It gets to this time of year and you start looking at the outfits you wore to Christmas events last year and wondering if they will fit you.
Things are going to be different this year, there won’t be the usual number of parties and get togethers, but there will still be Christmas of a sort, full of children and grandchildren with smart phones, taking pictures at unfortunate and unflattering angles. You may still be required to ‘dress up’ and you may start wondering if the extra glass of wine each night, or the ‘lockdown chocolate’ or the fish and chips that have become a weekly habit, were worth it.
Conveniently, at this time of year every magazine, newspaper and website offers the solution, a miracle diet allowing you to drop the unwanted weight in time for Christmas.
A quick google search offers:
“How soon could you drop a dress size?”
“Our Christmas Countdown 14 day diet plan will help you lose as much weight as possible in 2 to 4 weeks.”
“How to Lose Weight Before Christmas so you can look hot in your Party Dress.”
Other than their frankly ludicrous claims, the main thing that stands out to me is that all these headlines focus on a very superficial goal. It is one that may seem appealing as you tug at the zip of your favourite sequined dress, but it is flawed for a number of reasons.
The first is that to lose a lot of weight you have to burn a lot more calories than you consume. Any diet that offers the chance to lose a significant amount of weight in 2-4 weeks must offer a very low number of calories, and these diets can be nutritionally unsound, which particularly in 2020, will compromise your body when you need it to be strong.
Focussing purely on a superficial goal can also lead to feelings of despondency and a lack of achievement. If you aimed to drop 5 pounds and you dropped 3 are you a failure?
However, the most important thing is quite simply, what is being offered will not work.
These sorts of plans are essentially crash diets.
Dietian Lyndel Costain defines a crash diet as:
very restrictive, short term diets with a rigid set of rules which focus on a few foods and promise fast weight loss for little effort.
Does anyone remember the cereal diet, two bowls and a proper dinner? Or the 14 day cabbage soup diet?
Focussing on just a few foods can leave gaps in your diet.
The saving grace is that these diets are so boring and rigid, most people are unlikely to follow them long enough to cause true nutritional deficiencies. But following them frequently could affect your bone health, and increase the risk of iron deficiency and anaemia which cause lethargy, poor concentration and irritability.
The fact that these diets are so restrictive around Christmas is just another reason why they are so ludicrous. Ok you don’t want to be spreading brandy butter on your toast, or eating an entire chocolate orange for lunch (or maybe you do) but find a ‘Christmas Dress’ diet that accounts for an afternoon mince pie or a glass of mulled mine. It is the most indulgent time of year, and after this year we deserve a little indulgence. Cutting these foods out entirely is just going to make you miserable, or make you crave them more until you give in, then the one chocolate you would normally have turns into half the tin.
Another problem with these diets is that a lot of the weight you will lose is water weight. Burning fat is a slow process. A crash diet is not a slow process. It is therefore hugely likely that you will only lose water, not make a significant impact on your body and by Boxing Day you will be back to where you started, feeling worse about yourself, but for no reason.
So what do you do?
My honest opinion is that you shouldn’t try to lose weight in the three weeks leading up to Christmas, unless you are on a proper, medically sound diet plan which you have been following anyway. It is Christmas, more over it is Christmas 2020, the most anticipated Christmas in recent memory, so focus on getting nutritious meals and plenty of exercise and enjoy the Christmas season.
Linked below is an article by Shauna Reid, in which she provides advice on how to keep yourself in check through the Christmas season.
Some of her advice includes:
- Forget about losing weight
- Shop carefully
- Don’t ‘stockpile’
- Exercise portion control
- Plan plan plan
- Keep Moving
I don’t heed all this advice necessarily. I like having lots of food in, and I like shopping a little recklessly over Christmas.
What I agree with though is that although you may eat different, higher calorie food over Christmas, you don’t need to eat more than you usually do (or at least not much more) so when you are full, stop eating. The other than I agree with is keep moving. More than anything, maintaining an exercise routine, even if it is some gentle stretching or a wintery morning walk, will maintain your muscle mass, cardiovascular health and joint mobility, so when you are ready to come out of Christmas hibernation your body will be too.
I am a Plate by Zumba coach, but I am not a registered Nutritionist so I cannot offer diet advice.