It’s December already and that means Christmas is just around the corner! We’d like to take this opportunity to wish you a very merry Christmas right away, and a very happy new year! This week, we’re taking a look at one of the most common Christmas ailments… that extra Christmas weight gain!
Christmas dinner…. and back pain…
There was once a time when for many of us, Christmas dinner was a once a year event – sure, we ate far more than we should, and yes, perhaps we cracked open the champagne at 11am, but there was a Christmas dinner, a boxing day leftover meal and that was that. Today however its become common for many to attend numerous Christmas dinners – either with work colleges, extended family, in-laws, or even total strangers. At Complete Chiropractic, we love a Christmas dinner and we love to see people come together – but we also hate back pain, and it’s a fact that weight gain (even a small amount of weight gain) can actually increase pressure on the spine, and cause pain.
The cause is fairly straightforward – Excessive fat tends to throw off the natural balance of the body so that the extra weight “pulls” the spine away from its optimal position. This is especially true of abdominal fat, which pulls the curve of the lower back forward . This imbalance forces the spine and surrounding muscles to take on additional work, for which they were not designed – in turn, this leads to pain.
At the same time, extra weight subjects the spine to direct pressure, which can result in spinal degeneration, joint problems and muscle fatigue over the longer term. Obesity also ups the risk of developing a herniated spinal disc and related nerve problems, so overall, its something we’d like to avoid!
How to overhaul your Christmas dinner!
Research suggests that the average brit consumes just under 1000 calories in an average Christmas dinner, which doesn’t sound so bad, but that just the dinner. If you include the desert, drinks and chocolate nibbles throughout the day, its thought that the average consumption is around 7,000 calories – and that’s huge! Just imagine multiplying that out by several days, and you can suddenly see how those extra pounds just seem to appear.
Thankfully, its actually quite easy to reduce your overall calorie intake, without sacrificing the fun!
Burn off some calories first
Calories in vs. Calories out – nutrition is a complex science but at the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to! Therefore, the easiest way to avoid Christmas weight gain is to lose some first. This works on a small and a large scale – a workout before Christmas dinner might help to control your appetite, and the calorie deficit can help to balance out all the turkey, whereas spending the week before cutting back could leave you with some “extra” calories in the bank.
Don’t skip breakfast!
Skipping breakfast is a common approach used by people trying to control their weight – the problem is, it doesn’t work. Firstly, breakfast is key in maintaining a healthy metabolism, as it signals to your body that its time to ramp back up after sleep. Secondly, skipping breakfast tends to lead to uncontrollable hunger later in the day – which often leads to binging.
That means that having some breakfast… even if that breakfast contains more chocolate than usual… might actually help to reduce your overall intake.
If you’re looking for a quick and healthy option, try beans or egg on toast – your body will thank you for the protein!
Ditch the Empty Calories
There are lots of ways you can adapt your Christmas dinner itself to reduce the number of calories in the food which you probably don’t even notice. For mashed potatoes, try mixing in chicken broth, coconut oil, herbs or roasted garlic to perk up the flavour instead of adding in butter or heavy cream.
For green bean casserole, swap out fried onions with toasted almonds for a less-oily alternative, and instead of having cranberry sauce, make a cranberry salad instead.
For dips, use Greek yoghurt instead of sour cream. The consistency is similar, but yoghurt has more protein.
Pick your favourites.
Christmas dinner is often the one time of the year that certain favourite dishes come out – be it pigs in blankets, roasted shallots.. or maybe even Brussel sprouts (?) there are going to be some things on offer which usually aren’t . Go for those foods first, and try not to fill up on items which you can have all year round. Don’t start with your usual selection then add extra… you won’t enjoy your food so much, and all you’ve done is add calories.
Just eat slower!
It’s perhaps the easiest weight management tip going – but its often overlooked in today’s fast pace society. It is true that for many of us, meals are often a perfunctory affair, we simply need to get food in and move on to the next task as quickly as possible. The problem is, this kind of “speed eating” actually reduces your ability to savour and appreciate your food, and denies your brain the proper opportunity to gauge how much more you really need to eat. Make yourself a simple rule – take one fork full at a time, and chew at least 4 times before swallowing. You might be surprised how much less you actually end up eating!