The six-week period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day include more consecutive days of partying than other times of the year. Often, alcohol is factored into the mix. Besides getting “buzzed” from the drink, liquor has a profound effect when it comes to food. A pre-dinner cocktail stimulates one’s appetite in general, but it particularly stimulates appetite for sugary, salty, and oily foods – three ingredients evoking powerful cravings and irresistible temptations. Simply put, if you eat foods high in sugar, salt and oil, then you crave sugar, salt and oil!

Alcohol consumption, aside from the calories in the drink itself, is one of the factors contributing to the infamous “holiday weight gain” because it stimulates one’s appetite for high calorie foods. Both the New England Journal of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health have research from the year 2000 suggesting that weight gain during the holiday season is a significant factor in the prevalence of obesity! Seeking immediate pleasure from highly preferable – and often calorically-dense foods – is what, most often, will prevent one from achieving the goal of weight maintenance over the holidays.

The prevalence of “holiday treats” and our proclivity to eat them is the doom of many a dieter. But the problem is that holiday eating patterns and weight gain have cumulative effects over one’s lifetime: habits are established that don’t seem to be reversed the rest of the year. Research has shown that “holiday eating” is a contributing factor to the prevalence of obesity because the eating patterns promote counter-productive habits that people retain for the rest of the year. There’s one – and only one – way to not gain weight over the holidays:


Knowing beforehand the effects alcohol has on your holiday food choices can bring about profound and long-term changes in your decision-making. Rather than being a passive recipient, having decision-making options with food choices will result in feelings of being more in control. You don’t have to go crazy trying to re-cover from over-indulgences during the holiday season: JUST CALM DOWN YOUR SALIVARY RESPONSES! This is done by limiting your consumption of sugary, salty, and oily foods. I find it best to use a substitution; as an example, for a few days after New Years’ Eve there’s always frozen dates (high in fructose) in my refrigerator. A couple dates will quench my desire for refined sugar or glucose-laden products. Be creative- rather than the usual 4Tbls for your pasta dish, you might only need 2. While still enjoying the taste, cutting back on olive oil makes the dish less calorically dense. Be creative. A little pre-planning helps to prevent many an over-indulgence. Rather than fighting craving responses during this holiday season, resolve to make informed food choices and your body will become an ally in your goal of long-term weight maintenance.

Dr. Deena Solomon
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