Why do we pack on the pounds during the holidays, and what do we do about it?
There are some statistics that indicate that the “average” American gains between 7 – 10 pounds of weight just during the holiday season, which basically covers Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are other holidays in there, and I don’t want to ignore them, but they seem to be less of an eating frenzy, so let’s just say I am not going to pick on them. my goal for us is to start the new year with a smile on our faces, and not the feeling of having just “packed on the pounds”.
It’s not just you!
Probably every culture throughout history, that we know of, seems to celebrate with food. (I wonder if they did crafts and decorated, too.) What I am saying is, there is nothing new to pairing celebrations with food, and celebrations are also about love, about friends, and about family. Buy why, in America, at this time, does it seem to be about gluttony? It seems to be an eating frenzy from 1 October to 1 January, then the results “hit”, and we are left feeling every bit of that food on our bodies.
Am I right?
If you are NOT one of these people, good for you, you rock!
If you are one of these people, as I am, now would be the time to decide to make a change to avoid the end results. I, for one, don’t like going into January with 5 pounds to lose, on top of the 10 pounds I need to lose. How about you?
I would like to share some ideas on just how to avoid that pain, or at least minimize it.
Are you with me?
One of the issues we deal with is Emotional Eating I will address that in my next post, so watch for it.
All that food!
The other issue is the amazing availability of all that food. Those amazing desserts, the creamy mashed potatoes with gravy, the stuffing that takes two days to have the flavors truly blend, the sweet potato shuffle that is a sweet as the pumpkin pie, and the sugary cranberry jello mixture.
Then there is the office potluck the week before, the church potluck two weeks before, the friends gathering, and the family breakfast here and the other dinner there.
We also have to have the traditional cookie exchange, where we bake cookies for days, and eat them for weeks.
There is the chili cook off (what does that have to do with anything? I have no idea, but it is the season for those, too!)
Who doesn’t bake cookies, or pralines, or pumpkin loaf to give as gifts? Doesn’t everyone need yet more sugary treats during this time? (I hope you catch my sarcasm!)
So it doesn’t turn out to be one big celebratory meal, it turns out to be about three months of gluttony.
Unfortunately, there is a price for gluttony, and it comes due in January when we get on the scale.
I want to give you some strategies for dealing with those situations where you are at risk of joining the eating frenzy, and help you strategize some ways to avoid over indulging.
My first line of action would be to just say no. I wrote an article on that, but I understand, as the celebrations begin, it is hard to do. So my second line of defense would be to strategize for those situations, and here are some ideas to help you do just that:
Strategies for dealing with “dangerous” situations
One of the issues of over eating has to do with all the situations we find ourselves in where food is involved. Not just food, but all the celebratory food that we feel we don’t get the rest of the year. So we feel we “deserve” to eat it, since this is a time of celebration. How does that feel in January?
So to help us get through some of those situations, I have some strategies to suggest that may help.
Situation 1: The holiday potluck where we hardly know anyone.
These are the situations that many of us find ourselves “bellying up to the food bar”, or “babysitting the food table”. We somehow feel socially adaptable if we are putting food in our mouth or on our plate. Not a good cycle. So here is where I suggest the “party challenge”, I wrote a blog on the party challenge but here it is:
When you are at a potluck, or a gathering; if you feel a bit awkward and are tempted to eat because of that, do this instead: Find someone else who looks alone and make it a point to get to know their name and at least three thing about them. The more awkward you feel at these gatherings, the more people you should attempt to meet. The goal is to keep you from focusing on the food, or feeling awkward, but focus on your assignment. In fact, if you really need encouragement to do this, only allow yourself salad or vegetables until you have talked to at least one person.
Situation 2: Potlucks and parties in general.
When I look at an average potluck, there tends to be one or two tables dedicated to the meat and side dishes (which are usually bad enough), then there seems to be at least three or four tables filled to the brim with the desserts! My problems over and over again has been that there isn’t much on any of the tables I would allow myself to eat. So I finally figured out if I was going to eat something, I had better bring something I could eat in abundance. So I usually bring a big beautiful salad. Then at least I know I can fill my plate with something.
Situation 3: Big family dinner with lots of expectations.
Why is the tradition to add tons of sugar to every otherwise healthy food? I have found that by substituting healthier alternatives where I can, and eliminating as much excess as possible, makes my life easier and others don’t even mind.
For example, we enjoy sweet potatoes simply baked. Then anyone can add as much butter and brown sugar as they desire. No need for whipping it and adding more sugar than the pumpkin pie.
I noticed over the years that most people fill up on so much of the stuffing and mashed potatoes, that they never ate their rolls. So I just stopped serving them, and no one noticed. I know some people would be upset about not having bread, but my family doesn’t care, so I can get away with it. Perhaps there are things your family may not miss.
My family doesn’t like the cranberry sauce in the can, and I won’t serve the sugar/jello mixture, so I make the real cranberry sauce with less sugar. It is very tart, and I love it on my turkey. To me, that is how cranberries should be served, as something to spice up the flavor of the turkey.
I prefer to save the sugar for the dessert. Yes, I love the dessert.
Situation 4: The celebration meal
Enjoy the celebration! Enjoy the pumpkin pie, if that is what you love. ON THAT DAY! Pigging out one or two meals a year is not going to hurt you over the long run. It’s the three weeks before and the three weeks after that make the difference. Save the celebration for the day of the celebration. Know that you will eat your favorite food on that holiday, and it will be a treat worth waiting for.
Here are some other ideas to keep you sane during the holiday festivities:
Relieve yourself of the feeling that you need to eat as much those treats as you can now, because you won’t have it the rest of the year. Honestly, you could eat pecan pie any month of the year, it just isn’t the same. It is the treat and the celebration that you are enjoying, so know that you can enjoy it now and you can enjoy other things during the rest of the year. Let me give you an example: Watermelon doesn’t sound good at all now, does it? But picture yourself on a very hot day in the summer, and remember how good that watermelon tastes then. Appreciate the seasonality and uniqueness of these foods at this time, and not as something you have to horde; there are other treats for you in the future.
Don’t wear your “big girl pants”. This comes from my friend Tisha, of Girls Gone Kale. If you leave room for your stomach to expand…it will. Keep those regular jeans on, and you will have less room for expansion, temporarily and permanently.
Most of all, keep in mind the feeling you will have when you step on that scale in January and weigh exactly what you did in September. If you weigh less, that is even better! That is my goal for you, to at least maintain your weight during this season of eating.