Dietician provides advice to prevent holiday weight gain

By Liz deAvila

With the holiday season comes dinner parties, decadent desserts and the vision of enticing sugarplums. But after the last Yule log has burnt away, many students are left trying to burn away the extra calories they consumed over holiday break.

Becky Roach, a University teaching associate and former nutrition coordinator at McKinley Health Center, understands that it’s hard for students to resist the tasty temptations of the season. As a licensed and registered dietician, she offered advice on how students can avoid returning to school with more than books weighing them down.

“(Be) aware that you’re going to be (letting yourself go), let yourself do it and then say, I can’t do this seven days a week for a whole month or I’m going to have results I’m probably not going to like,” Roach said.

To avoid those unwanted results, Roach recommends 30 minutes or more of daily exercise, as well as having a balanced diet by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, using whole grains versus refined grains, eating lean meats and resisting sauces, dips and gravies.

“That’s the part that people just fail to realize,” Roach said. “Balance can mean one day is really heavy on the high-calorie foods, but that just means you have to balance that out by having days when it’s low on those kinds of foods.”

Because those appetizing, high-calorie foods are what most people serve at holiday parties, Roach had some helpful tips on how to control the appetite during a holiday celebration.

“Don’t go to a big holiday dinner starving to death,” Roach said. “You end up overcompensating and actually end up eating more than you would have if you had a balanced breakfast and lunch.”

She also suggested taking a plate to the appetizer table and then walking away with it to socialize. By doing this, a conscious decision has to be made to refill the plate. Drinking water to fill up before the party also helps regulate food consumption.

Elizabeth Linde, sophomore in LAS, said she tries to fill up on appetizers and snacks at holiday parties before being served more fattening main courses, but she is more concerned with spending time with her family during the holidays than watching what she eats.

“Basically, during the holidays I let myself go,” she said. “My focus is spent on spending time with my family, even if that involves eating unhealthy foods. Once the holidays are over, I can worry about any weight gain.”

Roach also stressed that it was important not to think of any food as “bad food,” but to remember that certain treats should be eaten responsibly.

“Don’t deny yourself anything, just have small servings,” Roach said.

Keileen Schrank, sophomore in ACES, knows that serving size is important. She said she will be watching out for certain foods at holiday parties.

“I won’t eat every single dessert that’s there,” Schrank said. “I’ll eat in moderation.”

Schrank will work at a YMCA over break and plans to use their workout equipment five days a week.

“Everyone says you’re going to gain the holiday pounds,” Schrank said. “I don’t want that.”

Roach said it is a common belief that many gain weight over the holiday season, a time that lasts from Halloween until Valentine’s Day. However, the perception of how much weight most Americans actually gain may be skewed.

According to an article on the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Web site, a 2000 study by the NICHD and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) found that Americans do not gain as much weight over the holidays as was once thought.

Instead of the mythical five pounds, it is usually only one or two pounds. Those few pounds, however, are hard to lose and tend to remain all year long. Because of this, Roach recommends returning to a healthy eating and workout plan as soon as returning to campus, such as daily exercise, careful calorie restricting and eating breakfast.

Roach’s final advice was that students should not stop eating completely over the holidays.

“Whatever you do, don’t stop eating your mom’s cooking,” she said. “That will hurt her terribly.”