Some Christmas dieting advice is just plain crazy

With the holidays, comes a flurry of tips to avoid overeating. But a lot of this 'good advice' is first grade nonsense

29 November 2017 - 14:20
Low-kilojoule Christmas food ... bah humbug!
Low-kilojoule Christmas food ... bah humbug!
Image: 123RF/teresaterra

It's that time of year when magazines, radio stations, pharmacies and friends are full of advice on the treacherous terrain of festive-season eating and drinking that lies ahead. Much is made, every year, of the terrible pitfalls one might, well, fall into, and the many crafty hacks one can deploy to sidestep these gastronomic perils.

Most of these tips are useless, because the theory they're based on is bollocks. The nutritional "help" around Christmas is usually a detailed road map of how to avoid extra calories.

Bigger feasts, or "festive calories" as Woman & Home calls them, mean a bigger butt at the end, right? Nope. The theory that calories-in versus calories-out equals your end weight is just plain wrong. In fact, because it led us off the right track decades ago, it has scuppered our health.

But by the time we understood how to track hormonal reactions to our diets, the calorie theory had set in like bugweed. Calories are pretty much irrelevant. Why can your friend eat only half a doughnut and gain weight when you eat three and don't? It's hormones.

Why can your friend eat only half a doughnut and gain weight when you eat three and don't? It's hormones

The way they behave is determined by genetics and how your diet affects insulin, cortisol and a host of other chemicals and reactions. It's also about stress levels and yet other determiners. Everything in fact, except calories.

Think about it; if calories-in versus calories-out was an absolute equation, then just by getting your maths a little bit wrong on how many calories you were taking in every day, you might simply get thinner and thinner until you died. But this doesn't happen.

Not convinced? Google ''1lb does not equal 3,500 calories" by the great Zoe Harcombe.

Apart from the loopy focus on calories, general eating advice is just barmy. One lifestyle mag suggests that you drizzle your Christmas pudding with coconut-yoghurt instead of brandy butter. Why in the name of everything delicious would you do that? Guess what, the problem was never with the brandy butter - it was with the flour and sugar in the pud. Yes, those are the insulin spikers. But who cares! If you can't eat pudding with brandy butter at Christmas, when can you?

Other advice includes holding the serving utensil in the wrong hand at the buffet, so your co-ordination is screwed and you take less. What? Oh, and turning down the lights - apparently we eat less in the dark. Really? Clearly not a theory based on watching movie-goers hoovering popcorn.

My worst one is ''fill up on the healthy stuff first, so you're less inclined to binge on the bad". How utterly dismal. I should eat the turkey breast on its own, and then only proceed to the bread sauce? I think we're all happier and therefore healthier, without this sort of advice.

• This article was originally published in The Times.