Parties, cookie exchanges, family get-togethers and that bowl of Christmas candy on your co-worker’s desk can all weigh heavily on the scale at this time of year.
According to a 2016 study by Cornell University and Finland’s Tampere University, Americans gain an average of 1.3 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. (If it’s any comfort, German revelers tend to gain a bit more at holiday time, packing on 1.7 pounds.)
That may not sound like a lot, but “if you don’t do something, it adds up,” said Libby Mills, an adjunct professor of health sciences at Neumann University and a registered dietitian at the MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education at Villanova University.
Although most people lose about half of the holiday bulge quickly, “the other half lingers until Easter, or even into June,” said Mills, who hosts a weekly radio show on WCHE 1520 AM. “And if you turn a blind eye to that fraction, over time, you’ll gain five or 10 pounds.”
Steering clear of the December desserts can be difficult, since memory and tradition play a key part in holiday eating patterns, Mills said. Despite the popularity of organic foods and simpler recipes, “when it comes to the holidays, we’re naturally going to gravitate back to the things our parents made.”
And that includes our first parents, who fell into original sin, said Mark Graham, associate professor of theological ethics at Villanova University.
“From the time we’re out of diapers until we die, we’re imbued with a spirit of materialism,” said Graham. “The thinking is that if you have a desire, you should fulfill it.”
Graham also observed that our descent from an ancient hunter-gatherer lifestyle has left us with a “feast or famine” mentality that drives us to excess, even when food remains in steady supply.
Temperance can help us to avoid the pitfalls of gluttony, he said.
One of the four cardinal virtues, temperance enables a person to regard created goods (and goodies) with holy restraint.
Developing temperance is a year-round effort, Graham said. The first step is being mindful that desires can lead us astray; the second is learning to tame them by “unplugging from them.”
“If you like to snack in the evening, try not eating for four hours or so,” he suggested.
Mills added that resolving to maintain your current weight, and then avoiding the “food free-for-all,” are additional ways of mastering the merriment.
One place to start is at the office, Mills advised.
“Get together with coworkers and decide to do things differently,” she said. “Instead of a cookie exchange, trade something non-edible, like homemade ornaments — things that have meaning, but not calories.”
If you have a sweet tooth, avoid skipping meals to indulge it — otherwise, you’ll risk a trip on the “sugar roller-coaster,” Mills warned.
“Kicking off your day with a cookie is not the breakfast of champions,” she said. Instead, having a treat with a regular meal can help reduce spikes in blood sugar.
Being mindful of the food you eat is also key, as is making time for exercise. Even an after-dinner walk can help keep your weight in check.
“It’s tempting to get caught up in the holiday whirlwind and let our fitness endeavors go by the wayside,” Mills said. “But there’s a lot at stake – to feel your best, to fit into your clothes, to have the energy to keep your social commitments. So schedule it in.”
Citing the work of St. Thomas Aquinas, Graham said that limiting desires leads to greater personal freedom, and a sense of “being fully alive” — as well as a bit lighter on the scale.
In a time to build, CatholicPhilly.com connects people and communities
As society emerges from the loss and separation of the pandemic, CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you join in our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103