With Thanksgiving behind us, many Oklahomans may already be feeling a little chubby and plump, much like a certain jolly old elf. The good news is, even if you overdid it and put on a couple of pounds over Turkey Day, the dawn of December doesn’t have to be a diet death sentence. Many factors contribute to holiday weight gain, which can average up to five pounds between Thanksgiving and the start of the New Year. One major culprit is stress, but having less time to work out and the ready availability of fat and calorie-rich holiday treats can easily combine to create an unpopular holiday trend: a tighter waistband. So how can we make the holidays healthier and eliminate the need for the New Year’s weight-loss resolution?
Beware of Stress and Treats
Let’s face it; the holidays are stressful, even under the most ideal circumstances. There are gifts to buy, travel plans to make, and family relationships to contend with, all of which boils down to having less time to regroup. Moore resident Lisa Huggins is a pharmacist specializing in hormone replacement therapy and functional endocrinology. “The increased stress of the holidays can cause an increase in cortisol levels, which can affect adrenal and thyroid function. These increased levels can slow your metabolism,” notes Huggins. “The holidays are kind of a perfect storm. Most people aren’t exercising as much, because it’s cold outside, and they’re eating more, because there are parties and events to attend. All of those factors, combined with increased stress, can easily lead to weight gain.”
To combat the effects of stress, get plenty of sleep and try to carve out personal time. December in Oklahoma can be fairly mild, so throw on a jacket and go for a walk. Increasing physical activity will also boost adrenal function and speed up your metabolism.
In addition to the added stress of the holiday season, for many of us, the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is a nonstop parade of goodies, dropped off by neighbors, clients, family, and colleagues. (I try to avoid passing through the break room at my office during this time period.) While offerings such as these may be hard to avoid, it’s easy to make up for any damage done by cooking healthier meals at home during the holiday months.
Edmond resident Deanna Norris is a health-conscious vegetarian and an expectant mother. After she gave birth to her first child in 2004, she became increasingly aware of the importance of a healthy diet. “After educating myself, I discovered that so many illnesses and diseases could be prevented or even reversed with healthy eating, so I made it a priority to eat whole foods, go organic when possible, and got rid of the artificial foods that come out of a box. For me, the key is to look at the ingredient list…or ideally, the lack thereof.”
The holidays are no exception. While some splurging is expected and is perfectly acceptable, far too many people consider the holidays a free-for-all. Simple tricks can help offset the damage. In my family, we love to bake during the holidays, but in many recipes, you can reduce the amount of butter or oil and use applesauce instead. Norris notes, “With anything that calls for vegetable shortening, I use coconut oil instead.” Coconut oil is natural and full of essential fatty acids, and is solid at room temperature, with a similar consistency to shortening. Norris also frequently substitutes date sugar for refined sugar.
Healthy substitutions such as these can help make your holiday treats less damaging to your waistline. However, as with anything, moderation is key. Curbing stress by carving out time to regroup and increasing physical activity will all help to reduce or eliminate holiday weight gain.
Shannon Fields is a freelance writer from Edmond and a Certified Pharmacy Technician at Innovative Pharmacy Solutions.