November 25, 2004

Beauty: How to Lose Half a Stone By Christmas ; Emma Johnson Examines How to Trim Down for the Festive Season

CAN you believe there is a month to go until Christmas Day?

It seems like just minutes since you were topping up your tan and worrying about your cellulite on the beach and now its time to fret about Christmas decorations, food, family and for most women, fat.

Yes, with all the other festive trimmings come the festive parties -- the office party, Boxing Night, drinks with the girls and the big one, New Year's Eve, and every girl wants to look her best in that sparkly LBD.

But chances are after denying yourself for weeks to shape up for your summer holiday, since your return you have been stuffing your face, hiding the bumps and bulges under big jumpers, tights and trousers.

Well you can hide no longer. The party season waits for no (wo)man.

The good news is, even if you have been a slave to the biscuit tin for the past three months it is not too late to repent.

"We get a lot of women signing up this time of year, " says Debbie Sinnott, area service manager for Weight Watchers, Merseyside.

"Some women are in a sheer panic. They are starting to do their Christmas shopping, the party season has started and they are looking to buy dresses but they are not happy with how they look. "

While you are unlikely to turn into Kate Moss overnight, Debbie says at this late stage it is still possible to look different come Christmas Day without resorting to faddy diets.

"Some people will come in with ridiculous expectations -- they say I want to lose a stone by Christmas. You have to be realistic.

"I would say that if you started eating sensibly now you could lose between 5lbs and half a stone. You would certainly look and feel different in your clothes after shedding that.

"What you can lose depends on how motivated you are. "

The important thing at this time of year, says Debbie, is to be reasonable and sensible.

"You need to make realistic eating choices, " she says. "There are going to be parties and lots of food around you. Try to limit the damage.

"If you must drink choose wine spritzers over alcopops, go for lower calorie options. Pile up on vegetables, salads, pasta and jacket potatoes and lots and lots of water. "

Changing your eating habits alone won't be enough if you really want to make a difference to your festive figure. You also need to exercise.

"As a general rule of thumb, diet and exercise have to go together, " says Dave Seddon, senior fitness instructor at the Harbour Club at Liverpool's Crowne Plaza Hotel.

"The first thing most people need to do is just be more active, " adds Dave. "Make small adjustments -- get off one stop earlier on your bus route and walk a bit further. Or try walking instead of driving to work.

"Instead of using the lift, take the stairs, and get an exercise buddy -- someone who will walk or run with you, that way you are more likely to stay motivated. "

To make a difference to your health, Dave advises that you try to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day and that doesn't have to mean enrolling in a gym.

"Try dancing to music in the living room or doing the housework a bit more vigorously and you will be burning more calories. "

Also, adds Dave, you should not get too hung up on what you weigh -- check the mirror not the scales.

"Some people become obsessed by their weight, " says Dave. "Don't. If you are burning more calories you won't neccessarily be losing weight because muscle weighs more than fat, but you will be losing inches.

"For women that will mean toning up on your thighs, bottom and stomach. "

say no to yo-yo dieting

DESPITE the temptation to lose weight before Christmas so you can overindulge later on, Food Doctor and nutritionist Ian Marber says it's important not to go on a yo-yo diet.

"It's a bad idea to lose weight in preparation of putting it on again if you lose weight, gain weight, and then go on a detox diet, you are likely to have a weight problem in the future, " he says.

"As your thyroid gland speeds up and slows down, this will be a disaster to your metabolism. The best way to lose weight is through moderation -- just eat sensibly before, during and after the whole festive season. You can spoil yourself without gorging on the booze and desserts. "

Ian recommends following a week-long diet that is rich in lean proteins (eggs, skinless chicken and turkey), essential fats (fish, raw nuts, seeds and olives), fibre (wholemeal bread, rice and pasta) and some carbohydrates (fruits and vegetables).

"This Seven-Day Diet encourages good digestive health by reducing the amount of sugars and satu-rated fats you eat. Seven days is sufficient for you to adapt to, and benefit from, the changes in your diet and achieve realistic goals, " he says.

Ian also recommends skipping ready-made convenience foods, steaming fish and vegetables rather than frying, and avoiding salt and sugar to look and feel better.

THE Food Doctor Diet, by Ian Marber, is published by Dorling Kindersley, priced pounds 12. 99 p FOR details of a Weight Watchers group near you, call 08457 123000.