Gaining weight around the holidays is something of a cultural myth. From jokes and mentions in the media, it sounds like everybody suddenly loses all control and overindulges. Although it’s a commonly held belief that all you eat during the holidays makes you gain anywhere from seven to 10 pounds; the truth is that if you do gain weight from the holidays, it’s probably only a pound.
But that tiny pound does become a problem if you don’t get rid of it. Gaining even a pound a year can quickly add up over the years. In fact, gaining weight in your adult life can pretty much be chalked up to that pound that you gain over the holidays – and never drop. Adult weight gain is about an average of one to two pounds a year, which explains why many middle-aged couples moan about how they’ve gained 20 or so pounds since they married 20 years ago.
Of course, one pound is just the average. Some people may actually gain the five pounds that they claim. Five pounds over many holiday seasons is a lot of weight.
Already being overweight also plays a role in holiday weight gain. Thanksgiving isn’t just one meal; it tends to be a long weekend of indulgences that add up and pack on the pounds. While normal-weight college students may gain as little as half a pound, overweight students may gain up to five pounds during Thanksgiving vacation and the weeks after.
So what is to blame for this phenomenon? In large part, an increased consumption of carbohydrates can be held responsible.
The holiday season officially begins at Thanksgiving. But indulging in carbohydrates probably occurs closer to Halloween. Bathing suit season is over and somebody’s got to eat all the leftover candy – it would be wrong to waste it.
By the time you finish up all the bags of candy you have leftover, plus all the leftovers that were in your office, it’s Thanksgiving and a whole new reason to indulge. Although the turkey is the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal, unhealthy carbohydrates surround it: flakey biscuits, buttered rolls, yams loaded up with marshmallows, fluffy mashed potatoes, savory stuffing, and croutons galore. To add insult to injury, the meal is followed by rich pie crusts and sweetened fillings, not to mention the free-flowing alcohol in wine and adult beverages, and the indulgence in sweet seasonal drinks at coffee shops.
Although you may feel like carbohydrates are launching a personal attack on you, you can do a few things to minimize your intake. Try snacking before a holiday gathering to avoid being so hungry that you can’t resist all those goodies being served. It can also help to shift your focus away from food and onto other mainstays of the holiday season, like shopping and spending time with family and friends you haven’t seen in a while. Before you sit down to eat, go for a stroll with the family or enjoy a friendly game of football with friends.
When it comes to choosing what to eat, load up on the main course of protein, like ham, and fiber-rich veggies and salads that don’t have creamy dressings. Minimize your intake of unhealthy carbohydrates by only having small amounts of the sweet stuff.