5 tips for avoiding the “December weight gain”

Don’t worry, none of the 5 consists of “eat less”!

Various research has shown that people in various parts of the planet tend to gain between 3kg and 5kg over the course of December.

My guess is that there are various reasons behind that (no just food).

  1. Yes, it’s food: we all tend to indulge during the holidays, starting from Thanksgiving and keeping up with the high sugar high fat diet until the “New Year resolution”
  2. Alcohol: alcohol consumption increases significantly (parties, events, entertaining, etc)
  3. It’s colder: we tend to eat more comfort foods then
  4. Work stress: for those who carry responsibilities, December is that last chance to beat budgets, close pending deals, and try to bump up that year-end bonus
  5. Less sleep
  6. Reduced physical activity

So how can you minimise the damage?

December is a busy month, and while some of us are able to maintain eating and exercise discipline, most don’t and don’t want to, and that’s perfectly fine! 

Here are some tips on how you can limit the damage.

Practice Intermittent Fasting before big meals / events

The What: do not consume anything containing calories(food or drink) for at least 16 hours before a heavy meal or event where you’ll be consuming excessive calories.

The How: drink water, tea (no sugar or cream/dairy) but avoid anything that has calories. Avoid things which cause insulin fluctuations and cause you to starve (including artificial sweeteners).

The Why

  • You dramatically cut your total calories for the day, no matter how much you consume at the “event”.
  • You keep your insulin low for almost the whole day, maximise fat loss
  • You allow your liver to complete a detox cycle: clean up the mess you’re putting into your body! :)

Spend more time on your feet

The What: try to spend as much time as possible standing / walking, sit down only if you must.

The How: most importantly: try to stand or take walks immediately after most (especially heavy) meals. During the day, spend stand as much as possible. Ideally, get a step counter and aim for a MINIMUM of 12,000 steps per day.

The Why

  • Spending more time on your feet is superior to exercising for 1 hour per day (yes, you’ve read this correctly, and studies have proven that).
  • Standing engaged all of your core muscles, which completely switch off when you sit, dramatically dropping your total calorie burn for the day.
  • Walking after meals aids with digestion but also regulates insulin, controlling blood sugar and avoiding excessive conversion of glucose to triglycerides (fat).
  • Staying active increases blood circulation, helping your liver detox your body and delivering more nutrients to your muscles to be used as fuel rather than to the liver to be converted to fat.

Take Cinnamon or Bitter Melon Extract

The What: increase your intake of cinnamon (powder or supplement form) and take Bitter Melon Extract before high carb meals.

The How: Aim for 1-2 tsp of cinnamon per day, either spread throughout the day or with your main meal. Alternatively, supplement with 2,000mg of Cinnamon per day. Take Bitter Melon Extract 30min before a high carb meal.

The Why

  • Holiday food and drink tend to be high in starches and sugars, obviously the main culprits behind weight gain.
  • It is the insulin spike and high blood glucose following a meal which causes the weight gain, since your liver works extra hard to remove all that glucose and convert it to triglycerides (fat).
  • Cinnamon is an excellent blood sugar regulator, and helps keep glucose under control, avoiding insulin spikes (it’s also a powerful anti-inflammatory, which is useful when drinking excessively!).
  • Bitter Melon Extract is a completely natural supplement that is known to significantly lower blood sugar after high-carb meals (be careful though: if you take it without a high carb meal, your blood sugar may drop too much)

Focus your reduced training on heavy weight lifting (not cardio)

The What: when you do manage to get some workouts in, focus on lifting heavy weights (yes, that includes women, the fear of bulking up is complete BS).

The How: Focus on compound (full-body) movements: deadlifts, squats, pull-ups. Increase number of sets, lower repetitions, and heavier weights (with proper form, stay safe, and get proper instruction if not experienced).

The Why

  • Steady cardio burns fat “during the workout, then it stops”, weight lifting causes change in your body that allow you to burn fat “all day long”.
  • In fact, studies have shown that people who do a lot of cardio don’t lose much weight.
  • Time: a focus heavy weights session can be done in 30min, with benefits lasting for 2-3 days.
  • Lifting heavy makes you more insulin sensitive, far less likely to convert all that food to fat.
  • Lifting heavy weights depletes glycogen: glucose from the food goes to refill those stores rather than be converted to triglycerides. 
  • You’ll look good come January!

Increase your intake of Magnesium, Vitamin C and Vitamin D

The What: combine natural sources and supplements to maximise your intake of all 3.

The How: Aim for 1,500mg / day of Magnesium, focused on evening (prior to sleep). Aim for 3,000-4,000mg of Vitamin C per day, spread out throughout the day and no later than 4pm. Aim for 15,000 IU of Vitamin D per week, either taken as daily doses or in one or two boluses.

The Why

  • To begin with: most people are deficient in Magnesium and Vitamin D.
  • Magnesium helps with sleep, something precious during the holiday season.
  • Reduced sleep, increased stress, toxins from food and alcohol put a massive strain on your body’s antioxidant resources.
  • Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, and helps your body deal with the overload of toxins (from food and alcohol).
  • Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a wide variety of ailments, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Most people are deficient in Vitamin D in the best of times, add the lower sun exposure and bad diets of the holidays and you have a double whammy.
  • Vitamin D is also a “master hormone”: it is the precursor for a number of hormones which face high demand during the holiday season, including cortisol, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA.

So go ahead, enjoy the holidays, eat the food, indulge in the sweets, and have a few drinks. Just don’t forget to exercise, spend time on your feet, and use the tips here to minimize the damage.