Viewpoint—Keeping away the holiday season’s unwelcome guest

By Janessa Bishop

If you’ve ever heard of the “freshman 15,” you might want to watch out for the “seasonal seven.” It’s a new term for the average weight gain in North America between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

A recent Statistics Canada study said fewer Canadians are gaining weight. This is good news, but the study also mentioned we’re still consuming more calories than we did 13 years ago.

The holiday season is fast approaching and this spells trouble for many Canadians. So before you pile your plate with turkey, pies and cakes, take a minute to weigh your decision – and its effects on your health.

The survey looked at the average weight gain of men and women between 2000 and 2003. Men put on about 2.5 pounds, while the women gained an extra 2.24. The same study was repeated two years later, and even though we continued to add some weight, we added much less (1.6 pounds for men and 1.25 pounds for women).

The coming month is filled with the three “Fs”: family, friends, and of course, food. If we don’t control our eating habits, we may end up seeing more of the fourth “F”: fat.

Unfortunately, the time of the year makes it more difficult for those watching their waistline.

The cold weather and the abundance of food can lead to overeating during the holidays. Busy schedules, combined with planning and preparing for family and friends can also alter weekly workout routines. The stressful nature of the holidays causes us to reach for comfort in the form of caloric intake.

The Dietitians of Canada and the Canadian Diabetes Association offer tips for people wanting to keep fit during the holiday season. They suggest combining a group hike with a potluck lunch, serving fruit for dessert instead of pies and cakes, and eating smaller portion sizes.

It’s also a good idea to avoid “binge eating”. This activity involves eating nothing throughout the day in anticipation of a calorie-filled meal at dinner. The problem is people consume more calories than they would if they ate proper meals. By eating smaller meals throughout the day, you will be less inclined to over-eat in the evening.

An easy way to keep the pounds off during the holidays is to set limits. Instead of having four cookies, have two. When reaching for more turkey, have an extra helping of vegetables. The idea of everything in moderation is a good golden rule to eating. It’s okay to sample the treats, but avoid over-indulging.

The study shows Canadians are making efforts to lead healthier lifestyles. Gym memberships are more common, trans-fat free foods are readily available, and smokers are trying to butt out. But despite all our efforts, the truth hurts. We are still getting fat.

It’s no coincidence workout rooms are filled to the brim in January, as people try to get rid of the excess pounds and guilt of the holidays. So instead of sweating it out in the New Year, why not exercise a little restraint over the holidays?

You can still have your cake and eat it too – in moderation!