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Fidgeting over the festive season can help control your weight

22 December 10

Fidgeting, taking the stairs and shopping can account for shedding between 100 - 800 calories (kcal) per day, so over the festive season 'try to keep your body moving' to keep those festive pounds under control, reminds a researcher at the University of Bradford.

The Christmas season is a time of festivities and overindulgence, with the New Year bringing (mainly unsuccessful) attempts to lose the dreaded Christmas bulge.

Dr Eleanor Bryant, lecturer in Psychology, from the School of Social and International Studies at the University of Bradford believes her research expertise can really come in useful at this time of year.  She said: “Over the years, I have come across many ways in which energy can be burned and energy intake reduced, leading to a better weight control. The process of weight loss itself is not terribly difficult; the most difficult part is maintaining weight loss. Weight loss maintenance requires a sustained effort and a permanent lifestyle change, which most people find almost impossible to attain. 

"The central concept behind weight control is energy balance, which is making sure that the energy you eat, does not outweigh the energy you burn. If you do end up in positive energy balance, you will gain weight; conversely if you enter negative energy balance you will lose weight.  There are a number of small changes you can make, that on a daily basis can help to control your weight and stay in energy balance. In particular, there are a few tricks to help with reducing weight gain over the festive season."

Keeping the pounds at bay: Top tips

  1. Fidget! You may raise your energy expenditure 20 – 40% above resting by fidgeting .  Just remember this when relaxing on the sofa reaching for those mince-pies!
  2. Move more - go shopping and take the stairs in the shopping centre at the Christmas sales.  Climbing stairs could double or triple the calories you burn off, compared to if you took the lift.
  3. Be physically active - showing off your favourite dance moves at a party or on a Wii Fit for 15 minutes could be worth 50 - 125 calories
  4. Be flexible about your food intake - allow some indulgences, but try to control what you eat
  5. Engage in mindful eating - enjoy your food and listen to your body's hunger and fullness signals
  6. Compensate for over-indulgence - try to maintain energy balance
  7. Make the most of festive fruits and vegetables - easy to do and great for weight control (just avoid smothering them in butter or cream).
  8. Use a smaller plate to eat off - Research shows you can reduce your food intake by up to 30% this way
  9. Take care with your festive tipple - be merry, but don’t over do it.
  10. Slow down your eating rate, this will allow you your body to feel full thus reducing the amount of food you eat.

Eleanor is in no doubt that getting in the right frame of mind to regulate your weight is essential for weight control.  She said: "Much of weight regulation is down to how we think, our habitual responses, our relationship with food and how we cope. Therefore how we think about food and eating has a huge bearing upon our success at weight regulation. Unfortunately many weight loss techniques demonise particular foods or food groups, this consequently makes the ‘forbidden food’ much more attractive and makes it more likely for people to enter a cycle of restriction and then overeating. Individuals who engage in this pattern of eating are much more likely to have a higher BMI (Body Mass Index).

"The key here is to have a flexible control over your eating behaviour - allow yourself indulgences, but then compensate for extra energy you have ingested. Try not to take an all or nothing approach to controlling what you eat as this can be very detrimental to your weight. Therefore, over the festive season allow yourself to eat the foods that you want to, however try to control how much you eat and compensate for overindulgence.

"Do try to engage in mindful eating behaviour. This means paying attention to the taste and texture of the food as you eat it and really enjoy the taste. This will slow down your eating, allowing your body to sense when it is full and reduce the amount you eat. Try to notice your feelings of fullness, and when you feel full stop eating. Many of us just eat and eat and eat, particularly at Christmas, then about 5-10 minutes after a meal feel like we are going to burst. This is because we have eaten too quickly and eaten past our point of being fulfilled. This also means we have probably overeaten and will be more likely to gain weight."

22 December 10

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