Christmas is the time to eat, drink, be merry and forget about weight loss! Or is it? Could there be a different way – a way to enjoy what you like while not throwing your diet out of the window?
This year, instead of offering you words of wisdom from a nutritionist's perspective, I thought you would like to hear from the true experts!
I'm talking about four inspiring Nutracheck members who have lost an incredible 29 stone between them (yes, 29 stone!) and have been maintaining for 18 months to five years.
I asked them how they managed their diet over Christmas and for their top tips on how they successfully keep the weight off.
"Christmas is a time of year where my family all comes together, and we usually eat lots of indulgent food. I don't actually celebrate Christmas, but I do embrace the yummy food. I consciously decided to be careful at Christmas and I eat in moderation. I have a few treats, but I still aim to maintain. Last year I put on a couple of pounds but lost it after Christmas with walking and staying active with my family".
"When I was losing weight I managed Christmas by still tracking because I was changing my lifestyle. I wasn't on a "diet' and I didn't need to "take a break'; there was nothing to take a break from because I incorporate the foods and drinks that I want into my day, every day of the year.
"My tastes changed and I didn't crave food or feel the need to overindulge just because it was Christmas and everyone else was indulging. I ignored the saboteurs, the people who said "Oh, go on, have a mince pie, it's Christmas". If I wanted one, I would have one and track it, but most of the time I just didn't want unhealthy food and I didn't feel it was worth the calorie spend because the feeling of health and fitness far outweighs any short-term feeling you get from food. I always feel so much better for not following the crowd and end up regretting overindulgence".
"When losing weight I, along with my husband, Martin, decided to not track on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. We didn't go too mad, but we relaxed and enjoyed some of our favourite Christmas foods and drinks.
"The other days in between Christmas and New Year were tracked but we reduced the amount we wanted to lose to give us a higher calorie allowance. It felt good to be in control of our calories whilst, at the same time, still being able to enjoy the festivities. We made sure we kept up our activity levels, too, and I even swam a mile of the pool in my health club on Christmas morning! That won't be happening again now I have a little baby, though!"
"In the time that I was losing weight, there were two Christmases. Like all special events, I didn't mind putting on a bit of weight, but not so much that I would get fed up and feel like giving up. I still filled in my diary, and I think that helped me to avoid any big excesses.
"It worked pretty well – over the first Christmas I gained 4 pounds, and I had lost it by 5th January, and over the second Christmas I gained 2 pounds and I had lost it by 7th January.
"Managing Christmas was also made a little easier, because for both Christmases when I was losing weight, we stayed away, self-catering with two friends. Neither of them is a big eater or drinker, so, we talked in advance about the sort of things we would eat and drink, and nobody was all that set on eating excessively".
|Enjoy yourself – have some treats but don't go over the top. It's all about moderation because it's so easy to slip into bad habits during this festive time.|
|Try healthy options – swap the butter and goose fat for healthier options. I also find having lots of vegetables with Christmas dinner really fills me up!|
|Stay active – keeping active is important during the festive season. There's always plenty to do from decorating to cleaning up, which will help to keep you active. Or you could embrace this family time by taking some walks together.|
|Plan as much as you possibly can especially if you are doing the cooking. Track your Christmas Eve/Day/Boxing Day foods and drinks, chocolate etc. the night before, it really helps you stick to your goal.|
|Ignore the pressure from the people who may comment on what you are or you aren't eating or drinking. They are simply envious of your determination and commitment.|
|Move and move on – go for that walk every day and aim for 10,000 steps a day. It is far easier to keep climbing the ladder to your goal than have to start from the bottom just because of Christmas. Christmas to me is a maximum of three days. I treat it like that, not an excuse for overindulging for two to three months of the 'festive season'.|
|Keep it normal! I think of Christmas eating and drinking as the way I usually eat and drink, but with some extra things, which I wouldn't usually have. It's about not going absolutely bananas about every single thing in sight! And we don't keep bowls of high-calorie snacks, such as chocolates, nuts and mince pies, all around the place.|
|One walk a day – At least once a day we get out of the house, go for a walk and get some air – whatever the weather!|
|Get on the scales – I keep weighing myself throughout Christmas and, whatever might have happened over the period, I switch back to my normal eating as soon as it's finished. Any unusually high-calorie things that are left over, are given away or thrown away. We have some fat birds in our garden!|
|Plan not to be on plan. If you allow yourself a couple of little treats it'll stop the feelings of deprivation. You can still enjoy a mince pie and glass of mulled wine (just not the whole packet/bottle!).|
|Track regardless – even when you know you are going to be over your calories. Seeing the numbers in black and white sometimes helps you to decide whether you really want it. If you do, then go for it, but own that decision!|
|Keep up the activity. If you aim to get out and do a walk each day, you will release those happy endorphins which will make you feel good about yourself. I find that when I feel happy, I am more likely to treat my body to more nutritious food.|
Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.