MILAN – Panettone, sweets and cakes, roasts and rich first courses: whether we have chosen to eat at home or have opted for a restaurant, one thing all Italians definitely have in common is too much food. The experts, according to an In a Bottle* study calculate that on average the scales can register up to 5 kilos more than at the beginning of the festive period. What is the cause? Certainly lunches and dinners but only to some extent: the cause is, above all, the bad habit of snacking throughout the day (66%). Without taking into considering that at Christmas it seems that most Italians ignore all the rules of healthy eating and proper hydration (42%). What triggers this debacle? A mixture of an attempt to combat boredom (55%), which is certainly a factor during the holidays, but also the long hours in front of the television (53%) added to the desire to let go after a stressful year (38%). Experts provide guidelines on “limiting the damage” and getting rid of the kilos accumulated over the holiday period.
The extra weight
The date with the usual binging is confirmed, punctually every year, bringing with it the usual figure problems. In fact, 74% of those interviewed confirm that often the post-Christmas and New Year weigh-in shows an actual increase in weight. Even if, 18% point out that it is an accumulation of fluids, due to the change in diet and lifestyle that takes place over the holidays. In any case, based on experience, the experts estimate that during the holiday period on average people put on 2 kg (24%), and up to 3-4 kg (27%). But it is not difficult to put on 5 kg (21%) between the beginning of December and mid-January. Only a few, according to 19% of respondents, manage to limit the damage, adding 1 kg to their pre-holiday weight. On the other hand, the average extra calories per day during the festive season, easily reach 1,500 (according to the estimates of 53% of experts), even if 39% estimated not more than 1,000 extra calories a day.
Bad eating habits
What are the causes of this weight increase? A number of errors and bad habits, which Italians seem simply to not want to give up. On the other hand, the “at risk” period for the accumulation of fat is quite long: only 9% of experts limit the “dangerous” period to between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. The majority (78%), in fact, believes that the real damage is done by the continuous consumption of extra calories, that is by the habit of starting the Christmas binge early and continuing even after the holidays are over. And at the top of the long list of errors is the bad habit of eating high calorie foods throughout the entire day (66%). Many of us, therefore, disregard all the rules of healthy eating (42%). Add to this the lack of attention to hydration (35%), and cap it all off with the consumption high calorie drinks.
No to strict diets
Says Luca Piretta, nutritionist and gastroenterologist at the La Sapienza University in Rome: Firstly, I would like to say to all those who go on a diet to loose weight that it is not usually necessary to diet on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or New Year's Eve. There are 362 other days in the year for that. It is, though, different for people who follow a diet for health reasons (diabetes, coeliac disease, high cholesterol etc.) It does not set a good example or teach healthy eating habits.
Eating out of boredom
But if every year the same mistakes are made, why do Italians overdo it on a regular basis? What triggers this debacle is in reality a mixture of causes, beginning with the fact that food is used to combat boredom (55%), tied to an overdose of free time, which we are no longer used to. Add to this the long hours in front of the television (53%), mindless eating that, without us realizing, overloads the body with calories. Add to this the desire to let go after a stressful year (38%). In fact, for many of us food becomes a way of letting off steam. Visiting friends and relatives (34%) does not help, especially in limiting the intake of alcohol and snacks. However, for 59% of respondents it is wrong to not let go a little. Only 12% – the most radical respondents – is, in fact, convinced that with our modern lifestyle it is not necessary to over indulge, and that even at Christmas we should not eat and drink too much.
Experts provide guidelines for getting back into shape
- Always have breakfast and eat slowly to allow time for the food ingested to stimulate the satiety centre.
- Follow a varied, balanced diet: varying food intake is important so that the body receives all the main nutrients.
- Do not underestimate the risks of a high calorie diet: more calories than those actually required contribute to weight gain, putting stress on the body.
- Limit sweets: have Panettone for breakfast or for a snack, perhaps accompanying it with a glass of milk or cup of tea to help you feel full.
- Prefer water: it is a good idea to limit or avoid high calorie drinks given that they contribute to putting on weight.
- Physical activity: a correct diet accompanied by healthy physical activity is the best way to get back into shape after the Christmas holidays.
- Eat vegetables: when a hearty meal is planned opt for vegetable starters to lower the glycemic index of the carbohydrates that will be consumed subsequently.
- Choose herbal teas with properties that stimulate drainage or help you feel full: their consumption can help detox and reduce the desire to snack.
- Reduce alcohol: “taste” the wine without exceeding half a glass per meal.
- Reduce fats: use fats and oils for seasoning in moderation and choose low-fat, healthy cooking methods. These are rules that should be followed not only in order to get back into shape after the holidays, but throughout the year too.
* conducted with WOA (web opinion analysis) methodology with over 70 experts including nutritionists, dieticians and GPs.
by editorial staff