Why We Feast and How to Handle It

People who are concerned about their health or their waistline are usually wary of holiday festivities, especially when it comes to the highly caloric and often extremely sweet foods associated with nearly all major holidays from just about every tradition. It’s no wonder many of our patients here at House Call Doctor Los Angeles complain about picking up an additional five or 10 pounds between October 31 and January 2. Especially for people who have significant weight issues, these gains can be medically negative as well as personally discouraging. Even just a few pounds can make a big difference health-wise.

So, how did we get here?

Why Do We Feast?

Holiday feasts go back to times when most people worked on family farms or in other physically taxing jobs, and when food supplies were uncertain and shaped by seasonal harvests. Pre-refrigeration, foods that could not be preserved needed to be consumed quickly or they would go to waste. Moreover, the threat of famine was never very far away, so putting on an extra 10 or 20 pounds during the holidays could help people survive. Obesity, to the extent that it was perceived as a problem, was a matter for the well-off.

Today, of course, the industrialized world is awash in cheap calories from sugar and fat. In the U.S.A., we’re never very far from a fast-food restaurant, grocery store, or convenience store where tasty high-calorie foods are plentiful and relatively cheap. More and more of us have weight problems which, once they become entrenched in adulthood, are a real challenge to fight for one reason: our bodies are designed to “help” us maintain or gain weight. 

At the same time, the holidays are going to happen, and avoiding events and feeling deprived are terrible options that would probably do a lot more harm than good. What do we do?

Approaching the Indigestible Truth

Of course, not everyone comes to the holidays with the same baggage.

Patients with diabetes or other serious issues must be especially careful as the “feast or famine” approach can be very dangerous to people who may be prone to insulin shock and at risk of a diabetic coma. If you’re not sure how to manage your consumption to prevent a traumatic holiday health crisis, speak to a healthcare professional about your plans and any needed medications as soon as possible.

For the rest of us, however, our task for the holidays is to somehow enjoy them with our long-term health and waistline mostly intact. Here are some ideas that may be helpful. 

Manage the Feasting. For most people, staying away from all problematic foods during the holidays is a non-starter. At the same time, zero-tolerance approaches can set you up for a dietary disaster. People with very strict goals who fall off the wagon even in a relatively minor way can often be much too hard on themselves. In some cases, they may become despondent, and spend the holidays “eating their feelings” — consuming far more calories than they might have if they’d steered clear of all-or-nothing thinking. Instead, think of ways to limit your consumption to reasonable amounts and reduce the harm.

Make Sure the Feasting Ends. The worst overeating tends to occur not during social events but before and afterward. For most people, this means avoiding having access to tempting treats in their homes. This can present a challenge for those charged with cooking or making treats, particularly baked goods. In these cases, amateur dessert chefs will want to find ways to keep the goodies inaccessible in some way. If you’re not the host, maybe take them to their home before the big day so you’re not tempted.

For some people, however, the holidays can be a trigger for in-private binge eating regardless of their plans. If you find yourself eating huge amounts of high-calorie foods regularly, you probably have an eating disorder. Speak to a doctor immediately and perhaps look into a support group such as Overeaters Anonymous.

Manage Your Feasting Priorities. Ask yourself some questions: What are the high-calorie and/or unhealthy foods you love the most and which ones can you take or leave? If you can leave it, leave it. Focus on your actual favorites and allow yourself to have an ordinary portion – only allowing yourself tiny morsels may leave you unsatisfied and give you an excuse to have more tiny morsels which can add up to something much larger than a normal portion. On the other hand, don’t be so fussy with low-calorie foods. Go for the veggie tray when the appetizers are out. Take the salad and the string beans. Even if they’re not your absolute favorite, they’ll help you to fill up.

Just Say “No” to Take-Home Temptations. Many times, hosts will try to foist their leftover tempting treats on others. This is fine for skinny folks but if you know you are unable to control your consumption of a particular fattening food, don’t try! The host always has the option of giving the food to someone else. Better it ends up in the garbage than around your waist!

Watch Liquid Calories. The calories we consume by drinking don’t feel the same as the ones we eat. This is why sugar sodas are such a bane to the American diet. Especially around the holidays, however, we also must look at alcohol. Alcohol can be doubly or triply problematic. Its calories and the dangers of abuse aside, alcohol also lowers eating inhibitions and tends to increase the appetite. Try to stick to moderate amounts or small amounts. Please note: If you put that alcohol inside of eggnog, watch out. Along with booze, the classic recipe includes whole eggs and significant amounts of heavy cream, not to mention plenty of sugar. Done right, it’s a real calorie bomb. Consume with caution!

Consider Cancelling Cannabis. Since legalization, marijuana has become more and more ubiquitous and there’s a good argument to be made that it’s much safer than alcohol overall. It does, however, have one dangerous side effect that fast-food chains, particularly those open late, have been winking at in commercials since well before pot was legal. We speak, of course, of the munchies! If you’ve had much experience with weed, you know what we’re talking about. Watch your intake of marijuana – or skip it entirely – so you can better watch your intake of food. 

What House Call Doctor Los Angeles Can Do

If overeating has become a major problem for you, contacting a knowledgeable and compassionate doctor can be an outstanding first start at controlling and perhaps reducing your weight. A knowledgeable medical professional can help you develop a strategy to safely reduce or control your weight and provide any needed referrals. House Call Doctor Los Angeles has provided this kind of counseling for numerous patients while also offering mobile testing for type 2 diabetes and most other issues.

If you’re dealing with any type of chronic or acute issue over the chillier months, including Covid or the flu as well as a minor injury, a 24 hour doctor can come to you at your home, office, hotel room, or just about any other place where a doctor visit can be appropriately conducted. We provide vaccines and immunizations as well as the latest treatments to shorten both the flu and Covid.

Dr. Michael Farzam, our lead doctor, is a widely respected board-certified internist who has been using the latest in mobile tech to provide state-of-the-art care to patients throughout the Greater Los Angeles area where they are. For more information, please call us at the number on your screen or reach out via our Contact Us page.

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