Christmas is a tricky time for weight management, that’s for sure. It follows hot on the heels from Halloween at the end of October, which is itself often a sugar-fest. So by the time December 1st comes around, we could start compounding any weight gain experienced from Halloween. On top of that, in Ireland, the darker wintry months start to kick in around November and this can often be a trigger for many people to consume more food than is necessary, in an almost hibernating fashion.

So this year I tracked my own experience of the holiday season for Christmas 2021 and here’s what I learnt.

My weight over the course of December 2021 and January 2022

The key points for me are:

  • I love this time of year which is usually full of messiness e.g. adhoc food, social nights out, time off work
  • I wanted to be fully present for all that and I was, as can be clearly seen from the steep incline from the start of December
  • I have no regrets here, even though at the time, with daily weigh ins I could see the impact of my food choices on the scales
  • Throughout 2021, I have been building some really good habits that help structure my lifestyle e.g., I workout regularly in the gym, I run/walk frequently, and cook nutritious meals (most of the time)
  • My sleep is okay and I was creating time for my hobbies of reading and writing, so mentally I felt good throughout most of the year
  • 2021 was a tough year with more Covid uncertainty and all the highs and lows that came with the Covid rollercoaster we were all on
  • I felt I was able to navigate these challenges better as I have invested in Building my Base through the year
  • So I knew, that coming into December, weight gain was almost a certainty for me but I was still a little shocked at how fast and how much (average of 5-6lbs) weight I gained over the time
  • During this time, I placed no constraints or tracking of food consumption whatsoever but I did try to eat intuitively but there was still lots of food available in my environment and each day I was no doubt in a calorie surplus scenario
  • Coupled with the increased food intake, there was a serious drop off in my exercise habits, so it was a double wammy there in terms of energy/caloric management
  • My weight gain peaked at the end of December which is when I made a decision to reset and started to implement my good habits once again
  • These habits – home cooking nutritious meals, removing calorie dense sweet treats from your home, regular strength training in the gym, regular walking/running were the keys to turning the corner here
  • As you can see I gained weight faster than I could remove it as it took me around 6 weeks to lose what I gained in 4 weeks in December

The key here is to build the good habits in the first place, that even if you deviate from them temporarily at times like Christmas, they are there, waiting for you to reignite them when the time is right.

One last thing that I found useful was to line up a challenge for January to help build the weight loss momentum. This year I set myself a target to walk 100 miles over the 4 weeks of January. I like walking, there are little to no barriers to me doing it so I gave myself every chance of success. 25 miles per week breaks down to about 3.6 miles per day (equivalent to around 5.7 kms).

I tracked my walks daily on my Garmin, and wrote up the days mileage on a small calendar beside my work station. It was incredibly rewarding to see the daily wins and the accumulation of these small often trivial distances add up over time. At the end of January, I had tracked and walked 119 miles.

While food choices primarily drive whether you are in a calorie surplus/deficit scenario, exercise can help tip the scales in your favour on those days when the food has been less than ideal, and there are many of these days in my life.

Yours in health and happiness,

JP