Holiday Weight Management
Surviving Feasting Season
From Halloween through Valentine's Day, temptations abound.
By Dulce Zamora
Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD
It happens every year about this time. The air gets nippier, the days get shorter -- and your jeans start getting tighter.
Ready or not, feasting season is here -- that seemingly endless time of temptation that starts with Halloween candy and continues with Thanksgiving stuffing and pies, merry-making treats, then New Year's toasts. Even beyond Jan. 1, there are Super Bowl chips and dips and Valentine's Day chocolates to contend with.
"We have four months of constant feasting," says Roger A. Clemens, DrPH, food science expert for the Institute of Food Technologists. "If we do feast, as many people do, without control, then we set ourselves up for bad patterns, ill health, and weight gain."
Statistics for how much weight Americans tend to gain during the end-of-the-year festivities vary from 1 pound to 10, but it's undoubtedly a tough time for anyone trying to eat healthfully.
And then there's exercise. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, most Americans -- 59% in 2003 -- do not engage in vigorous, leisure-time physical activity. Add in the time demands of the holidays and the urge to stay inside because of the weather, and you have a recipe for even more inactivity.
With all this working against us, just how can we keep from overeating and underexercising during the Halloween-through-Valentine's Day season? WebMD asked some health and fitness experts for advice.
First, it's important to understand why it's so hard to keep up healthful habits this time of year. During the fall and winter seasons, the experts say, many factors combine to increase the urge to overeat. They include:
The same factors that contribute to overeating can also lead to physical inactivity.
"The No. 1 reason people report for not exercising is lack of time," says Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise.
And, of course, overfull stomachs from all that holiday feasting, as well as stress, exhaustion, and cold weather, can dampen the best of workout intentions.