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Use science to stay in shape this holiday season

It’s that time of year again: parties, celebrations, the season to be jolly and, for some, the inevitable accompanying weight gain. Naturally, we plan to re-slim in January via “eat healthy, exercise more” New Year’s resolutions, but who actually sticks to those? So, you may wish to consider a new strategy – one of not accumulating extra weight in the first place. 

Julie Godfrey

Julie Godfrey

Weight management is the reverse of that other holiday season challenge: money management. While money is time-consuming to accumulate and incredibly quick to dispose of, extra pounds and kilos are deliciously easy to gain and bitterly difficult to get rid of. So let’s look at some scientifically backed strategies to keep you happy and slim throughout the holiday season. 

Go nuts! Nuts can be a good party nibble, and numerous studies extol their virtues. Researchers in Spain found that eating walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts causes an increase in the “happy” hormone serotonin as well as a decrease in hunger. Incidentally, nuts are also believed to reduce inflammation in the body and are helpful in prevention of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. A Canadian study concluded that 2 ounces daily of mixed nuts helped lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and also improved control of blood sugar levels. Another study reported on the high levels and quality of antioxidants in walnuts; antioxidants can help counter the visual effects of aging, as well as protect against cancer and heart disease. For maximum benefit, eat raw, unpeeled and unsalted nuts. 

Healthy snacking before you go out can help you eat less overall. Researchers at Yale and the University of Southern California found that when blood glucose levels dropped, the brain seemingly lost its ability to resist high-calorie foods. So snacking on low-glycemic-index foods such as whole-grain toast with peanut butter, some fruit with nuts or a bowl of muesli should prevent you from arriving at the party ravenous and consuming everything in sight. 

Whatever you eat, munch slowly and chew thoroughly. Studies from New Zealand and Japan have shown that gobbling your food too fast significantly increases your chances of being overweight. This is because it takes time for the brain to receive the appropriate “full” messages from the stomach and act on them. Eating too quickly often equates with overeating. Try to take about 20 minutes to eat a regular-sized meal. 

Manage your alcohol intake from both a calorie and toxicity point of view. Your liver can process approximately one unit (8 ounces of beer or a small glass of wine) per hour, so try not to exceed this. Although alcohol in moderate amounts can be beneficial to health, too much is the reverse. Alcohol adds to your calorie intake, and clinical studies show a relationship between heavy alcohol consumption and weight gain and abdominal fat.

So eat, drink and be merry, but to enjoy a new year free of unrealistic resolutions, do it with sensible drinking and the right foods in moderation.

Julie Godfrey, B.Sc. (Hons), is a nutritional therapy practitioner and full member of the British Association of Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT). For more information, see or email

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