Winter weight management series – Part 2

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Welcome to part two of our series on weight management. In the last episode I explained how our bodies convert excess calories into fat, and the dangers this can bring to your health. Christmas can be a time of plenty, and calories are no exception to this. It’s the time of year we say to ourselves ‘oh go on then, it’s Christmas after all’ when we’re offered another chocolate. However, this series is about managing our weight, so in this episode I shall try and give you some helpful hints about how to enjoy yourselves, whilst at the same time being mindful of your weight. 

It’s not just Christmas when we have reason to celebrate and get merry. Maybe it’s someone’s birthday, a wedding or another religious festival like Easter. Or maybe you don’t celebrate Christmas due to another religious faith. Whatever your faith, they all have festivals and special days in the calendar set out to celebrate a certain aspect in life. There always seems to be a reason to eat and drink until your heart’s content. So, the advice in this episode can be used throughout the year. 

I don’t want to be the food police or even the fun police. The festive season is a time for celebration, so let’s celebrate!! I’m a sucker for a mince pie and love a good get together with friends and family. Sharing food, drinks and stories of the year. However, we can still enjoy ourselves, but if we are thinking about our weight, enjoy ourselves in moderation. 

Now, there’s no question that this year is going to be very different to normal, due to the state of the world. But we are social creatures and where guidelines permit it, I believe we will try our hardest to safely meet up with our friends and family. I am already hearing of creative ways people are planning on meeting up outside. A Radio 4 listener is planning on canoeing down the Severn on Christmas day to say hello to some family along the way. Perhaps, one big difference this year for the waistline, is that we will not be having those big work Christmas parties. Very often the work’s do can be nibbles in the office before going out, then followed by a three-course meal, topped up with a gallon of booze thrown in as well. And it doesn’t just stop there, there’s also friends Christmas parties. So if you’re a sociable being, you can find yourself having a Christmas event every weekend in December. If we are trying to lose weight, skipping what can become several Christmas day amounts of calories can only be a good thing. . . there’s always a silver lining, even in 2020. 

Without the usual onslaught of a fully packed social diary, it can be easy to forget we’re coming up to Christmas, until you go food shopping. There are so many snacks and treats that we only see at this time of year. The supermarkets are packed full of mince pies, cheap boxes of mini chocolates and loads of other tasty (high in fat and sugar) treats from as early as late October. The trick is not to be tempted until at least the second week in December.   

With all these tasty treats and family get togethers, it’s no wonder we are all going on a health kick in January. Here are some tips to help you not have to work so hard in the coming months: –  


  1. Alcohol – rewarding in many ways, but also can reward you with a whole heap of extra calories. Not many people think about this aspect when guzzling down a few drinks. A pint of beer or lager can contain between 160-200kcal and a large glass of wine is nearly 200kcal. I admit that doesn’t sound much by itself, but when do we only have one? Try having 3/4 alcohol free days per week throughout the festive period, and when you do drink, try to limit the amount of drinks you have. 
  2. The treats – ahh the Christmas treats; always so tempting in the shops, with their bright packaging and the deals on the price. The majority of us like a mince pie, I’ve yet to meet anyone who likes a panettone, but you feel obliged to eat it when it’s there. Let’s not forget the big boxes of mini chocolate selections as well. Try to remember the healthy options that are also available at Christmas, like the mini boxes of clementines. This time of year is the natural season for most citrus fruits in Spain, so they are at their sweetest and most abundant right now. If you do buy one of those boxes of chocolates, try to buy a box of clementines as well and leave them next to each other in the house. This way, when you get tempted to eat a chocolate, you’re reminded to have a healthy snack as well.  
  3. Overeating – now, on the 25th I will probably fill my boots, but we all seem to think that it’s ok to eat like this for the two weeks that surround Christmas. When you catch yourself thinking “it’s Christmas, I’ll allow myself another one”, try to have some restraint and give yourself a reasonable sized portion.  
  4. Exercise – with the cold and dark nights of the winter, it’s easy to fall out of good habits. I will talk about the benefits of increasing your exercise in much more detail in the January edition, but it’s always important to exercise, especially if we are trying to burn off some extra Christmas calories. 
  5. Cheese – I don’t know about you, but this is one of my favourite parts of Christmas. A fridge full of cheese is a dream come true. However, cheese is basically 75% fat (with some protein thrown in as well), so we need to be careful when we are gorging on the delicious diary products. Again, it’s a matter of enjoying cheese and biscuits, but remember that a matchbox size of cheese can be 125kcal, so be moderate with your portions. 
  6. Nuts – whole nuts are another healthy snack option that fill the shelves at Christmas. I’m not sure about your households, but we always seem to end up with a bowl of nuts. We’ve had some creative solutions of how to get into them when you can’t find the nutcracker. Hammers never seem to work though, you either pulverise the nut or miss it completely. Nuts can be another alternative to the unhealthy treats. Again, if you leave them next to your chocolates, you may be tempted to crack a few nuts before going for that favourite choc. 


We hope you are enjoying our winter weight management series. Don’t forget we will be hosting a Q+A with Frankie at the end of the series, so get your questions in now and you might just get it answered by the man himself! Stay tuned for the next episode which will be all about one of our favourite topics here at Dixon Health – exercise!!

This blog was written by Frankie Ebdon, a registered dietitian who works for the NHS.