Covid allows, it would be stressful to spend Christmas with the Royal Family. But forget the stress of what gift to buy the monarch, there’s an even more traumatic event to navigate: the Sandringham weigh-in.

According to recent Diana biopic Spencer, which chronicles the princess’s troubled relationship with her in-laws, all guests have to be weighed at the start of the Christmas festivities and then again at the end.

In the film it’s laughed off as ‘a bit of fun’ by the royals, but it is a tradition that terrifies Diana, who famously suffered from the eating disorder bulimia.

The Hollywood account bills itself as a ‘fable’, but the scene where guests are weighed at Sandringham is based on some truth. Edward VII started the convention in early 1900s. A man so fondly obsessed with food, he was known as Tum Tum after sustaining a lobster-based accident shortly before his coronation.

Four writers reveal the pounds they put on in the 36 hours between the morning of Christmas Eve and the end of Christmas Day - including Julia Lawrence (pictured)

Four writers reveal the pounds they put on in the 36 hours between the morning of Christmas Eve and the end of Christmas Day – including Julia Lawrence (pictured)

He wanted to ensure his guests were ‘well fed’ and used a jockey’s weighing-in chair to conduct the procedure. According to him, guests ought to gain 3lb during the Christmas season. Most people don’t want to contemplate the damage that turkey, the trimmings and a tub of Quality Street does to their waistline. These four authors bravely agreed to the Sandringham Christmas weight test.

What would the average Christmas Day weight gain be?

In 24 hours, I ate over 10,000 calories

Julia Lawrence

Pre-Xmas weight: 10st 9lb.

Post-Xmas weight: 10st 12lb.

Gain: +3lb.

Well, well, well. It’s hard to believe that anyone would believe it. Apparently, 24 hours of obscene gluttony and unrestricted high-calorie, fat-steeped and sugar- encrusted food intake makes you pile on a lot of weight — quickly.

That is the answer. . . everyone, probably. It’s just that I haven’t had this particular annual rampage through my normally quite tame diet quantified before.

Three pounds. That’s what I managed to pile on over Christmas. While it doesn’t sound like too much of a problem — a bit of a pinch on a fitted waistband (and what masochist goes anywhere near those ridiculous things this time of year?) — it’s nothing that a few days’ abstinence and rigorous plods around the park won’t fix.

Finally, I worked out that one pound is equivalent to 3500 calories. I’ve done more than 10,000 calories. That’s five days’ worth!

Julia (pictured) started Christmas Day with scrambled egg on toast and a cup of tea, before having a glass of champagne and Quality Street chocolates

Julia (pictured) began Christmas Day with scrambled eggs on toast, a cup tea and then a glass champagne. 

Was this a royal convention? Well, it made me think, for the first time ever, about what I’d eaten. It’s something I usually like to forget or downplay.

I have a strong appetite, whether it is a blessing or curse. When we first met, one of my greatest assets was my ability for him to have dinner and drinks under my table.

So, on Christmas Day, I’m the person to keep up with. I started the day with good intentions: scrambled egg on toast with a cup of tea to ‘line my stomach’ for a convivial glass of Bucks Fizz, as everyone gathered in the kitchen. The champagne started to seep into my bloodstream and it felt like someone was unleashing the hungry hounds from hell. The Quality Street tin lid was wrenched off, orange juice no longer featured in my Buck’s Fizz top-ups and suddenly a sweet sherry sharpener looked just the ticket.

The problem with Christmas is there’s just so much choice. The rest of the year, you’d be lucky to find a cracked block of Red Leicester in our fridge, but come December, it’s invaded by a pack of wild, exotic, flavoursome, foreign visitors all fighting for a place on a huge hunk of crusty baguette with a blob of chilli chutney.

Same goes for the Christmas dinner itself. Two veg and meat? What about three meats and ten vegetables? Yorkshire puddings and cauliflower cheese. Also, fried in bacon with two kinds of stuffing and two types potatoes.

My daughter is vegan, so this year there was a sweet potato and cashew nut Wellington to sample — it would have been rude not to. It was all before the pudding. You can’t choose among brandy butter, custard or double cream. What about vanilla icecream? You can’t — that’s why I have all of them. Then some of my mother-in-law’s famous sherry trifle. Hot mince pie was also included to complete the package.

Julia (pictured), who gained 3lb, said her appetite will be back on its leash tomorrow as she returns to long runs and home-made soup

Julia, pictured (who gained 3lb), said that her appetite would be under control tomorrow when she resumes long runs and homemade soup 

The evening featured a number of bawdy poker, cribbage, and Articulate games. These were often accompanied by excessive drinking, shouting, unbridled crisps, chocolate, and nut-grazing.

By the time I hit the sofa for a ‘little spot of supper’ with a turkey sandwich and hot sausage roll or two on a plate, balanced on swollen belly, I’d eaten enough to see me through an entire week.

Come tomorrow, the appetite will be back on its leash and it’ll be business as usual. I’ll go for a few long runs and eat a lot of home-made turkey soup. There is a yin and a yang. I don’t feel too guilty.

My Majesty would be proud. I would be honored to receive invitations from her or other members of the family to Sandringham. I’d be a worthy opponent for any royal.


Harry Wallop 

Pre-Xmas weight: 11st 9lb.

Post-Xmas weight: 12st 1lb.

Gain: +6lb

I haven’t stepped on the scales for possibly a year, which may explain why I am aghast at my weight even before I’ve kicked off the Christmas festivities. 11st 9lb!

In an effort to avoid a growing middle-aged obesity, I decided to take action a decade ago. I ran and started the 5:2 Fasting Diet. This worked. My weight loss was over one stone. Since then, my weight has not risen above 11 and a half stone.

Next came March 2020, the much-feared lockdown. The lockdown of March 2020 was followed by cakes, wine and failure to leave the home. It was therefore not surprising that Christmas brought me to 12st.

Harry Wallop (pictured), who gained 6lb, admits the alcohol and good cheer made him lose all self control as he indulged in port and leftover turkey

Harry Wallop (pictured), who lost 6lb due to the excessive alcohol consumption and joy of being with his friends, admitted that he was unable to control himself as he ate port and leftover turkey. 

It was more likely to be the booze, just as much as the turkey, Stilton and Terry’s chocolate orange. I’m not on the same level as Masterchef judge Gregg Wallace, who revealed he starts drinking at 6.30am on Christmas Day, but December 25 is a bit like being in an airport — normal rules of consumption don’t apply. I’m already on my second sherry by 11am. As the head cook I prepare lunches for 17 people including my inlaws.

At the worst of times, this is moderately stressful. Covid, the necessity to perform lateral flows, as well as the requirement to avoid the health-anxious from imploding make this a stressful event. You end up getting increasingly drunk on pre-lunch champagne while constantly testing the gravy. And hoping you don’t get it mixed up with the lateral flows.

I’ve had the equivalent of a full meal before I finally sit down to lunch. This does not satisfy, but it will make your stomach grow even more. Drinking and good company caused me to have a hard time controlling myself. I ended up with a glass port in my hand and some leftover turkey slices in cold bread sauce in the other.

After that, I ate most of the tub of Quality Street. Even Strawberry Delights. Oh dear.

Harry (pictured) said Britain has an obesity problem and declared that he's starting a diet

Harry (pictured), declared Britain’s obesity crisis and that he is starting a diet

However, 6 lbs gained in just 36 hours is a terrible feat. This public weight-in may make it easier for me to abstain. Even though every breakfast oatflake has been posted on social media, there is one thing that remains taboo.

While you can inquire about someone’s age and height as well as their income, asking them their weight is rude. Victorians and Edwardians weren’t so fussy. It wasn’t just at Sandringham that weigh-ins took place. His weighing-in records from the 1860s, which date back to the 5th Lord Braybrooke (11st 2lb), are still intact. Berry Bros wine merchant weighed clients, including Lord Byron & George IV.

Britain suffers from obesity. Why boast about how many steps you do a day or your personal best for 5km, if you don’t occasionally admit to your heft?

The Christmas fat is pleased to announce that the diet begins today.


Marion McGilvary  

Gain: +1lb

Bathroom scales aren’t my friend. Under normal circumstances I will not get on them unless forced by a health professional and even then I insist they don’t tell me the awful truth.

In the last year, I have lost 2 stone, gained it back quickly, or at least that is what I assumed, until I was lured to stand on them Christmas Eve. When my worst fears came true.

Marion McGilvary (pictured), who spent Christmas on her tod, had a reheated curry on Christmas Eve

Marion McGilvary, pictured (pictured), spent Christmas with her tod and had a Christmas Eve reheated curry 

I did all this while smiling, even though I had done deep yoga breathing to lose some weight, and was teetering on my tiptoes to try to influence the needle’s retreat.

The purpose of the weigh-in wasn’t to find out how fat I was, but rather to determine how much weight I would gain during the holiday season. To be honest, that, at least, I wasn’t worried about.

I was planning to spend Christmas with my dog, but hot toddies replaced me. There were no leftovers from a 3-week-old chest infection that left me miserable.

True Christmas Covid was my partner.

Also, there was no time for merry eating. Our conversations over the last few days have been held behind closed doors or through WhatsApp. Yo, ho, horrible! Both together, but separately. And I am not too sympathetic. Let’s put it this way. I wasn’t planning on sharing my caviar.

So Christmas Eve was a reheated pity curry from our next door neighbours which I couldn’t taste, eaten while crying over Christmas Repair Shop.

Marion (pictured) said her Christmas fare mostly consisted of the sort of liquid diet that sends you to rehab in January

Marion (pictured) said her Christmas fare mostly consisted of the sort of liquid diet that sends you to rehab in January

Christmas Day was a day when I had to make a quick cup of coffee while my husband slept. However, I made an effort to bring him outside for lunch. I set up a fire, covered the sofa with sheepskin rugs and cushions, and laid down quilts on the ground so that we could eat.

It was romantic, I thought. The model is based on Christmas in the north of Sweden.

Except the fire smoked and it started to rain, and I remembered how much I hate turkey and only ate the stuffing, while he, the supposed invalid, ate his own weight in roast potatoes, while regaling me with Chelsea football club’s January fixtures.

Due to our lockdown, Christmas was a time when I ate mostly the kind of diet that gets you into rehab every January.

The picnic was all that it needed to be, except for the fact you could drink lunchtime. It was a relaxing evening. The caviar was left unattended until Boxing Day, when it became my main meal on toast. I then enjoyed some nice bubbles alone. Although they were not crazy keen to eat it, the cats did eat the turkey.

It was tempting to scale the damages, but they were minimal. It was a small gain of gin, but only one pound. I don’t recommend it as a way of surviving Christmas, but needs must.

He is now out of quarantine, and eager to meet his family. Me? A temperature and sore throat are both symptoms.

I gained 7lb… and feel all the happier for it

Linda Kelsey

Pre-Xmas weight: 9st.

Post-Xmas weight: 9st, 7lb.

Gain: +7lb.

My gut may have contributed to my 7 lb weight gain on Christmas Eve, when I was at 9 o’clock in the morning.

Other than at this time of year, my household rarely does butter unless I’m baking cakes for a gathering. But you can’t do a turkey without slathering lashings of the stuff both over and under the skin before you cook it.

Linda Kelsey (pictured), who gained 7lb, has judged her weight by how her clothes fit for the past 25 years

Linda Kelsey (pictured), who lost 7lb has measured her body by the clothes she wore for the past 25-years. 

You can’t make Brussels sprouts without my famed hazelnut, cinnamon and nutmeg butter melted into it. You can’t make cornbread stuffing with out a huge chunk of it. You can also make brownies that are a substitute for Christmas pudding.

Then there’s the goose fat for the roasted veg, the dark brown sugar to make the red cabbage taste just right, the chopped liver canapes with the livers cooked in schmaltz (rendered chicken fat). At least the smoked salmon blini nibbles count as healthy oily fish, and turkey is low fat (if you don’t count the butter).

Champagne, which I made after the turkey was cooked at 2pm, helped to reduce calories. Also, the leftover potatoes which I filled with as I was washing up after my guests had left. Also, I had a quick nibble on Ron’s turkey leg as he came to the kitchen. One more square of brownie. Perhaps two.

It was obvious that my new chic loungewear would be of use. 

It was up to 45 when I began obsessively weighing myself, both morning and evening, two times per day, without fail.

My height was 5ft 7in and my weight of 8st 12lb made me feel at my best. As soon as the scales tipped 9st 3lb, I’d have a minor panic, cut out breakfast, eat an apple and cottage cheese for lunch, followed by a supper of a G&T and a green salad. Within three days I’d be back to my optimum.

After that, I was afflicted with anxiety and gained two stone. About to become skeletal, I decided that my weight neuroses and my scales would be my last. My clothes have been the best way to gauge my weight for 25 years. My waist is a little more sensitive if my clothes pinch. It’s a method that works.

I had to stop using scales around the house and started refusing to use them again until the Christmas Challenge came along to challenge me about my eating habits during the holiday season.

One week ago, Boris threatened to cancel Christmas. I believed my partner was planning to join me in eating all of the nine-kg of turkey. The 5kg Nigella-style smoked ham with a sticky glaze, plus the extra knuckle-in 5kg.

Linda (pictured) said by Saturday night, she had consumed more food and enough gin and tonics to make her head swim

Linda (pictured) said by Saturday night, she had consumed more food and enough gin and tonics to make her head swim

Christmas Eve is always the main event in our home. Thomas, his father being German, grew up eating a huge meal on Christmas Eve and then eat leftovers the next day. The gatherings of the clans became a tradition in our home, where as many 25 people were able to gather for the three-day feast.

When Covid’s situation was less concerning, this year we planned for a fully edited group of 17. Thomas’s dad (my ex) who now lives back in Germany, was flying over until the new quarantine rules kicked in. Then one couple’s adult daughter got Covid. Then my nephew, his spouse, and the two children of school age were disinvited. They had been mixing more than was reasonable, even though they really wanted to be there.

There were now 11 people in my dining room, and I had to eat only twice as many as normal to cover the meals. Piling my plate super high, the scales that night revealed I’d put on an impressive 5lb. Christmas Day morning, I was 1 lb heavier than last night and down to 9 st 4 lb. Before Ronny served me and my son scrambled eggs with buttery, buttered muffins with more salmon as breakfast. Also, a glass of champagne.

My sister and brother in law joined me for the cold turkey and the freshly-cooked Ham. It was a great evening. By Saturday night I’d consumed more food and enough gin and tonics to make my head swim and make outrageous confessions during the after-dinner tell-all party games. If there’s any lesson I’ve learned from this, it’s just how slippery is the slope to unhealthy habits. There’s no better way to make your life easier than the feeding frenzy.

I knew my chic new loungewear — Me+Em velour sweatpants, so roomy round the middle — would come in handy.

More cheese? Please. The gap should be filled with Stilton. At 11.30 pm on Christmas Eve, my weight was 9st 7lb. From Friday morning to Saturday night, I gained 7lb. This is quite an accomplishment.

Perhaps I should say feast. It’s something I couldn’t have imagined.