Why is Santa overweight? Don’t follow his lead.

It’s not called the silly season for nothing. This time of year we prepare to go on holidays for a few weeks, have the relatives over for a week long eating binge and usually consume more alcohol between the Christmas through New Year period than we normally would in a month. We forget the hard work we have put in during the year. We are normally so concerned with fat gain and our fitness during the year but our common sense leave’s us for most of December and January as we prepare to invite the most celebrated obese man in the world into our homes.

Have you ever stopped to think why Santa is rather large? The answer is pretty simple actually. Firstly, he never walks anywhere. I have it on good authority that he uses the sleigh and those poor reindeer year round: and why wouldn’t you, it’s cheap, there are no petrol costs as the reindeer are quite happy to feed on the local vegetation. Santa does not even pack his own sleigh; he has his elves to do that work. The elves are lean and muscular (and evenly tanned); I’ve never seen an overweight elf. Constant physical activity it most important to maintain and improve your lean tissue mass and body composition and unfortunately Santa has not learnt this lesson.

Given his energy expenditure is minimal it’s no wonder he carries more fat tissue than he should. The unfortunate thing is that he is carrying his weight centrally. When he has his yearly scan we struggle to get this message across as we continually show Santa falls into the high risk category for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Santa has his greatest problem with his food intake. This one we all would probably have to take the blame for. I personally have been responsible for leaving out calorie dense food for him to eat, and the poor guy has millions of meals to consume in a single night not to mention the alcohol. Remember there are 7 calories for every gram of alcohol, so this year its carrot and celery sticks and a low carbohydrate beer (actually is not bad, worth a try). His lack of physical activity during the year combined with a high calorie intake is eventually going to take its toll on the most famous man in the red suit. Why don’t we help him, and at the same time help ourselves and limit out portion sizes or calorie intake and make sure that we at least do some walking over the holiday period. Let’s set a sensible and achievable New Year’s resolution: Let’s just get fitter, not get fit. Here are a few more helpful tips.

• If you do indulge, keep the number of indulgent days to a minimum. Make sure you’re aware that a week-long feeding frenzy can take its toll on your waistline.
• Use the time off training as a recovery period. Its maintenance time. Trying to continue fat loss over Christmas may set you up for failure.
• Let friends and family know you don’t want food as gifts, especially chocolates, lollies or nuts.
• Eat fewer calories during the day if you have a big evening dinner planned.
• Keep your between-meal snacks in small bowls and keep the calorie dense food out of sight.
• Remain active during this period but modify the type of activity to an after-meal walk or backyard game will help you digest your food and counteract the calories.
• Buy friends and family active presents such as gardening tools, an active course for your partner or a weekend at a health retreat to kick-start your New Year program.
• Most of all, be safe and have fun

Dr Jarrod Meerkin
PhD, FESSA, AEP

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