You can hear it sneaking up on you every year, just as the wind turns brisk and stores fill with animated Santa figurines. It creeps up slowly, ruthlessly, knowing its victims have no defense. It strikes fear into the hearts of all who value their physique.
It is the dreaded holiday weight monster.
Disguised in delicious once-a-year treats, and emitting the warm scent of family memories, this monster often seduces its victims into holiday binge eating that results in extra poundage come January. And beware, CSU students, the beast is upon you.
The average Thanksgiving comes at a whopping cost to calorie-counters. According to the American Dietetic Association, small portions of the basics — turkey, potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, gravy, veggies, a roll, a glass of wine and dessert — can easily add up to 1,500 calories. That’s the recommended daily intake for women.
According to Shirley Perryman, a registered dietician for the department of Food Science and Nutrition at CSU, this estimate is too low. She estimates closer to 2,000 or 3,000 calories, depending on additional snacking and alcohol intake.
And Thanksgiving is just the tip of the weight-gain iceberg. Deb Morris, director of health education at CSU, blames stress and illness on keeping students out of a healthful balance at the end of the semester.
“Unfortunately, students burn the candle at both ends when they’re here,” Morris said. “Once they go home or away for Thanksgiving, they are often sick — their immune systems aren’t strong.”
Another obstacle college students face, according to Perryman, is a lack of a consistent eating routine.
Inconsistent eating habits increase the chance of holiday weight gain, studies show. In 2006, the University of Oklahoma found, on average, college students gained about one pound over Thanksgiving break. Overweight students gained about two pounds.
Although these factors present nutrition challenges, local experts say the best way to keep your weight in check this winter lies in moderation.
Whitney Smith, a registered dietician and graduate student in the Department of Exercise Science and Human Nutrition, is a strong advocate of being conscious of what you eat and why you are eating it.
“The main advice I tell clients a lot is ‘don’t settle.’ . Don’t settle for things you don’t really like, and enjoy the things you do,” Smith said.
She said people often tend to “eat food just because it’s there, not because they really want it,” an important thing to remember as the holiday season approaches.
For Lindsey Seastone, a senior rangeland ecology major, weight-gain isn’t much of a worry during the holiday season.
“I think holidays are the time to celebrate, be with family and enjoy it. Don’t overdo it, but don’t freak out if you gain a few pounds,” Seastone said. However, she said that her personal winter workout routine consists of walking, biking and visiting the CSU recreation center.
“And pulling a sled up a hill is pretty good exercise too,” she added.
Staff writer Rachel Survil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.