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Holiday Holdup: Comfort Food & Weight Gain

Written by Mandie Caraway

Published on Dec 6th, 2016

The holiday season is in full swing, and many of us are struggling to eat sensibly. If you’re like me, youve been struggling since Thanksgiving (ok, Halloween). I mean, really, is there any other time of year when ridiculous amounts of delicious food are presented in such quick succession? My own parents cook up family feasts that seem to span the entirety of November and December. And, of course, there are office parties and get-togethers with friends. Is it any wonder so many of us emerge in spring a bit weightier than when we entered autumn?

Comfort food = caloric bombshell

The problem isn’t necessarily that we overeat during the holidays (though that does happen). The bigger issue is that we tend to eat a lot more of those darned “comfort foods.

These feel-good-foods are often packed with fat, sugars and/or other carbs. They trick our minds into feeling content while loading our bodies with excess calories. And with the abundance surrounding us, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of consuming them more often than we should. The more we eat, the lousier we eventually feel, prompting us to seek more comfort food. Round and round it goes. Most of us don’t pay much attention until the extra calories show up on the scale.

How can I avoid holiday pounds?

The good news is, you don’t have to completely ignore all the comfort food your friends and family bring around. It’s an option of course, if you’re going “cold turkey” and plan to shun high-calorie foods for the long term. But for most of us, it’s best to strike a realistic balance that keeps generally on track without making us feel deprived.

A tactic that’s worked well for me is to become more knowledgeable about food and calories. This is especially true when it comes to higher-fat foods, because they’re calorically dense and the impact sneaks up fast. Did you know, that a 9 oz. serving of spiral ham has 21 grams of fat? And three sugar cookies have 36 grams of fat! We aren’t talking about huge portions here, but you see where the calories would pile up.

Understanding the relative impact of various dishes makes it easier to decide how much pie (or mashed potatoes, or ham, or toffee) I really want. At bare minimum, I can no longer willfully indulge with the excuse of sweet ignorance.

Once I learned that a decent slice of my grandma’s apple pie packs around 400 calories, it became easier to moderate my snacking in other areas. It’s not about depravation – it’s about deciding how many calories I’m going to eat, and choosing to spend them on what I love most.

Remember – the holidays only come around once a year, and it’s entirely reasonable to enjoy the tastes of the season. If you educate yourself and stay attuned to snacking behavior, you can keep holiday portions in check and spot bad patterns before they’re entrenched.

Future You will thank you when it’s time to emerge, come spring.