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Don’t Fear Food this Christmas!

Don’t Fear Food this Christmas!

Food Choices Over Christmas

Daniel Reeves (Physiotherapist – Burnie)

The festive season is beginning, which for most, means a never-ending supply of delicious tasty Calorie-dense food.

For some people like those who are trying to lose weight or those that are trying to maintain weight or even those people who are just mindful of their food intake, the festive season and the effect it could have on their waistline may cause some anxiety.

But, there may be no need to fear that pav and choc-ripple cake this festive season.

A study published in 1985, looked at 5 healthy men (22-27yo). All were non-diabetic, non-smokers. These 5 men ate 60% more Calories than the amount they would require for maintaining their weight. They did this for 9 days.

i.e. They increased their food intake for 9 days by an average of 1,914 Calories each day to see how much weight they would gain. They went from eating ~3,279 Calories to eating ~5,193 Calories. These Calorie intakes were a little different between subjects as they were specific for the individual subjects.

This diet was low in protein (15%) of total calorie intake. This is important as the effects of overfeeding on a high protein vs low protein diet are different. A low protein diet is less favourable for weight maintenance/weight loss and probably more closely resembles the typical diet over the festive season (less protein, food high in fat and carbohydrate such as dessert type food etc).


The study showed that on average the subjects gained 3.2kg of weight in 9 days. BUT only 56% of this was actual body fat. They gained 3.2kg but only 1.8kg of this was body fat.

The study also showed that overfeeding caused an initial rapid weight gain that became slower over the 9 days (see fig below).


The remaining 44% (1.5kg) of weight gain was most likely due to increased body water content but organ mass or non-muscle lean tissue may also contribute.


Other studies show similar results with fat mass gain making up 60-70% of total weight gained. Some of these studies are longer in duration so may not be as applicable to the festive season.

If you are interested in reading a complete summary of the literature including overfeeding on carbohydrates vs fats or overfeeding on high vs low protein, follow this link.


Considering this research, you can overeat between Christmas and New Years Day and potentially only gain ~1.8kg of fat. This is, of course, dependent on the exact amount of overeating and Calories you consume in this period. Obviously, if you decide Christmas Day is a great chance for that 10,000 Calorie challenge your fat gain may be larger.

So, relax, enjoy the time spent with family & friends and enjoy good food without feeling guilty… just don’t eat like a complete moron. Once the festive season is over just go back to the way of eating that had you on track for your goals. No biggy.

If you need help achieving a weight goal, come and see one of our Exercise Physiologists. For appointment call our Burnie clinic on 64314586.