Can a little too much holiday cheer add to holiday weight gain? Holiday weight gain is a relative myth, it’s not the 5-10 pounds like we often hear. The average American only gains 1 pound over the holiday season, but that does not mean it is nothing to worry about. Studies have shown that when we follow individuals after their 1 pound holiday weight gain, they typically don’t lose that pound over the next year leading into the next holiday season. So do this over the next 20 years and you’ll find yourself carrying an extra 20 pounds around and some negative health risks that go with that weight gain.
Another concern is that overweight people tend to put on an average of 5 pounds for the holidays. So if you are overweight to start with, you are more likely to put on more weight then an individual that is not. Not a good thing if you already have weight to lose, because you will end up with those 20 extra pounds in just 4 years.
While eating all of those Christmas cookies and treats on top of our normal calorie intake is usually the thing blamed for the added weight gain, don’t forget that added alcohol consumption with holiday parties can be partially to blame. An average alcoholic beverage contains between 100-150 calories and if you are having only one drink per day that is not a problem. But remember that alcohol calories come primarily from sugar. We should take in only 5-15% of our calories from solid fats or added sugars. So if you are at the average calorie intake for most women, which is just over 1900 calories or for men it is 2550; you can see how you can easily exceed this amount with a couple drinks and then throw in some food with extra sugars added to them. Plus alcohol does impair our thinking and our willpower to say no to an extra cookie and some fudge. This can create a double whammy with the added calories of the alcohol along with decreased willpower to say no to over eating.
Unfortunately the added stress of the holidays can be to blame as well. A short acute stress response from our body is helpful when we have a true emergency that should last a few minutes. Long chronic stress is not good, which is what many of us live with daily and especially over the holidays. When we get into a chronic stressed state we often tend to use poor strategies to relieve that stress such as drinking and eating compared to good strategies like meditation, prayer and exercise. Also our willpower is decreased in a stressed state, just like it is under the influence of alcohol. A time of acute stress is not a time to worry about your waist line in upcoming years; it is a time of survival to get through to the next day. But when that acute stress becomes chronic daily stress you can start to see how that can derail us and our future health needs.
So control your eating over the holidays, it is okay to have a few tasty holiday treats, but remember to try and do it with some moderation. Also be careful with your alcohol intake, as it can lead to extra calories and decreasing your willpower. Also try to meditate on the “reason for the season” to help decrease a little stress. Get away from the TV and watching reruns of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and get out for a walk and some exercise to make it a wonderful life. And after the New Year begins, start working to take off any weight that you might have put on so you start next holiday season where you began this one or a little less if needed.