The overeating monster seems to raise its ugly head every year about this time. Between the eggnog, stuffing, pecan pie and (insert your favorite fat-filled dish here), it’s no wonder we’re so anxious to invent a New Year’s resolution to assuage our guilt.
But the problem, according to some experts, isn’t the one holiday meal that we’ve been waiting all year long to enjoy. It’s what happens right before, right after, and in the days leading to the next celebration.
Renee Simpson is a clinical dietician and certified weight management counselor at Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch. Her take is pretty clear. “The overeating during the holidays really starts at Halloween and doesn’t stop until New Year’s Day,” she says. “So many people just lay the blame on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day, but the gluttony begins in October.”
To be fair, a moderate sampling of candy on the Eve of All Hallows is perfectly acceptable. The big night arrives, we give it away to the pirates and princesses – oh, and maybe reserve an occasional treat for ourselves. The next day, that plastic pumpkin sitting on a desk in the workplace keeps getting filled up by the candy gnomes.
“This starts to become what I call mindless eating,” Simpson says. “Whether it’s Halloween or the other holidays, there is food at the office, holiday parties to go to, leftovers, and we just grab a handful here and there. Pretty soon we’re eating a hundred extra calories per day for a month and we’ve gained one pound.” And statistics show that the average Joe manages to pack on 5 pounds from October to Jan. 1.
If navigating the festive holiday trough sounds difficult, it’s actually not as hard as you might think. Here are some of the tips Simpson offers her weight management clients:
Reserve your indulgence for mealtime
If Christmas dinner is the big one, then make sure you enjoy it to the fullest; don’t walk away regretting that you missed out on Mom’s candied yams or Aunt Louise’s chocolate truffles.
Send leftovers home with your guests
“The problem is that we enjoy the meal and then enjoy it again the next day and the next,” says Simpson. “The special occasion is something we keep re-eating and adding to our overall calories.”
Formulate a food mantra
Make it simple, like “I am not a garbage disposal.” Simpson suggests invoking the phrase every time you’re about to put something into your mouth. If the answer to the question “Is this cake worth the grueling exercise I’ll be doing to work it off?” is yes, go for it. By the way, the answer needn’t always be yes.
Become a food snob
“Don’t settle for cheaper chocolate, pre-packaged cookies, or sub-par snacks,” Simpson says. “If chocolate is your thing, make sure you become spoiled by the flavor of Godiva or some other more expensive product. You’ll undoubtedly begin to know the difference between the good stuff and the not-so-good stuff and you’ll wait for the good stuff to come around.”
So enjoy the holiday feasts you’ve dreamed of all year long … now pass those truffles and get out of the way.