Christmas Survival Guide

-Words by Huw Barnes, a Cardiff-based nutritionist offering you a bespoke approach to your nutrition goals.

As Christmas approaches and our calendar fills with social events, it can be quite difficult time for those who are trying to change or maintain their body composition. Here’s some advice that has worked for a few of my clients in the past.

Consider taking a diet break

Usually juggling a social calendar with a nutrition goal can be managed quite easily with a few alterations to our calories elsewhere. However, with mulitple gatherings and events lined up over the Christmas period, maybe now isn’t the time to prioritise weight loss. There are many observations on seasonal weight changes, and there’s a natural small peak during the month of December as many people tend to set aside time to prioritise their social wellbeing over other goals. By moving to focusing on maintenance calories, you might see a benefit to you by easing the mental burden.

Keep routine

If that isn’t the case, then it’s best not to do anything drastic. During this time, we don’t want to try and overcompensate by being over-restrictive on some days in order to eat slightly more on others. Just put that event behind you and keep moving forward with your normal routine and dietary habits. The binge-restrict cycle can be damaging to our relationship with food as well as set you back further from what you might be trying to achieve.

Keep active

With shorter days and the cold setting in, now is the time we usually see our activity levels dip. Typically this lower level of NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or our general day-to-day activity) plays a large part in the energy balance system. Try to get out for a walk in the daytime, move your exercise indoors and invest in a good coat to keep yourself active throughout the winter.

Practise mindful eating

When it comes to eating out or at social gatherings we can quickly switch off from our hunger cues. Keeping a mental track of how much we’ve eaten or when we’re full can be tricky, particularly at a buffet. Eat slowly and take your time to assess if you actually want more food or you want it just because it’s there. Remember, honour your hunger and respect your fullness.

Go easy on the alcohol

Alcohol intake during the Christmas season can increase dramatically as the parties and gatherings can be based around them. That’s fine, but we must be mindful that they too contain calories and can influence our decision-making around food. Try to reduce your intake by taking a break between each drink. Opt for bottles over pints and singles over double as an easy way to reduce your intake.

As January rolls around, there’s always a temptation to jump on the latest fas diet to try and lose the weight we may have gained. But remember, all diets work on a basis of calorie deficit and it’s just a matter of dining one that suits you. But for now, eat well and enjoy your Christmas guilt-free.

Want to know more? Give Huw a call on 07790 821 889 or drop him an email at