Excess is the name of the game come Christmas so it’s no surprise that each person will gain on average between 1-5lbs over the festive period, according to the British Dietetic Association.
Negotiating indulgent meals out, cosy nights in with a takeaway, boozy parties and that box of Quality Street on your desk requires an iron will that most of us can only dream about.
Add in dark, cold days that mean we’re less likely to make it outside to exercise and Christmas can scupper weeks of hard work for brides on a mission to look their best for their wedding day.
If you want to lose weight for your wedding or simply learn some tricks for sensible eating over Christmas, we asked BDA-registered dietitian Chloe Hall for her best tips.
Keeping a sensible diet up over the festive season means you can still enjoy yourself and stay on track with your weight-loss goals. Plus, there’s no resorting to dangerous crash diets in the new year, which studies have shown can actually make us gain more weight long-term.
Here’s how to stick to your diet goals during December.
Be Christmas Coffee Savvy
The countdown to Christmas begins with release of the festive menus at our favourite high street coffee shops, but do you know how many calories are in one cup? Costa's mint hot chocolate contains a whopping 556 calories, while Starbuck's venti gingerbread latte has 412 and the equivalent sugar to two Mars bars! Stick to coffee-based drinks, skimmed milk and avoid any whipped cream add-ons.
Try Seasonal Snacks
Snack temptation is all around during December. If you're struggling to stay away from the chocolate box, make sure you have nuts on hand, unsalted if possible, as they contain protein to fill you up. Chloe also recommends clementines, which are both deliciously festive and two count as one of your five-a-day. But it's all about portion control - if you want that mince pie, limit yourself to just one.
Make like Santa and have a list handy for your supermarket shop. Stick to it strictly and you won't be persuaded by that family-size box of biscuits on special offer.
Limit Your Liquor
We know there’s office parties and warming glasses of mulled wine in the pub, but taking a few days off drinking alcohol a week will give your liver a rest and save you lots of unnecessary calories. A large glass of wine can contain around 228 calories, the same as an average bar of chocolate.
Make Slimline + Spirits Your Mantra
If you are drinking, then ditch the Baileys. "Reduce your calories when drinking by choosing low calorie mixers, mixing wine with soda to make a wine spritzer and avoiding creamy cocktails," Chloe recommends. Pick a vodka, fresh lime and soda or a gin and slimline tonic and alternate with water.
Have a Healthier Hangover
When we're drunk we tend to make poor food choices too. "A kebab can contain up to a wine glass of fat and over a 1,000 calories," she warns. Have something healthy waiting at home for you so you don't run to the takeaway, like hummus and pitta or filling instant porridge.
READ MORE: Tips To Lose Weight And Get Fit For Your Wedding Day
Count Your Overall Calories
Make every "non-party" meal a healthy one, for example, choose warming soup for lunch if you've got a big meal out later. "By keeping your calories lower in the day if you are going to have more in the evening, you may help to prevent weight gain. It is really important not to just not eat during the day though; continue to eat regular meals containing protein and carbohydrate."
Make a healthier cooked breakfast on those mornings you're hungover and craving something greasy. "A cooked breakfast the morning after can help to replenish some of the nutrients that you've lost. Make it healthier by choosing wholemeal bread, using lean meats, grilling the food instead of frying it and filling up the plate with plenty of vegetables such as tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach," Chloe says.
On Christmas Day
We’ll reportedly stuff ourselves with a gut-busting 6,000 calories on Christmas Day – that’s three times the recommended daily calories allowance for women. But if there’s a day when a little over-indulgence is allowed, it’s Christmas! Don’t deny yourself the roasties and mince pie if you want, just keep everything in moderation.
Be 'Extras' Aware
Chloe agrees. "A Christmas turkey dinner isn’t particularly unhealthy as it usually has protein, carbohydrate and plenty of vegetables. The portion sizes can often creep up at this time of year, so try and monitor your portion sizes if possible.
"It is often the extras to a meal that can increase the calorie intake, for example sausages wrapped in bacon, or the cheese and biscuits or Christmas pudding with cream after a meal, so try and limit these to one meal instead of having these things for the two weeks surrounding Christmas."
Around a third of your plate should come from vegetables. Try steaming brussels rather than frying with bacon or dry-roast your potatoes on a non-stick tray instead of slathering them in duck fat.
Save Your Seconds
Eat slowly and savour your food so your body has time to realise when it's full. You don't have to miss out on seconds, just save them for a sandwich on the evening! Follow your Christmas lunch with a walk instead to help with digestion.
Raise a Glass
If you're going to toast the day with some bubbly, a 125ml glass of prosecco contains around 80 calories. Stick to a couple of celebratory glasses of that rather than large servings of wine or spirits.
Into The New Year
Stepping on the scales post-Christmas and pre-wedding can be disheartening if you've not achieved your goals, but don't be tempted to crash diet.
"It can reduce your nutrient intake and put you at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies which can make you feel very low in energy. Crash dieting can also lead to headaches and bad breath and is unlikely to lead to long-term weight loss as it's unsustainable," says Chloe.
Avoid Crash Diets
Low energy and bad breath are dealbreakers if you plan to dance the night away on New Year's Eve or give your beau a midnight kiss. The NHS suggests sensible weight loss is 1-2lbs a week, which equates to eating around 500-600 fewer calories a day. For an average woman, that's 1,400-1,500 calories a day.
Make achieving your weight loss goal your one resolution this year so you can channel all your energy into that. Break it down into sub-goals that are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based, like losing 2lbs a week. Use family as accountability buddies to keep you motivated and on check.
Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind!
Put chocolate and snacks away in the back of the cupboard or give anything unopened away to friends or a food bank.
Get Your Zzzz!
Get into a good sleep routine, which means around 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. According to the NHS, people who sleep less than seven hours a day tend to be have a higher risk of obesity. Sleep-deprived people have reduced levels of leptin (the hormone that makes you feel full) and increased levels of ghrelin (the hunger-stimulating hormone).
Healthy Mind, Healthy Body
Wedding planning isn’t conducive to lowering your stress levels, we know, but stress can play havoc with your diet. The stress hormone cortisol encourages your body to store fat while making the body crave more high salt, sugar and fat foods, so managing your levels is essential. Exercise, 8 hours' sleep and cutting down on caffeine are good places to start – while our guides can help your wedding planning go smoothly and stress-free.