The holiday season is fast approaching, bringing plenty of opportunities to feast with family and friends. However, with obesity on the rise over these past decades, the holidays can no longer be used as an excuse to overeat. America is in crisis mode when it comes to the prevalence of obesity. Shockingly, over two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of adolescents and children are overweight or obese. In this article, we’ll talk about healthy eating habits, and how you can make your health a priority.
Overeating and the Holidays
Weight gain spikes during the holidays. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, Americans’ weight increases 0.2% during Thanksgiving (there’s a reason it’s called Turkey Day, right?) (Kaplan, 2016). This may seem incremental, but Thanksgiving isn’t just one big meal. There are appetizers, leftovers, and all the other extra sources of calories lurking this holiday season.
Overeating often leads to obesity, a condition that has been linked to cancer, among other serious diseases. This is a dangerous, prevalent pattern with long-ranging consequences far past eating too much turkey dinner.
Negative Effects of Overeating
In addition to the link to cancer that comes with increased BMI (Body Mass Index), overeating has short-term negative effects as well. Overeating can cause biological changes within the body that can impair its functioning. It particularly throws off your biological clock. You might find that you’re waking up at night, hungry (Neighmond, 2009).
Overeating messes with your bodily chemistry by sending your metabolism and hormones into overdrive to get rid of the extra food (Neighmond, 2009). The pancreas sends extra insulin into the body to regulate the sugar load from rich desserts. This can cause you to feel nauseated, dizzy, and low-energy (Neighmond, 2009).
Overeating can also cause your stomach to change, and we don’t just mean your waist size. The neurological tissue located at the top of your stomach can malfunction, sending abnormal signals that don’t let your brain know when your stomach is full; hence, why you keep overeating (Neighmond, 2009).
In addition to these scary ramifications, overeating also comes into play in another, more psychological, factor: as a coping mechanism.
Seasonal depression is also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is related to the change in seasons (Dennis Thompson, 2011). Depression and lack of energy occur at the same time each year, starting around Thanksgiving and throughout the end of the year.
When you feel low energy, you may choose sugary foods that can give you a “pick me up.” These foods cause you to gain weight, leading to obesity. There is a bit of “chicken and egg” problem with obesity and depression, as studies have shown that obese people are 25% more likely to become depressed than non-obese people (Dennis Thompson, 2011). Regardless of which came first, the question is clear: how do we avoid this cycle?
How to Avoid Over-Indulging
Portion control is a great way to avoid over-indulging. With portion control, you can still eat the foods that you want; you just eat smaller amounts of them in order to control your calorie intake. Monitoring your calories and cutting out high-fat, high-sugar foods from your Thanksgiving menu are two other ways you can avoid overeating. Eat slowly at dinner. If you eat too quickly, your brain will not get the message that it’s full, leading to overeating. For overweight and obese people, it’s often necessary for them to undergo a medical intervention in the form of a medically-supervised weight loss program.
The bottom line is that obesity is a serious issue in America. This holiday season however, commit to being healthy and not overeating. Cook healthy food and practice portion control to avoid putting on some winter weight. Ask a doctor for more advice on maintaining your health.
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Dennis Thompson, J. (2011, 07 15). Depression and Obesity. Retrieved from Everyday Health.
Kaplan, K. (2016, 09 21). All over the world, people celebrate holidays by gaining weight. Retrieved from LA Times.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017, 10 25). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Retrieved from Mayo Clinic.
Neighmond, P. (2009, 01 08). Gut Reaction: Overeating Can Impair Body Function. Retrieved from NPR.