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Don’t panic about piling on festive pounds

The festive season is almost here, and I can just feel the excitement building.

I personally love this time of year and all the celebrations that go with it. Especially getting together with family and friends, listening to cheesy Christmas music and wearing my favourite ugly Christmas sweater to the gym (it's no secret, I have no shame).

But I also know that this time of year can allow mild panic to set in ...

I imagine autumn probably passed without much of a glitch — you managed to exercise more or less consistently and had control over your diet. Suddenly, December has rolled around and you find yourself armed with invites to countless office Christmas parties, drinks events, dinners and family feasts.

Perhaps you're thinking, “Help, how am I ever going to avoid falling off the wagon and not pile on the pounds?”

There's no denying it, this time of year can really test your willpower and ability to stick to a healthy, balanced nutrition plan; lurking at every buffet table corner there seems to be an attempt to sabotage your good intentions.

However, the festive season doesn't have to be a diet disaster zone, and you don't have to wake up in January cursing yourself as you struggle to fit back into your jeans.

I want to share a couple of my strategies for how to stay fit, healthy and in shape, while still enjoying some of the Christmas cheer.

Firstly, don't ditch your workouts completely. I know you may be a bit strapped for time with a busier schedule than normal, but skipping exercise altogether is not the answer.

You just need to be a little more efficient and workout smarter in the time you do have.

Focus on lifting the intensity of your workouts by incorporating short bursts such as 20-30 seconds of high intensity intervals.

Training like this will provide the biggest bang for your buck in terms of raising your metabolism and keeping it raised after you've worked out, which means you'll continue to burn fat long after your training session has finished.

Also aim to include multi-joint compound exercise into your session. These work lots of muscles at the same time, meaning your body will be working harder which, as you may have guessed, means you'll burn more fat in a shorter space of time. Some of my favourite compound exercises include squats, push-ups, mountain climbers and burpees. Perform any of these moves in an interval sequence and you have a great short, sweet and intense workout that can be done anywhere and in a matter of minutes.

Secondly, when it comes to your diet, try to plan ahead a little. If you know you have a big family feast coming up in the evening and you don't want to be that person who's declining all the dishes as they're passed round the table, try to reduce your calorie intake earlier in the day. That way you can afford to splurge a bit more at dinner. I find the easiest way to do this is to eat foods high in protein and fibre, as these tend to be lower in calories yet will leave you feeling full.

Meals like an egg white and spinach omelette, a green salad with chicken breast or shrimp, or a vegetable soup, are perfect examples of this. Then when you're at dinner, your best strategy is to fill you plate with vegetables first, then protein, and then a little starch and go easy on gravies and sauces.

As for alcoholic drinks, I know these can play a big part in social events over the Christmas period. The key is to stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water will not only help reduce the after effects of drinking too much alcohol, but it will likely prevent you from drinking too much in the first place. One little tip that many of my clients swear by is drinking sparkling water from a wine glass. I know it may sound a bit strange, but it somehow tricks the mind and eye into thinking you're having a glass of wine and, when you're in a social setting, you don't look or feel out of place.

I appreciate this time of year can be a challenge, so don't be too hard on yourself if your diet slips a bit or you miss a workout. As always, do what you can. Squeeze in 20 minutes of exercise here and there when time allows and make sensible food choices when you have more control over what you can choose, but most importantly, have some fun and enjoy the festive cheer.

Becky Wright is a qualified personal trainer, nutritional therapist and international bikini fitness champion. She has worked with clients worldwide, including royalty. Contact her at or

Stay active: try to squeeze in workouts when you can during the Christmas period

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Published November 30, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated November 30, 2016 at 8:00 am)

Don’t panic about piling on festive pounds

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