The Holiday Season is once again upon us. Stores have already begun relentlessly hawking their Christmas merchandise, mall Santas are cropping up in shopping centers across America, and the ABC Family Countdown to Christmas will soon be gracing our television screens. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, to deck the halls with boughs of holly, and to devour whole turkeys with dear aunt Polly. The holidays bring happy feelings—and massive overeating. Through winter and fall, Americans gain, on average, 1 to 10 pounds during the holiday season.
With those kinds of numbers, Frosty won’t be the only one going thumpity-thump-thump.
Between chestnuts roasting, holiday toasting, and an extra one or two pounds, the obesity crisis grows annually, like a pre-Global Warming glacier. The pounds put on between Halloween and New Year’s Eve might not seem like a big deal, but the extra winter weight can last for months. This expansion of waistlines fuels weight loss resolutions at New Years, when sales of gym memberships (and guilt) spike.
Since only 7% of Americans actually stick with their New Year Resolutions, the money spent on the gym is usually more than that the time spent in the gym.
Why do we gain weight during the holidays?
The holidays are festive, fun-filled factory of STRESS! Between preparing meals, family arriving for celebrations, and the need to find the perfect gift, very little time can be spared to ensure proper sleep and balanced meals, let alone to work out. One study concludes that holiday stress is primarily derived from gift shopping and gift-giving. The pressure to “give the perfect gift” has topped the list of holiday stress factors for years, and with the average American spending over $1,700 on presents despite mounting fears of debt, it’s no wonder that the holidays can become the most worrisome time of the year.
With all the commuting from the office to the outlet mall, fast food seems like the most viable option for fuel on the go. Many fast food establishments jump on the holiday bandwagon, offering limited time seasonal treats. Buy them now because, like St. Nick, will be gone in a flash! The seasonal treats are tempting, as they only come around once a year. Be wary, however. That Starbucks Peppermint Mocha packs a 440 calorie wallop!
The holidays are a time to get together with family, with coworkers, with neighbors, your spouse’s coworkers, more family…you get the idea. From Thanksgiving dinners with the family to holiday cocktail parties and workplace get-togethers, the last months of the year is the time for eating. There has always been a community aspect of sharing meals with friends and family. Even the “reason for the season” is famously depicted breaking bread with his disciples. In a more secular sense, the Last Supper comes on New Year’s Eve.
The feeling of togetherness–of not only sharing food but also time with loved ones–is a huge part of why the holiday season is both such a blessing and a hassle. The camaraderie and familial warm-fuzzies often make us indulge in another glass of champagne or an extra few nibbles of something here or there. Or, who are we kidding, a lot of nibbles. By the time the festivities die down and the snow begins to melt, many of us are left asking:
How can we melt away the extra winter weight as well?
One of the easiest solutions is being conscious of how much we consume on the holidays. Fitness apps such as My Fitness Pal have devised a way to track the extra calories you might be unknowingly consuming via meal trackers. Users simply input what they’ve eaten and drank for the day and My Fitness Pal logs that information to give you a pretty good estimate of your caloric intake. The app also has menus from thousands of restaurants loaded into its database, which means you’ll have the most accurate reporting of your holiday feasting. However, it should be said that there is nothing wrong with splurging during the holidays. Being too occupied with calories or debating whether or not to eat a second mince pie shouldn’t be allowed to hold the reigns over anyone during the season. Being mindful is a great way to prevent any later discomforts via overeating or long term weight gain.
As with everything, prevention instead of reaction is always a smooth course of action to take. Make time, even for only half an hour, to physically exercise prior, during, and after the celebrations. Consistency, even around the holidays, can be the key difference in having that extra slice of turkey or having to unbutton your trousers post-meal. Making time to work out and remaining consistent in doing so can help to offset some of the extra food and fizz headed your way around the table.
Speaking of passing the plate, why not shake up what you put on it this year? Healthier alternatives for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals are becoming increasingly available as the number of plant-based consumers has grown across the United States. Vegan and Vegetarian options can be a great substitute for meat-based staples, and many plant-based chefs have brainstormed ways to make the season both delicious and nutritious. UK based celebrity chef Gaz Oakley, otherwise known as AvantGardeVegan, has taken Britain by storm over the past few years with his plant-based holiday cookbooks and youtube videos that instruct the masses on how to make delicious meals without the use of animal products.
In addition to his smash No-Turkey Turkey, Oakley also offers dessert options that are typically lower in sugar and preservatives — treat yourself, it’s the holidays, right? Going plant-based isn’t the only way to eat healthier during Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you plan on making the spread at home, try to add more vegetables as sides while cutting back on butter or other hidden ingredients. Eating fresh sides, even one or two, can drop the caloric weight of a family meal significantly.
Watch portion sizes
Portion sizing is also a huge part of the struggle many of us face between Thanksgiving and New Years. With home cooked meals and family recipes that only see the light of day once a year, it can be easy to overindulge ourselves in Grandma’s secret recipe green bean casserole…a recipe so secret that it is conveniently printed on the can of Cream of Mushroom soup. Wanting to sample everything is normal. In fact, most of us get the feeling that if you don’t try that casserole, you’ll waste the next 364 days wondering what you missed.
How many times have you showed up to a family holiday meal, ate a little too much bread before the main course, then two extra slices of turkey just because it’s the holidays. This FOMO — Fear of Missing Out — can cause us to subconsciously overeat because we intrinsically feel like we would be missing out on something great!
Make a preemptive resolution
Instead of waiting until New Years, why not make a holiday resolution? How about one that aims to limit how much to indulge in the holidays, one that urges regular exercise, and a resolution that is all about maintaining instead of drastic change. It seems a little easier, doesn’t it? Regardless, the holidays are meant to be enjoyed. It’s a time for sweet treats, family feasts, and reruns of 42nd Street after all! The aim of this article isn’t for those visions of sugar plums to remain in your dreams, but to help you through the holidays with pleasure and ease.
Contributing blog writer: Alexandria Dent, a HealthLynked staff writer.
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The information in this blog post is sourced from
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