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Christmas doesn’t mean automatic weight gain, and here’s why you should change your attitude towards it.

For anyone with eating disorders/disordered eating or anxieties about their body shape/weight, Christmas and New Year can be a pretty stressful time. There is lots of talk about ‘holiday weight gain’ followed by talk of weight loss resolutions everywhere you turn, making you even more aware of your diet and body.

With articles and social media posts about mad weight gain and ‘burning the excess calories’ all over the internet and magazines, it is easy to overestimate how much extra we have eaten than usual. Although you may consume slightly more– a mince pie here and there, a few extra glasses (or bottles..) of wine, and some obligatory chocolates, it is unlikely that you are eating enough of a calorie surplus to gain the few kilograms you think you might gain. Fat gain requires a fairly long-term period of eating in a calorie surplus, not just a few days over Christmas. Remember, to gain one pound you need to eat a calorie SURPLUS of 3,500kcals.. that’s 3,500 calories over your maintenance amount (roughly 600-1000 calories a day extra for a week).

You may however experience bloating due to eating more carbs and salty foods than usual (e.g. those delicious roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings). Bloating will make your clothes feel tighter and have you feeling heavy and sluggish, but you haven’t actually gained any fat and as soon as you go back to your normal eating pattern you should feel much better. Make sure you keep hydrated (with water!) throughout the holiday as this may help reduce your bloating.

The fear you may have about weight gain over the holiday may also lead to you gaining weight which you wouldn’t have done in the first place. For some people, feeling like you have ‘indulged’ can trigger urges to over-eat or binge – an ‘all-or-nothing’ mindset. If this sounds like you, it’s important to reassess how you view the food you are eating. If you have subconsciously labelled it as ‘bad’ or ‘off limits outside of Christmas/celebrations’, eating it may create this feeling of guilt or anxiety. Try to think of all foods as acceptable in moderation and remember that no food by itself can make you ‘fat’.

Having said all this – if you do gain weight there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. You have celebrated with family, and enjoyed some well needed down time after a stressful year. Weight fluctuates, and spending time with loved ones is far more important than the number on the scales.