhibited eating and drinking and the superfluous kilos that accumulate during the Christmas season and then stubbornly refuse to go away afterwards. British researchers have now investigated recommendations for preventing Christmas flab.

Most of us don’t want to count calories during the festive season at the end of the year. We would rather relax and let ourselves go for once, and not be constrained by the dictates of nutritional discipline. Such a lifestyle usually becomes noticeable once the festive season is over - on the scales, in the form of unwanted extra weight. Studies show that almost everyone gains weight during the Christmas season, which by definition lasts from the end of November to the beginning of January.

As the scientists discovered, the reasons are an easy-going attitude, which is reflected in an increased calorie intake, and more opportunities to eat and drink than during the rest of the year. One only has to think of Christmas parties, at work or with friends and acquaintances, that degenerate into calorie orgies. After all, we don’t want to be deprived of doing something just for the fun of it once a year and so we’re happy to succumb to self-indulgence at Christmas, especially if we keep an eye on our weight throughout the rest of the year.

Unfortunately, though, the pounds we put on over Christmas tend to be very affectionate and it is very difficult to get rid of them afterwards. Meat and potatoes basted in fat, a plentiful supply of wine and spirits, mince pies and Christmas pudding and all the other festive treats simply take their toll. That’s why the researchers at Birmingham University in the UK investigated what to do about this unwanted Christmas flab. In their ‘Winter Weight Watch Study’, they came to the conclusion that even weighing oneself regularly can help to avoid putting on too much weight over the holiday period. It helps prevent the worst happening.

A glance at the scales offers a timely warning

The scientists based their recommendation on a study involving more than 270 participants, who they divided into two groups: an intervention group and a comparison group. Those in the first group were asked to check their weight regularly using scales. They also received information on how much exercise was needed to work off the calories contained in food eaten at Christmas. The participants in the comparison group did not have to weigh themselves and only received a flyer with tips for a healthy lifestyle but without any dietary advice. At the end of the study it turned out that the participants from the intervention group had gained half a kilo less than those from the comparison group. To put this figure into perspective, studies have shown that adults in Germany gain between 0.2 and about one kilogram on average during the Christmas season.

This may not sound like much, but doctors warn that this additional weight will often not be lost during the following months. And so, over time, a kilo accumulates here and another kilo accumulates there, and in the end this leads to excess weight that is harmful to a person’s health. Experts therefore advise people not to lose sight of their body weight completely during the Christmas and New Year festivities. Checking their weight regularly on the scales can then warn them when it is time to occasionally apply a brake to their calorie consumption. Usually, this does not spoil the whole of the festivities: instead, the feeling that they have over-indulged less does something for their well-being.

The Birmingham University researchers also advise people not to deviate too much from their usual dietary routine even at Christmas - especially eating at the same time of the day as usual and also keeping an eye on the size of the portions. And anyone who has indulged in something really good in the form of a high-calorie meal will be well advised to exercise in the fresh air afterwards, for instance by taking a walk to help with their digestion. They can continue the conversation that was going on at the meal table and at the same time make a small contribution to burning off the calories consumed.

And those who want to maintain a healthy body weight, and don’t want to give themselves a Christmas present in the shape of surplus pounds, can treat themselves over the holiday period to an Almased drink, which is a means of successfully combatting unwanted Christmas flab.

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