Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Weight Gain -- Inevitable?

A few years ago I taught a workshop for women at my church on eating healthy through the holidays. I told them the statistics for weight gain in our country between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day -- 8 pounds of fat. That means while some are staying just the same or could even be losing weight, others gain as much as 15 pounds or more! I've been one of those upper statistics, year after year.

When I was in college, I gained the freshman 10 (at least) and creeped up here and there as the years (and finals) continued on. Each time I prepared to go home for the holidays, I'd crash diet, not wanting my friends to see how much weight I'd gained. Sometimes I'd lose weight, but I'd always gain when I went home. I'd bake and bake -- it was my passion to cook in the kitchen and eat 1/2 the sugary treats that came out of that yummy smelling oven. I felt like such a failure when I'd go back to school, heavier than when I started my crash diet.

As I've learned more about eating healthy and managing my weight, I've still struggled with keeping it all under control over the holidays. There are so many occasions to celebrate (which for some reason means to overeat -- especially with sugar) that I felt like a Scrooge to not participate fully. I mean, isn't that what Christmas is all about? Baking for others, getting plates of cookies dropped off by friends, picking and choosing through big boxes of See's candies, eating stuff that you're not even sure why anyone would make, but after a few bites, it tastes good so you keep eating.

Some years I'd find that I was only eating sugar throughout the day. I'd start by eating somethign on the counter that I'd baked the day before. Once I got that sugar in my system, I didn't want any real food. I'd keep going from cookie, to chocolate, to muffins, to hopefully some ice cream, back to cookies, cookies, and more cookies. Cap that off with some hot chocolate at the end of the day (seems like such the wintery thing to do) and I'd go to bed with a big headache and no desire to get out of bed the next day.

I finally convinced myself that this wasn't doing my body any favors. At first I had to peel myself away from the sugar. I'd play mental games like telling myself that the cookies on the Snowman plate someone dropped off were a week old and tasted awful. It worked. Sometimes I'd just smell them for a bit of satisfaction. It was never tempting. I knew that I was better off without them.

I'd also keep myself away from the baking aisle at the store. If I didn't see those Guittard chocolate chips on sale during the month of December, I wouldn't buy any and couldn't bake with them either. If I didn't buy any molasses, I couldn't make gingerbread. I could, however, buy up oranges and pomegranates and kiwi (oh my!) I also would buy lots of veggies for warm soup to have simmering on the stove. I found that if I cut up fruit or vegetables and left them on the counter, my kids would eat them. They'd eat whatever was there.

I finally broke the trend of gaining 8-10 pounds over the holidays. I stopped feeling sluggish, heavy, and worse of all, out of control when the New Year began. My problem never ended at New Year's. I'd continue on at least through Valentine's Day and sometimes onto Easter. It took at least until June to get that holiday weight off. But now I seem to manage it. I don't look at all that sugar with longing like I did before. I do still bake from time to time, but I use more natural ingredients and don't bake as often or by quadrupling the recipe. I'm not writing this to brag, but to tell you that it is possible.

After 25 years of yo-yoing through the holidays myself, I've learned to keep my weight stagnant by continuing to eat nutrient dense foods and keeping even the healthy sweets to a minimum. After seeing so many friends pass away this year (even just in the past few weeks) from various diseases, I can see there's much more to this that just weight gain. I wish you all a healthy holiday. You don't need to feel deprived -- you'll be richly blessed.


  1. Yes, that sugar can really get to you. I recall some time ago I took a 7-day cruise, which is fun, but the food is even more fun, and I ate a lot of it (Including one huge dinner before setting sail at Burns Steakhouse in Tampa...oh my!). But I was able to do two things that helped. One was not doing the sugar. Sure, there was a little in some of the food, but avoiding the cakes and pies for fruits was the norm. Which is helpful when the cruise line provides all you can eat rasberries/blackberries. #2 was keeping to my exercise program. Each morning at 6am, I was on my routine, plus it was less crowded at that time. The results? One fun cruise and 0 pounds gained.

  2. That's wonderful Robbie. I think cruises are as well known for weight gain as Christmas time. You did great!