The sea of candies and chocolates will continue to flood supermarket shelves from now through Valentine’s Day. Consumers often think, “It is only one day of the year, why not indulge?” The truth is it is not just one day of the year, but rather one of many days, including all holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries, that center around sweets and treats. Today’s food environments exploit people’s biological, psychological, social, and economic vulnerabilities, encouraging them to eat unhealthy foods.1 The obesity and type two diabetes pandemic prevails, with 23.6 million people in the United States, who struggle with Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.2 A lackadaisical approach to nutrition continues to prove unsuccessful in achieving one’s best health.
We are embarking on the season of weight gain.3 On average, weight gain during the 6-weeks from Thanksgiving through New Year averages only 0.37 kg. However, weight gain is greater among individuals who are overweight or obese, with 14% gaining over 2.3 kg during the holidays.4 In addition, weight gain during the holiday season accounts for 51% of annual weight gain among individuals.5 It’s no wonder that so many people hope to lose their excess weight in the New Year, which turns out to be an ill-fated resolution.6 Be prudent this year and avoid adding weight during the holidays to maintain your long-term health and a smaller waistline.
The old school of thought many parents subscribed to suggested kids should be allowed to eat whatever they want because they don’t need to worry about their weight. Children are in fact not immune to the destructive nature of diets high in refined sugars and excess carbohydrates. Sadly, during the past two decades, the prevalence of obesity in children has risen greatly worldwide.7 Childhood obesity has contributed to an increased incidence of Type 2 diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome among children.8 Enjoying a few pieces of candy on Halloween isn’t the most detrimental to a child’s body, but eating a few pieces each day until it runs out won’t instill an understanding of the adverse effects of sugar and chemicals like high fructose corn syrup in your child.
We are constantly assaulted with processed, refined sugar containing foods from the fresh baked pastries lurking in the display while you order coffee to the snacks offered at your child’s soccer match. The Paleo Diet permits the 85:15 rule, which provides flexibility to make choices that work best for your modern lifestyle and palette. The challenge is how to limit yourself and your children to three non-Paleo compliant meals per week during the holiday season.
It’s easy to get distracted at holiday parties, leading many to make unhealthful food choices and indulge in too much food and alcohol. Research indicates mindful eating may be an effective approach for weight management and glycemic control.9 Make a conscious choice for what goes into your mouth – those chocolates won’t magically appear in your stomach. Take a few deep breaths listen to your body to recognize when you are about 80% full to avoid overeating.
The frosted Halloween cupcakes and sugar cookies your co-workers brought to the breakroom sure are tempting. But how do you balance them with last night’s pasta dinner and tomorrow’s pizza and pumpkin beer party? Be honest with yourself about the choices you make and plan for what lies in the week ahead. Hold yourself accountable and if you need to deviate from a strict Paleo path, stay within three non-compliant meals per week. Keep in mind that you are faced daily with a slippery slope of options you may regret choosing.
The foundation of the Paleo diet is centered on consuming whole, real foods. However, it is not about restriction and suffering. During the holidays and special occasions you can enjoy your celebratory treats, especially when you stick to the 85:15 rule. Seek out the highest quality ingredients; preferably indulging in a Paleo-friendly, homemade sweet, that has the lowest glycemic load.
Cheers to your health as we embark upon the holiday season!
1. Batch, Jennifer A., and Louise A. Baur. “Management and prevention of obesity and its complications in children and adolescents.” The Lancet (2015).
2. Bliss, Amanda K., and Sanjay Gupta. “High fructose corn syrup.” Annals of Clinical Psychiatry 23.3 (2011): 228-229.
3. Bliss, Amanda K., and Sanjay Gupta. “High fructose corn syrup.” Annals of Clinical Psychiatry 23.3 (2011): 228-229.
4. Roberts, Susan B. “Holiday weight gain: fact or fiction?.” Nutrition reviews 58.12 (2000): 378-379.
5. Roberts, Susan B. “Holiday weight gain: fact or fiction?.” Nutrition reviews 58.12 (2000): 378-379.
6. Kassirer, Jerome P., and Marcia Angell. “Losing weight—an ill-fated New Year’s resolution.” New England Journal of Medicine 338.1 (1998): 52-54.
7. Ebbeling, Cara B., Dorota B. Pawlak, and David S. Ludwig. “Childhood obesity: public-health crisis, common sense cure.” The lancet 360.9331 (2002): 473-482.
8. Boney, Charlotte M., et al. “Metabolic syndrome in childhood: association with birth weight, maternal obesity, and gestational diabetes mellitus.” Pediatrics115.3 (2005): e290-e296.
9. Miller, Carla K., et al. “Comparative effectiveness of a mindful eating intervention to a diabetes self-management intervention among adults with type 2 diabetes: a pilot study.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics112.11 (2012): 1835-1842.