The “holiday season” is synonymous to many of us with the “eating season”. If COVID hasn’t been enough to promote sedentary weight gain already, we have this to look forward to next. Starting at Thanksgiving, our feeding frenzy extends relentlessly through Christmas and New Year’s, and continues to perpetuate all the way through the football playoffs into the February Super Bowl. And every holiday deserves a feast! Not just the holiday dinners, but also the endless numbers of seasonal snacks and treats at home and the workplace all contribute to the caloric avalanche we experience through the winter months. No wonder it is not a surprise that most people gain the most weight every year in the month of December. They also commonly do not lose all of those acquired winter pounds. Maintaining just two of those extra pounds each season makes you twenty pounds heavier in a decade.
The answer is, of course, calories. Some fun facts are that, on average, the adult male needs 2500 calories to maintain his current weight. The average female needs only 2000 calories per day. It only takes an extra 500 calories each day to gain a pound every week. Imagine that the typical holiday dinner alone packs a usual 3000 calories, and with appetizers and drinks may top 4500 calories for just that meal and up to 7000 for the day. “Not bad”, you say. “There are only a couple of excessive meals during that season in which I indulge”.
However, add the onslaught of holiday snacks, those extra calories may be easy to accrue. A couple of calorie counts for example: a slice of pumpkin pie is 279, slice of pecan is 532, cherry pie is 304 and apple pie alamode is 414 calories. Not a pie person? How about cookies, then. Each sugar cookie from Subway is 220 calories. Beer is anywhere from 64 calories in the ultralight to 200 for a hearty IPA. Wine may range anywhere from 110 to 300 calories per glass depending on sweetness and alcohol content. If you are considering the playoff parties, a serving of beef nachos is 430 calories, a chili cheese hotdog is 340, one pork rib is 370 and a half dozen chicken wings is 616 calories (www.calorieking.com).
The point is not so much the specific calorie count, but rather the ready availability of “extracurricular” food and treats in which we mindlessly and consistently indulge. Adding this onslaught of calories consumed throughout the “season”, one could readily pack on two, five or even ten extra pounds this year.
Your awareness of these points may make it easier not to go overboard this year. Some tips include limiting your choices to eating only your favorite foods. You do not have to try one of everything. Serve yourself smaller portions, as most holiday foods are rich and should readily fill you up. Only eat one helping at a service. If you feel you must have more, drink a big glass of water and set your timer for twenty minutes. It is likely by then that meal has caught up, and you will not be hungry for a second helping. Finally, eat slowly, taste every bite and enjoy these special treats. Celebrate the holidays and enjoy your time with family and friends. With social distancing and COVID precautions, of course.
Bradford Croft, DO
East Flagstaff Family Medicine