Sat | Aug 8, 2020

A healthy holiday starts with you

Published:Wednesday | December 4, 2019 | 12:00 AMFitz-George Rattray/Contributor

The holidays mean different things to different people. For some, celebrating and partying; others, gathering with friends and family; for others, nothing at all, but whatever your propensity, it is likely that one or more of the following is true about the holidays for you:

- There are increased

opportunities for eating

- Staying on a diet is challenging

- There is increased stress

- Sticking to your wellness

routine is difficult

- It’s enjoyable, hopefully

At face value, none of these outcomes is devastating, so, in spite of anecdotal evidence regarding weight gain, health issues and even increased death rates during the holidays, the health-related components of the merry season have gone largely unaddressed.

People become ill and pass year-round, so regardless of how many of us have heard “they died during the holidays, so sad for the family”, not much had been done to address this issue, until recently.


Research reports the weight increase between November and January at an average of one pound for people of normal weight and five pounds for people with weight challenges. The real danger is in the insidious nature of weight gain. Slight and unnoticed from college age upward, these numbers translate to 30 to 120 pounds of excess body fat.

Researchers have concluded that the holidays are indeed a RISK for weight gain for people of normal weight, and HIGH RISK for people with weight challenges.


A recent New Zealand study of almost three-quarter million deaths between 1988 and 2013 revealed a spike in cardiac-related deaths around the holidays. The New Zealand study is significant because it negated the potential of colder weather affecting the seasonal health outcomes, since New Zealand experiences summer during the holiday season, ruling out the cold weather hypothesis.

The study is observational and there remain questions, but other studies indicate that the spike is likely the result of reduced attention to healthcare, increased stress and dietary changes.

For some people, holiday eating is a matter of one large meal, but for most, it is a season of office parties, friend and family gatherings highlighted with alcohol, sweet drinks, sugary treats, energy dense and low fibre foods, and, of course, indulgence frequency, increased servings of larger quantities.


If you intend to enjoy the festivities to the fullest, there are a few basic ways to reduce your risks for weight gain and illness.

1. Put vegetables on your plate first

2. Eat in moderation

3. Drink water; go easy on the alcohol and drinking your calories

4. Be aware of how your body is feeling and see your physician if needed

5. Take part in a pre-holiday detoxing diet. Do not starve yourself before and after functions, but, take part in a gradual three- to four-week plan, designed to tap down your fat stores, strengthen your immune system and microbiome, and assist in managing cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Most of all, enjoy.

Fitz-George Rattray is the director of IntéKai Wellness and Weight Management System. Email feedback to and