Over-indulging in the food department is a Christmas tradition that many of us eagerly embrace and look forward to all year.
The almost constant flow of snacks, tasty treats, larger-than normal meals, and an increase in alcohol intake over Christmas and Boxing Day mean we consume more calories than usual and can be left feeling full for a couple of days after.
Registered dietician Anna Sloan says the average Kiwi consumes about twice their daily recommended intake on Christmas.
If we continued to eat this way year-round she estimates we’d pack on up to 2kg a week, or 104kg in a year.
But like anything in life, balance is key, and if you are left feeling a little guilty about your over-eating and want to start the new year off right, then getting out and exercising is the only way to burn off those excess calories.
We chose five of New Zealand’s favourite Christmas foods and asked Sam Murphy, manager and personal trainer at Tomfit Gym in Albany, to get some tips on what and how much exercise you need to do to work off an average serving size of between 300-350 calories, to ensure you don’t pile on the pounds over the festive season.
New Zealand’s most prized dessert may be light and fluffy to eat but the cream and fruit-topped seasonal treat packs a weighty calorific punch, said Murphy.
To burn off those calories, said Murphy, you’ll need to get energetic and complete a 30-minute run out around the neighbourhood.
Use the opportunity to guilt-trip your neighbours or less motivated family members as they laze on the couch or head for the fridge for further helpings.
The name alone sounds fattening. Just looking at the layers of sponge, custard, alcohol-soaked fruit, and cream and I can almost feel my waist size expanding.
Murphy recommends a 30-minute session of high intensity interval training to burn off those calories. Try to mix things up with a combination of bodyweight movements and cardio based exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, squats, rowing, and boxing.
According to Murphy, ham is “the goodie” on this list as it is high in protein, which is great for muscle mass.
You still need to be wary of pieces with higher fat, but Murphy explains you can enjoy the leaner cuts relatively guilt-free as “they have a high thermic effect that makes it the hardest of these five foods for your body to break down and store as fat”.
He suggests getting out on your bike for a high intensity 40-minute road cycle covering a distance of about 15 kilometres.
Who doesn’t enjoy a couple of pieces of liquor-drenched cake and icing, which tend to go down well with a cup of tea, following your Christmas dinner, and desserts?
Afterwards, Murphy suggests getting out on the water for a solid 30-minute session in a kayak. This isn’t a sightseeing expedition however, and you’ll need to paddle with plenty of gusto to ensure you come back ashore dripping in sweat to have done your waistline any favours.
We all have our own ideas of what is an acceptable amount of booze to drink at Christmas.
Murphy baulked when I meekly tossed up “six drinks” – a conservative measure, I thought – for celebrations that can easily run through the day and deep into the night.
He notes that while our body cannot store alcohol as fat, it will prioritise processing the alcohol over anything else. The bad news is that whatever you are eating at the time will sit in the queue and that can impact your weight-gain.
“Because alcohol is like a poison it takes priority, so anything you eat with your drinking has a high chance it’s going to be stored as fat,” said Murphy.
If you’ve over-indulged in the drinking department, he suggests going for a brisk two-hour walk to burn off the calories. “You probably wouldn’t want to run because you’d be a bit hungover, I assume,” he said.