holiday season brings with it heightened emotions and
expectations ó often accompanied by heightened readings on
are more social gatherings and special foods that are usually
rich in fat and sugar. There also can be higher stress levels,
causing us to overconsume empty calories. And then there are
the mind games we play with our waistlines, like the notion
that we can take a furlough from good eating during the
eating at a party seems separate from your normal eating
life," said Traci Mann, professor of psychology at the
University of Minnesota and author of "Secrets From the
average, people gain one pound between Thanksgiving and New
Yearís Day. But those who are already tipping the scale tend
to gain more ó at least 5 pounds, studies show.
extra pounds often stay there ó despite promises to shed
them come January ó adding up after several years to
"creeping obesity," or long-term weight gain.
temptation to overindulge beckoning at every turn, many people
turn to experts for help, said Darlene Kvist, a Twin Cities
nutritionist and director of Nutrional Weight and Wellness.
always run our classes right through December, because there
are a lot of people who Ö once they start eating, they canít
stop," she said.
is going all bah humbug on holiday treats. The focus is on not
overdoing it as opposed to not doing it at all.
definitely talk to clients about how to be mindful about what
youíre eating this time of the year," said Heidi
Greenwaldt, a local registered dietitian/nutritionist.
"Itís not that you canít have some Christmas cookies
at this time of year. Itís just how much and how
advises her clients to avoid focusing on foods when
celebrating. Instead, she suggests, focus on engaging in
conversation with friends and family members.
that whole mind-set where we live in a society where we donít
want to feel like weíre being deprived," she said.
"We say, ĎIím going to enjoy this,í ĎI have to
deal with in-lawsí or ĎIíve had a hard day of work.í?"
game plan before you hit the buffet line or dessert table at a
you go to parties, itís being mindful of what theyíre
serving," she said. "Look and see what they have
first." That way you can pick and choose how you spend
your calories with an eye toward filling up on lower-calorie
foods, like veggies and fruit, while saving room for an
tells her clients that their goal should be to maintain their
weight through December, not lose weight, which is difficult.
said one strategy people often use that doesnít work is they
donít eat all day and then go to a holiday party and gorge
youíll get to the party and will be famished. Then youíll
go for foods that are high in fat and sugar," she said.
of starving all day and overloading at night, she recommends
eating smaller meals throughout the day and choosing the right
foods. Greek yogurt for breakfast with berries and slivered
almonds, for example, and for lunch, a bowl of vegetable soup.
"That way, youíre eating something instead of skipping
calories," she said.
everyone buys the idea that holiday weight gain is permanent.
do see that people gain weight over time but I wouldnít
attribute it specifically to this holiday eating
business," Mann said. "If it interrupts the healthy
pattern and you donít go back to the healthy pattern, or if
it causes you to creep to overall worse habits, that could be
she acknowledged that overreating is a real threat in
say this is where I should eat and enjoy," she said.
"Itís very easy to rationalize that ó this is the
only time Iím going to get this kind of food."
also the social pressure that comes with eating in those
family parties, people push you into eating things," she
said. Work parties bring their own pressures. You may put
foods on your plate that your co-workers made because you donít
want to insult them by not eating their food, Mann said.
if youíre at a party and youíre feeling awkward socially,
sometimes the easiest thing to do is to wander over to the
buffet or the table with desserts on it, and have some,"
she added. "It might be the safe and easy thing to do
when you arrive at a party and donít see anyone you
sight of a tableful of tasty and colorful foods can stimulate
our appetites and lead to overindulgence.
happens is that when we see certain foods, our brains light up
just as if weíve eaten it," Kvist explained. "It
lights up the dopamine area of our brain, that
neurotransmitter thatís the addictive neurotransmitter. Itís
also the one that makes us feel good once we have eaten
something ó usually alcohol or sugar ó that has activated
that center of our brain. It makes us want more."
pleasure center is triggered when we see a smorgasbord of
have a hard time resisting it," she said. "They want
more susceptible than others to the urge to pile their plates
who really struggle with this, day in and day out, this is a
tough time for them ó the holiday season," Kvist said.
"Thatís what I keep trying to talk to my clients about:
If you keep eating your balanced way, youíre going to feel
great the whole holiday season. It certainly does go on a lot
faster than it comes off."