Healthy Mindset During the Holidays

We are well in the swing of the holiday season. Each year we write an article related to maintaining your health during the holiday season, and this year will be no different. This week’s article will be geared towards the mental health related to the long holiday season of binge eating and weight gain.

Let’s take a look at what the “holiday season” actually is. If we include Halloween (let’s face it, that’s when many of us go off the rails on eating, and I have an empty bowl of Reese’s peanut butter cups to prove it), and New Year’s Day, the holiday season extends a total of 63 days. In 63 days we recognize many major holidays, the primary ones being Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, and New Year’s day.

5 Days. 5 Days out of 63 actually comprise the holidays (well, 13 if you celebrate all 8 days of Hanukah on top of the rest of the holidays).

During the 5 holidays we celebrate, we will be inundated with large feasts, plates of cookies, lavish desserts, and charcuterie boards galore. Daylight dwindles down to a few hours of sunlight which will decrease our activity levels. The combination of increased food intake and decreased activity will cause us to feel as though we have doubled our body weight, leading to ridiculous New Year’s resolutions revolving around weight loss. I’m here to put some of those concerns to bed.

First, like I said before, in a 63 day period, we actually celebrate holidays on 5 days. Dr. Anna and myself approach the holiday season in that manner. We will celebrate those 5 days by having fun and not being weird while avoiding turning the entire 63 day period into one giant feeding period. What do I mean by not being weird? Well, if great Aunt Betty slaved over an apple pie for Christmas and can’t wait to share with the family, don’t be weird and say no to her and break her heart. Eat a slice of the pie. During the actual holidays, we don’t eat indiscriminately, but we also don’t turn our noses up to every high calorie food in some weird fear of gaining weight during these months. Here is an explanation as to why.

3500. It takes about 3500 EXCESS calories to gain a pound of fat. That is a lot of calories. Most of the weight gain folks see on the scale during the holidays is primarily water weight and it will subside. Next, have you ever noticed that your dogs tend to gain weight during the winter? Those of us who spend a lot of time outdoors notice that squirrels, deer, raccoons, and other animals gain weight during the winter? Guess what. Humans tend to gain weight in the winter as well. It is called acclimation and it’s been happening since the beginning of time. Your body will instinctively hang on to a couple extra pounds during the winter. It’s cold and your body knows how to do one thing really well….survive. A couple extra pounds in January is a survival mechanism (though, now that we live in temperature controlled environments, it may not be as necessary as it was 200 or 2000 years ago).

What is the main takeaway from this rant? On Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Hanukah for our Jewish friends, celebrate and enjoy yourselves. Don’t feel like you’re depriving yourself during those days. On the other, non-holiday days during the holiday season, don’t binge. Treat the holidays as they are, 5-13 days of fun and enjoyment with family and friends. Don’t stress yourself over each morsel you consume. There’s already enough stress during the holidays.

Last, but most important IMO. You’re going to start seeing gyms, personal trainers, and fitness dorks on instagram giving workout advice so you can “earn” your holiday treats. Unfollow those pages. Seriously, that is the worst mentality to have during the holidays. You are not a dog. You don’t need to earn a treat. Go to the gym, go for a run, lift some weights because it is fun, you enjoy it, and you are worth the hour a day it takes to exercise. Exercise is not a punishment for what you ate or a reward system for what you plan to eat.

To sum it up, enjoy the holidays, don’t treat it like a 63 days binge, exercise because its fun, and remember that everyone gains a little weight this time of year.

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