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Is holiday weight gain common?
People really do gain weight over the holidays. I call it the eating season. It’s not so much the holiday meal — like Thanksgiving or Christmas — it’s all the stuff that shows up at work, all the food we decorate with, the red and green candies, everybody’s bringing things into the workplace to celebrate, and there’s this nonstop feeding frenzy over the holidays.
Why do you think this happens?
People get busy, busy, busy, gotta do shopping, gotta do this, gotta do preparations, and so one of the first things that may go are "I don’t have time to exercise," which is a good stress reducer. You’re not exercising; your stress level goes up. When our stress level goes up, we tend to turn to things to feel better. Usually it’s not broccoli. It’s either alcohol or something nice and sweet and fatty — See’s candy or cake or something that shows up at work.
Why do you have to watch out for holiday treats?
Temptation at the workplace is unbelievable. So many people bring in their goodies to share and there gets to be this massive pile and people have to walk past it, or people decorate their desks with red and green candies or nuts and it’s so easy just to grab a handful on your way out. Let’s just say that you grabbed a handful of nuts a couple of times a day — that’s about 700 to 900 calories and that could add about 2 pounds a week. But the problem is those two pounds stick and they usually don’t come off and so next year it’s another two pounds. So we keep eating during the holidays more than we need we’re eventually going to accumulate more body fat.
How can I avoid the huge amount of candy and sugar at the office?
Have some conversations with coworkers who all complain about it and are glad the holidays are over on Jan. 1. Minimize how much holiday food comes in to the office by establishing Wednesday or Friday as the day to bring food in and leave it out on the other days.
How can you keep holiday meals healthy?
Really enjoy your holiday meals. Certainly there are recipes out there you can get if you want to cut the calories on your meals, but there’s certain things that I really want to have over the holidays just because I don’t eat them at other times. But I have them in moderate amounts and really enjoy them without guilt. Get the marshmallows, the brown sugar, those fried onions out of those vegetables and you have a pretty good meal.
What else should I watch out for?
Beware of the things that happen on the nonholiday meals. Which is most of the time during the holidays. Don’t decorate with food, maybe make some agreements with coworkers to limit the amount of stuff that comes into the workplace, cause everybody suffers from having too much. Some of the holiday traditions, like baking cookies, can get really out of hand if you think you have to bake five different kinds of cookies, you know, big wads of them. Just having one recipe and sharing it with a lot of people might be better than overkill with a lot of recipes.
How can I avoid stress during the holidays?
We need to nurture ourselves over the holidays because it’s a particularly stressful time. Make time for ourselves, make sure we get a fair amount of exercise during the week, make some quiet time. And looking at the calendar and backing out or not accepting every invitation to every party offers a little peacefulness during the holidays.
What do you do to reduce fat in your holiday cooking?
My mother used to put in two sticks of butter when she made dressing. I use lower-salt chicken broth, tastes just as good as Mom’s but it doesn’t have a cup of butter in it.
Where can I find healthy recipe alternatives for my holiday baking and cooking?
You can find some great recipes out there today by looking at some websites — CookingLight.com, EatingWell.com. Those are great websites for getting lower-calorie recipes that taste good, and don’t taste like diet food.
Should I stop baking during the holiday season?
What is another calorie-ridden holiday treat to avoid?
I knew a friend of mine who had a cup of eggnog every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s and put on quite a bit of weight — about 5 pounds — because by the time you have your eggnog and add a little booze in there, you’re looking at 400 or 500 hundred calories for a cup and 500 calories extra a day, every week is another pound of body fat you can accumulate if you don’t burn that off through exercise.
How can I enjoy some holiday foods but still keep the fat off?
Do some kind of activity every day — and you don’t have to do a lot of it at once. Even going out for a 10-minute walk once or twice during the workday would really help. I know somebody that hates exercise but she’s committed to keeping her weight down so she does 5 minutes every hour around the office and at the end of the day she’s done 40 to 50 minutes of exercise.
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To learn more about Sharp's nutrition services or to find a Sharp-affiliated physician, search for San Diego doctors or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about nutrition, read the Nutrition News archive.