Maintaining Body Weight during the Festive Season – The Truth?


Eid-ul Adha celebration is back again this year. ‘Open houses’ are a unique, long-standing tradition in Malaysia and is hosted by almost all Muslim residents during this period. On this day, guests of different religions and races gather around, strengthen friendships and enjoy a variety of traditional food.

This is a challenging period for those on a weight loss diet or healthy eating plan. The temptation of going into ‘festive’ and “self-rewarding” mode, is high. An international study showed that people increase weight by about 0.37 – 1.89 kg during holiday seasons. Malaysians likely follow similar trends, especially during the festive season.

Reading the nutrition content, many of us would be surprised by the amount of extra calories that can be taken in. For example, one cut of lemang with 2 ladles of beef rendang provides around 500 kilocalories. This implies that one would need to jog for 50-70 minutes to burn those extra calories. This is the ugly truth no one wants to believe.

The table below shows some common festive foods, their energy content, and the exercise duration needed to burn the calories:


Energy (kcal)

Exercise duration (jogging)

Ketupat palas (1 piece)

130 kcal

10 – 20 minutes

Lontong with sayur lodeh

(1 chinese bowl)

260 kcal

25 - 35 minutes

Pineapple tart (1 piece)

50 kcal

5 – 7 minutes

Carbonated drinks (1 glass)

130 kcal

10 – 20 minutes


To enjoy good times and good food while staying within the calorie budget, here are 5 practical tips to consider:-

1). Go with a calm stomach

Hunger drives over-eating, while satiety helps you stay alert on food selection. Fill up your stomach with healthy, high fibre snacks, and drink more plain water before attending an open house event.

2). Use a small plate, savour small portions

Keep track of the amount of food, especially high calorie food that you have taken. Use smaller plate during meals and take only small portions of each food. This will allow you to savour all the high calorie food you might want to try.

3). Enjoy the party, not only the food

Make your gathering meaningful by focusing on the conversation. Eat and chew slowly, while chatting with your friends and relatives. Stop when you are almost full, and divert your attention to the conversation with your friends again.

4). Keep a distance from the trigger

Learn to control your desire(s) before they control you. If the appearance or smell of food prompts you to eat more, sit further away from the food aisle. If dessert is your “must-have”, make sure you have budgeted for the calories. If you enjoy sipping on high calorie drinks, space it with water or calorie free drinks in between.

5). Move yourself!

During the festive season, exercise has always been set aside. Exercise can be maintained despite the irregular schedule during this season. Be creative. Sneak in short exercise spurts, like running up and down your staircase at home for 5 minutes, 6 times a day, shooting basketball with your relatives and kids in the yard, and playing dancing games indoors are great ideas you can continue to develop.

Preventing weight gain during the festive season is a bit challenging, but not impossible. Planning ahead is the key to success. As the saying goes- ‘Failing to plan, is planning to fail’. While enjoying the festivities, always remember to find ways to preserve your biggest asset: your Health!


-- Written by Ms. A'ishah Zafirah Abdul A'zim, BSc. Dietetics (UPM), who is currently working as a dietitian in Universiti Putra Malaysia and is responsible in providing dietetic services and conducting clinical training. 

-- Reviewed by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Hazreen Bin Abdul Majid, PhD (King's College, London), MNutrDiet (Deakin University, Australia), BSc Dietetics (UKM), APD (Australia), and Ms. Ng Yee Voon, MNutrSc (Texas A&M University, US), BSc HR & Fam Sc (Dietetics) (University of Nebraska-Lincoln, US)


  1. Islamic Tourism Centre (2014). Guide to Islamic Festivals in Malaysia. Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia.
  2. Jack A.Y., Susan Z.Y., Kara N.S., Tuc T.N., Patrick M.O. and Nancy G.S. (2000). A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain. The New England Journal of Medicine. Volume 342, Number 12.
  3. Nutrition Division (2013). Makan Secara Sihat di Hari Raya. Ministry of Health Malaysia.