With the plethora of delicious feasts to be had this end of year, it’s easy to overindulge. Even the most disciplined of eaters will be tempted to reach for a another helping. After all, ’tis the season to be gorging … right? Wrong. Research has shown that adults gain an average of one pound, or half a kilogram, between mid-November and mid-January. While that might not seem like much, according to Livestrong.com, you’ll need to burn an extra 3,500 calories to lose that extra pound.

So before you throw all caution to the wind (and the weighing scale in the trash) and regret it next year, here are some tips to help you avoid piling on extra kilos, and still have fun during the holidays. You have just one body — love it!


Stick to your normal workout regime

Photo: Platinum Fitness

Just because it’s the festive season doesn’t mean you should stop working out, says Max Johnson, co-founder and president of Platinum Fitness. He recommends high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts because the short bursts of high-intensity exercises help to keep the metabolism rate up – thus burning off the extra calories. “Working out only takes one hour a day, which is essentially only 4 per cent of your day,” points out Max.

So no excuse! “Remember that consistency is always key and even if you do not have time to exercise during the day, you can always do it at home or head down to Platinum Fitness.” A tip: Try the Nike Training Club app, which has a number of adrenaline-pumping workouts that do not require the use of equipment, he shares.


Be active with your family and friends

Being sedentary (i.e. lounging on the couch snacking while bingeing on Netflix shows) is a sure way of packing on the pounds. Go for a family walk every evening to stave off the lazy bug. Better yet, take part in the Health Promotion Board’s National Steps Challenge (it runs from Oct 27 to April 30, 2019) together and be motivated to hit 10,000 steps daily (cool vouchers await for those who are persistent!). 

You can also sign up for end-of-year runs together and push each other to train for it. Not a fan of pounding the pavement? Rope in a few friends and sign up for dance lessons. Fun, and you get to work up a sweat.


Know your calorie budget

When people are trying to lose or maintain their weight, the first thing they would say they’re attempting is eating less. But asked how much their calorie (kcal) intake is, and the answer is usually “I don’t know”. However, knowing how much you can consume is of the utmost importance, says Ronald Lim, a personal trainer at Pure Fitness’s Ngee Ann City outlet. “Not knowing what your calorie intake is while trying to lose weight is like trying to manage your finances without knowing your account balance, leading to an inability to manage something since you cannot quantify it.”

Ronald suggests going on apps like MyFitnessPal to set goals, calculate your recommended intake and track calories. To lose weight, you need to consume 200 to 500kcals less calories from your baseline, and you’ll need to engage in physical activities.


Pick high volume food options

Food of the same calorie count may have drastic differences in quantity, so be wise when you’re reaching for that afternoon snack, says Ronald. For example, two-and-a-half apples yield 200 calories, just like a tiny cube of butter, a handful of gummies, or three-quarters of a donut. “It makes more sense to consume food that give you more bang for your calorie buck, and keep the tummy filled,” says Ronald.

Go for things that make you full faster, such as vegetables and fruits that are high in fibre. Carbs like boiled potatoes or popcorn that you’ve prepared yourself work too.


Don’t skip meals

We’ve been there: There’s a buffet lunch coming up so to “save space”, we skip breakfast so we can indulge more, feel less guilty and make our money’s worth. Don’t do it. It’s going to make you super famished, leading you to overeat and waste food. Instead, have a good breakfast that is full of protein, such as a satisfying bowl of oats with nuts and fruits or some scrambled eggs with wholemeal toast.

It will keep you fuller longer and temper the urge to stuff your face later.


Eat high protein snacks

Try to opt for higher protein snacks at Christmas parties, such as meat or fish options like a beef skewer or tuna tartare, and give the more carb-heavy items like puff pastries a miss, said Charlie Temple, founder and director of Platinum Fitness. This is because higher protein snacks help curb hunger and keep you full for longer, while refined carbs are empty calories which will lead to spikes in your blood sugar levels.

Once those levels plunge, they promote hunger and make you crave more food, which can lead to overeating. “Having said that, we believe that everyone should be able to consume and eat whatever they like – as long as consumption is in moderation,” adds Charlie. “Just be prepared to work it off the next day!”


Keep your alcohol consumption under control

“Unlike protein, carbohydrates and fats that provide essential benefits and lead to better living, alcohol is pretty much empty calories. It does not help with muscle building like protein does, nor does it provide energy like carbs and fats,” points out Ronald. Besides, alcohol gives you 7kcals per gram – which is similar to fats (that gives 9kcals per gram). “So the next time you look at a cocktail, keep in mind that it’s kind of like downing a glass of oil,” he adds. Shudder.


Drink lots of water

We all know the benefits of water. It helps to flush out toxins and cleanse your body, improves your complexion, boosts your metabolic rate and reduces hangover (if you drink a glass between alcoholic drinks), not to mention dehydration can have a huge impact on your energy levels and impair mood, memory and brain performance. Another bonus? Drinking water before your meals helps you feel fuller before eating, so you’d be less likely to gorge, says Ronald.

That’s killing two birds with one stone, so reach for that glass! A tip: It’s best to drink water cold, because the body will then use additional energy (calories) to heat the water to body temperature.

This article was first published in December 2018