How to avoid the Christmas bulge: a survival guide

Drinking water, eating bananas and cutting out sugar-laden "health" drinks could help festive revellers swerve a Christmas hangover and avoid the bulge.

Birmingham City University experts have come up with a foolproof "survival guide" aimed at reducing the impact of one too many mince pies and over-indulging on the sherry.

Dr Matthew Cole, senior lecturer, and four students from his sports and exercise nutrition course came up with simple rules to tackle a perennial problem at this time of year.

After nutritional analysis, they found that toxins from alcohol, extra sugars from so-called healthy drinks, which can be anything but, and physical inactivity, were among key issues.

The group then drew up a shortlist to help people ride-out the Christmas period feeling "a bit fresher", and dodge the festive bloat.

The top five tips were:

        • Drink more water - H20 flushes toxins from over-indulgence, re-hydrates and boosts the immune system.
        • Cut sugary "health" drinks - Often a hidden cause of too much sugar making many so-called health drinks often anything but.
        • Exercise - Inactivity over Christmas is a major cause of weight gain and a reduction in bone and muscle health. Exercise reduces toxins and boosts mood.
        • Increase vitamin intake - Eating foods rich in potassium (like bananas), magnesium, iron and zinc will keep you going on the dancefloor. Dried fruit and green vegetables will help.
        • Balance your eating - Eating a mix of macro-nutrients, like carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and micro-nutrients, like vitamins and antioxidants.

Dr Cole said: "We all know that people will be spending time partying, seeing friends and family, and having fun over Christmas and that often comes with the drawbacks of illness, tiredness and hangovers.

"What we wanted to do was give people a few basic tips that could help them feel a bit fresher over the Christmas period.

"Some are very simple, other things are about highlighting potential hidden dangers.

"While we all know that mince pies and chocolate are going to contain high levels of sugar, what is often hidden is the amount of sugar in some healthy drinks and fruit juices.

"People often reach for the shop-bought health drink to help them deal with the evils of overindulgence but in actual fact they could be doing more harm than good and adding to their problems."

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) charity has also challenged people to swap the festive chocolate for vegetable sticks, satsumas and plain popcorn.

Being surrounded by treats at Christmas meant that on average people gained between 1lb and 5lbs (1kg to 2.5kg) in weight, the organisation added.

But not only can you battle the bulge by piling your Christmas dinner with sprouts, carrots, broccoli, kale, and cabbage - maintaining the right weight can help cut the cancer risk.

And people now have an excuse to dance around the dining room, with the charity pointing out staying active is important, particularly at this time of the year.

Susannah Brown, WCRF senior research scientist, said: "Being a healthy weight can reduce your risk of cancer.

"Drinking alcohol can be a major source of hidden calories over Christmas and it can also increase cancer risk.

"Alternating between alcoholic drinks and low-calorie soft drinks or water can help to reduce alcohol intake and keeping active by going for a walk after Christmas lunch, or put some music on and dance with the family, aiming to be active for at least 30 minutes every day.

"This will also reduce your risk of cancer, and help you have a happy and healthy festive season."

The full survival guide is available to read here.

 

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