With the holidays right around the corner, students are preparing to pack up and head back to home-cooked meals and holiday parties. Although holiday break is a great time to relax and catch up with friends and family, it poses a threat to the number on the scale.
From Thanksgiving turkey to Christmas cookies and all the treats in between, students are faced with the tricky task of maintaining a healthy diet despite the temptations. Andrew Frugé and Douglas White from the department of nutrition, dietetics and hospitality management weighed in on this topic and ways to stay healthy while still being able to enjoy the holidays.
Frugé asked members of his senior nutrition capstone course to get the student perspective alongside his own research. Here are the main causes they identified for weight gain throughout the holiday season and how to respond in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle while at home.
When returning home for the holidays, students have a lot more time on their hands. With the sharp shift from the hustle and bustle of school to a slower paced schedule and each family’s different agendas, returning home can sometimes bring about boredom and loneliness.
Considering the role emotions play in eating habits, eating out of boredom can cause weight gain from a different cause than what you’d experience while at school.
“Finding structure in your day whether it’s going to the gym or volunteering will help with planning meals,” Frugé said. "Having a structured meal schedule helps to avoid snacking and decrease the risk of overeating throughout the day.”
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No required walking and a less structured schedule
Although students may not realize it at the time, the amount of walking necessary to get to class ensures physical activity every day. However, at home, there is little to no required walking.
“Many students may go home and be completely inactive, burning fewer calories and storing more,” Frugé said.
Relaxing too much over vacation can have negative effects regarding weight gain.
“My students suggest planning to walk or getting a gym buddy to help keep you accountable,” Frugé said. “Even simple things like watching Netflix while running or walking on the treadmill can be beneficial to keep your body moving throughout the season.”
White stressed the importance of burning more calories since you will be eating more over the course of the holiday season.
“A pound of body weight is the equivalent of about 3,500 calories,” White said. “So a combination of increasing your calories burned and decreasing your calories consumed by 500 calories per day would result in a pound of body weight loss in one week.”
Making time for physical activity is crucial and irreplaceable in supporting a healthy diet.
Easy access to food
Coming home from school, one of the biggest bonuses is that a lot of students are provided home-cooked meals and groceries. At home around the holidays, there are more family meals and less shopping to do on your own.
“For people that might be working and on a college budget, they are more likely to eat more at home,” Frugé said.
Taking advantage of the fact that they don’t have to buy and prepare it is one reason for eating more at home than at school. Maintaining awareness of shifts in your diet and helping out with trips to the grocery store can ensure you keep up a healthy diet and have healthier food options in the house.
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“Maintenance of healthy behaviors is important if you know you’re going to have a big holiday meal make sure the others are from the healthier variety,” Frugé said.
Overall, it is all about balance. Balancing good foods with bad and exercise with lazy days is the best way to refresh and indulge over the holidays while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
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