All Woman

Surviving Christmas: The dieter's guide

By Dr Alfred Dawes

Monday, December 16, 2013    

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The festive season is here already and with it the temptations and overindulgence at every turn. It's all about food, friends, family and more food. It is no wonder they say that more people join the gym in January than any other month. You are struggling to lose weight, or maintain the figure you've worked so hard to get, you cannot afford to let Christmas derail your progress. You can still enjoy the season and minimise the damage if you follow these tips.

Eat before you go out

Sounds crazy, but it works. You have control over what is in your fridge and hopefully it is healthier than what will be waiting for you on the party buffet. Snacking on some filling whole wheat foods and vegetables will leave less space for the rest of the unhealthy food you will be sampling for the rest of the night. In this way you minimise your exposure to high calorie foods.

Don't load your plate

Select carefully what foods you want to eat and don't stack your plate too high. If needs be, you may go for seconds. If you choose to do so, remember that everyone is looking at you as you make your way back to the buffet. What are they thinking about you going back for more food again and again?

Chicken over ham

A slice of ham has 87 calories of which a whopping 73 per cent comes from fat. A three ounce serving of chicken will go further in making you feel fuller at a lower calorie price. Compare your ham caloric values with: chicken breast 110 calories, leg 99 calories, wing 126 and thigh 110. The fat-calorie percentage in these parts vary, but are less than 50 per cent in the worst case. Another Christmas favourite, goat meat, has 165 calories per serving fresh. This is a decent substitute for a few slices of ham.

Hold the rice

Rice belongs to the group of foods with a high glycaemic index. This means it has readily available carbohydrates that will raise your blood sugar levels rapidly. This increases insulin levels which in turn will convert the blood sugars to fat. White rice will give you 195 calories per cup and rice and peas, 234 calories per cup. Instead of filling your plate with rice, load it with vegetables. You will be eating a lot of meat and the fibre from vegetables may decrease the amount of calories absorbed from the meat when eaten together. And while you're at it, go easy on the gravy as well.

Watch the drinks

What is Christmas without sorrel? A glass of this seasonal favourite will add 216 calories to your splurge and even more when it is spiked with rum. When making home-made sorrel, use less sugar and make sure you add ginger which is good for the stomach and has anti-inflammatory properties. Watch those glasses of seemingly innocent wine as each contain 75-80 calories.


Probably the hardest part of Christmas dieting is being around fruit cake. Just two ounces contain about 216 calories of which 36 per cent are from fat. Rum cake fares a little bit better with 194 for a similar portion. A small slice of cake is an OK treat if you have been good with the main course. After all, it is Christmas.

Remember to continue your exercise programme and try to do a little bit extra to compensate for your sins. This way you may fall not too far behind and come January, you will feel more motivated to continue working on that summer body. Merry Christmas!

Dr Alfred Dawes is a consultant general, laparoscopic and obesity surgeon at Premier Heart and Surgery Centre, and managing director, Mahogany Health and Fitness. Contact him at





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