Holiday weight gain happens ...
"On average we may gain about one to two pounds within a short time between November and January"
For many, it’s a familiar but unwelcome situation every year during the holidays — weight gain from eating rich, heavy foods.
Why do many of us gain weight during the holidays, and who is more at risk?
The winter holiday season is the most critical time for weight gain. On average, we may gain about one to two pounds within a short time between November and January. While this may not seem like much, it is a significant amount considering that average yearly weight gain in adults in the U.S is just over two pounds. This weight slowly creeps up and Americans could see a substantial increase of 15 to 30 pounds in body weight over several decades. The holiday weight gain typically occurs when the number of calories you are consuming becomes greater than the calories you are burning. While we may think of using exercise to ‘cancel out’ the effects of eating all those candy canes and egg nogs, the reality is that we may not be able to make up for the calories consumed. This seasonal weight gain poses an even greater risk of weight gain and long-term weight retention in individuals who are overweight or obese.
Why do we eat more during the holiday season?
Eating patterns change significantly during this time of festivities. We are constantly exposed to food during the holidays, whether it’s our tradition of baking cookies at home, attending holiday parties, or feasts we prepare for friends and family. Frequent social eating and eating calorie-rich meals are major contributors. It’s possible that with constant exposure to food during holidays, our internal system that signals hunger and fullness is overridden and undermined, making it difficult for people to regulate food intake.
What types of foods make the biggest culprits in upsizing?
Most holiday goodies are calorie-dense and high in fat, sugar, and salt. The main culprits are foods with low nutritional value like simple carbs including cookies, cakes, baked goods and breads. All the festive holiday coffee, drinks and cocktails have hidden sugars in them as well. While they may make you feel warm and comforted on cold days, the pumpkin spice lattes and other fancy coffee drinks are loaded with sugar. Another culprit is alcohol. Drinking alcohol will not only add additional empty calories to your day, but will also trick your body and brain into thinking that you are hungry, even when you are not. With those extra few drinks, you are sure to eat more than normal.
What can we do to avoid the Upsize?
The trick is to enjoy the holiday but not stretch the eating a week before and after the festivals. My advice:
· Stick to your normal routine as much as possible and feast on one day when celebrating with friends and family
· If you attend holiday parties, make sure to have healthy and satisfying meals throughout the day with some light snacks before going to the party. While some may use the strategy of fasting all day in anticipation of overindulging at the party, this will backfire, because when you are beyond hungry it is hard to stay in control of food choices.
Stay tuned for our “Tips on How to Eat Healthy During the Holiday Meal”
· Avoid post-holiday leftovers. These will will only add to those extra pounds.
· Volunteer to bring low-calorie options, such as a fruit or a vegetable platter to holiday gatherings. (I like to bring a Christmas salad and my own Clean Pumpkin Bread) This way you know you will have healthy food options when you are surrounded by all the holiday goodies.
· Exercise. This will be helpful in keeping you in check. So, if you exercise regularly, keep up, and if you do not, start engaging in some light exercise.
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We hope this holiday season you try new traditions that is beneficial to your health and wellness.