With the holiday season upon us, so soon may be pie-induced weight gain.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are among the best excuses in the world to eat candy and baked goods, along with a whole host of other treats that only come once a year but often leave extra poundage in their wake that can linger long past the holidays.
Junction City Family YMCA Executive Director Ted Hayden has been in the fitness industry for more than 30 years and he has seen it happen time and time again.
The amount of weight the typical person gains over the holidays is up over what it was two years ago, he said. Average Americans these days pack on 9.5 pounds between Thanksgiving and the end of the Christmas season — Jan. 2. It used to be only 8 pounds, according to Hayden.
“We just overindulge —I mean, it’s the American way,” he said.
Over the roughly 30 days that constitute the holidays, Hayden estimates people take in a surplus of about 33,250 calories.
“Thanksgiving and Christmas all hover around eating,” he said. “That’s the thing — you have a big Christmas dinner or a big Thanksgiving dinner and then things start being brought in.”
People bring in traditional goodies to share at work, he said — items such as their great-grandmother’s world-famous fudge, or cookies baked from scratch.
Part of the problem is that traditional recipes contain a variety of unhealthy ingredients such as lard and copious amounts of butter, according to Hayden.
People overindulge because it’s the holiday season, reasoning that they only eat like this once a year.
“That’s the only time of year that we make that thing,” he said. “It’s a tradition that we make it at Christmas or it’s a tradition that we make it (at Thanksgiving), and so we overindulge in it. Instead of having one bon bon, we work on the whole bowl. We’re afraid that if we open those up, they’re going to spoil, so we’re going to eat them all.”
This goes on, he said, almost nonstop between the end of November and the start of January.
According to Hayden, people are driven to binge eat their favorite holiday treats because they’ve self-imposed a 30 to 45 day time limit on those foods.
“When we get a physiological and psychological (urge) together, we can’t control the binge,” he said. “It’s a known fact.”
According to Hayden, there has been scientific research on the subject and that this is why about 92 percent of diets fail, irrespective of the holiday season.
“They’re not within lifestyle and they (go) cold turkey to cut something completely out,” he said.
According to Hayden, people should not just dump the Christmas cookies in the trash.
Cutting out beloved holiday foods and other goodies entirely only leads to more binging, he said. Within 30 days or so, he said, people’s will begins to bend. Sooner than later, according to Hayden, they may find themselves going all-in on a two pound bag of candy when they could have — and should have — been eating it a little bit at a time, daily.
There’s not enough time in the day, he said, to burn up such a surplus of calories which he estimated to be roughly six days worth of caloric intake.
This holiday season, Hayden suggests people keep in mind most cookies and candy freeze well. Binging once a year is still binging, according to Hayden, who feels it’s better to eat a little bit of something indulgent all year long instead of calorie bombing oneself into oblivion between Nov. 28 and Jan. 2 before swearing it off for another year.
“It’s what (the holidays) are built around,” he said. “It’s not going to change. You just have to do it in moderation."
It’s also wise, he said, to keep portions under control.
“Calories are figured by ounce,” Hayden said.
A total of two large cookies could bring someone to 1,000 calories by themselves, he said.
Activity levels drop during the holiday season as well, in part because people are so busy spending time with family.
Ideally, Hayden said, people should do cardio every day.
People can calculate the calories in holiday desserts the same as they would any other food and decide if they have the ability to work them off — and if they’re worth the trouble, Hayden said.
“The easy way is to just watch the moderation,” he said. “If you were given a box of candy or a tin of candy or whatever it may be, it will freeze. Dole it out to yourself as a reward. Then you won’t be into binging, because you had it all year.”