With Thanksgiving behind us, we start moving into the main stretch of plentiful parties and holiday festivities. Often this rat race called the holiday season leads to an overindulgence of rich comfort foods, cocktails, late nights, and early mornings. All the while we try to fit in one last hurrah in the name of good tidings. This hustle and bustle leaves us feeling bloated, miserable, and woozy as our bodies expand before our eyes. Yet, we eagerly devour one more finger food and gulp down another glass of eggnog.
When I was about nine years old, my mom was preparing food and drink for a Christmas celebration. The party favorite was to be her signature, decadently rich to-the-last-drop, homemade EGGNOG. Now, no party would be complete without a huge bowl of this exquisite treat commanding center stage of the buffet table. After the party preparations were complete, my mom headed off for a well-deserved nap before the guests were to arrive. I bring up the EGGNOG because it was a lesson in overindulgence that I have carried with me throughout every holiday season since. I dipped one small cup into the bowl and as I drank it, my taste buds flew into orbit and my senses were magnified—I wanted more. One cup led to the next, each better than the one before, until I was pouring the last drops of this lavish treat into my cup. I am not sure what happened next. I lay on the sofa tossing and turning as waves of nausea overtook me. I was drenched in sweat as my skin turned gray, my head spinning as I struggled to my feet. I plowed headfirst into the bed where mom lay sleeping; I begged for relief from the demon inside—EGGNOG!
According to the American Dietetic Association, we consumed about 4,000 calories during our Thanksgiving meal. In contrast, it has been estimated that the early Pilgrims and Indians consumed about 550 calories during their first Thanksgiving celebration. So, as we wend our way toward elaborate Christmas meals, we can expect again to consume another 4,000 calories. However, these big holiday meals are only part of the problem. Additional factors that contribute to our expanding waistlines are seasonal hors d oeuvres, cocktails, candies and other desserts, and lack of sleep.
You don’t have to say “no” to holiday parties, family gatherings, or your favorite hors d oeuvres. Here are a few tips to help you avoid gaining those unwanted holiday pounds while enjoying the season:
Be realistic: Do not start a weight loss program during the holidays; you may be setting yourself up for failure. A better goal may be to maintain your weight throughout the holidays. Eating smaller, lower calorie meals during the day will allow for a little indulgence at festivities later in the evening without overloading your total daily caloric intake.
Choose healthier foods: Go easy on fried foods, cheeses, dips, and candies. Take advantage of healthier choices, such as raw vegetables (with small amounts of dip—just enough to cover the tip), boiled shrimp, scallops with lemon, or fresh fruit with yogurt dip.
Have fun: Enjoy yourself—conversations are calorie free. Try sparkling water with a twist of lime while you socialize (away from food) and celebrate with old and new friends.
All things in our society, including our appetites, seem to be super sized, making this a great time to pay close attention to portion sizes while including a little exercise (like a brisk walk) in our daily routines. I learned very early in life that you can have too much of a good thing. As for me, I will be steering clear of the EGGNOG!
Make sure to discuss any changes in your daily exercise or diet with your healthcare provider. Have a great holiday season!
Howard Baker, RN BSN
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