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I will share my secrets to lessen the Christmas and New Year damage.

The December-January holiday period is arguably the hardest time of year to keep in optimal health. Christmas seems to start earlier every year and there are more parties than ever to attend. With all the drinks, nibbles and crispy roast potatoes, it’s easy to consume as many as 7,000 calories on Christmas Day alone. That’s nearly three times the recommended guideline, and enough fuel for 1.7 days of hiking through the Himalayas!  

A study, published in 2004, of 26 English adults over a two-week Christmas holiday found the adults gained an average 1.6 kilograms. The biggest gain by one participant was a staggering 4.4 kilograms. Blood pressure increased among most participants and six subjects even classified as mildly hypertensive after Christmas (only two were prior to the holiday). 

So how can you maintain your health, fitness and waistline over the party season? Here are six top tips.

1. Pre-eat. It may sound silly to eat early when you know there is going to be food at a party, but this is one of my favourite tactics to avoid bingeing on calorie-dense party snacks. If you eat a nutritious, high-protein meal or snack before you go out, you will be satiated and less likely to grab whatever is there. You can pick and choose healthier options or stick to just a few treats you really like.

2. Just add water. Alcohol is very calorie dense with seven calories per gram. (Carbohydrates and protein have four calories per gram, and fat nine calories per gram.) When out on the town, make sure you have a glass of water in between drinks. This will slow the calorie load and also keep you hydrated.

3. Book in your exercise. Reserve your spot in a class or organise to exercise with a friend the morning after an event. It will encourage you to hold back at the party, and get you up early to start burning off those Christmas calories.

4. Get organised. You are more likely to eat good food if you have it readily available. With online shopping and deliveries from stores like Woolworths and Coles, there is no excuse to not have a stocked pantry. Delete UberEats and Deliveroo from your phone and cook clean, healthy food. It doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy; and it will usually be on the table faster than takeout.

5. Burn, baby. When you’re stocking your plate, fill up on proteins (meats) as opposed to carbohydrates (bread, pasta, potatoes, sweets). You will stay full for longer and will likely eat fewer total calories. You will also burn more calories in the digestion process due to something called the “thermic effect of food”. Protein has the greatest thermic effect: it takes more energy to digest than carbohydrates or fats, with 20 to 30 per cent of total calories in protein used in digesting it. Next are carbohydrates (five to 10 per cent) and fats are easiest to digest (zero to 3 per cent). 

Thus, if you eat 100 calories from protein, your body uses 20-30 of those calories to digest and absorb the protein. You’d be left with a net 70-80 calories. Pure carbohydrate would leave you with a net 90-95 calories, and fat would give you a net 97-100 calories.

6. Full? Stop. Christmas is traditionally a time for over-eating. This year, make a promise to yourself to slow down and be mindful while eating, and stop eating when you are full. 

Eating too fast can mean the body doesn’t have a chance to recognise and respond to signals letting you know you are full.