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Every one of us is in the midst of the festive season and making the most of it, especially because it was impossible to celebrate festivals like Janmashtami and Ganesh Chaturthi among others, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Coincidentally Ganeshotsav also coincides with National Nutrition Week that is celebrated every year between September 1 - September 7 in India to create awareness about the need for people to have a well-balanced diet. Undoubtedly, celebrations are incomplete with good food and there is going to be loads of it along with drinks and sweets too. While people are busy enjoying their parties and gatherings, the thought that they are going to gain weight always tends to linger around all the time.
While there are people who ignore it, others will definitely be reminded of it and spoil their celebrations because they will automatically be on their guard. But, do people actually gain weight during the festive season? Dr. Eileen Canday, dietician, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital says it is all dependent upon how they treat festivals and for how long they celebrate them.
She explains, "For people who are on a weight loss diet, or on a restricted regime diet, they follow it for a very long time and then suddenly when the festival comes, people kind of break free and gobble off a lot of food, and eat things that they're not supposed to eat or there is an excessive consumption of calorie intake." This, the city-based expert says, will definitely impact their goal at that time. "Especially when they overdo with sugary foods, processed foods, fried foods, alcoholic beverages, and so many foods, which leads to unnecessary consumption of calories," Canday adds.
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Riya Desai, senior dietician, Wockhardt Hospitals Mira Road, also observes, "Yes, a majority of people end up gaining oodles of weight during the festive season as they feel it is okay to cheat during that time. They tend to make the festival an excuse to enjoy themselves. A lot of people tend to eat sweets, desserts and fried foods in extra quantities, without portion control, made during the festive season which makes them pile up those excess kilos."
Mid-day Online spoke to Dr Canday and Desai to understand why people gain weight during the festive season. Both the experts emphasise on the need for mindful eating, neither feast nor fast during this time and instead eat well-balanced meals. They also share tips on how to get the right nutrition and say pregnant women, older adults and those suffering from diabetes should be careful during this time.
What are the factors that lead to weight gain during the festive season?
Canday: Take care of your sleep time, because sometimes it may happen that because of festivities, you may lose track of your sleeping time or you may excessively eat one meal and miss out on others. Diabetic patients should control their glucose levels and ensure not to lose control even of their blood sugars. Also, when people eat out or at celebrations, they should be able to keep the principles of their food in mind, like eating adequate protein, although you may be gorging on other foods, it's important to see that your basic foods are always taken care of. Have adequate protein, have adequate water, make right choices where beverages are concerned. We also have to remember how festivals are not only about eating, there are many other aspects of enjoying our festival, like decorating the house, wearing good clothes, and being together around family. So don't keep food as the sole source of happiness where festivities are concerned. Have things in moderation and be mindful of what you eat.
Desai: Certain factors such as overeating, eating high fat and calorie foods, no portion control and sleeping immediately after eating can lead to weight gain during the festive season.
What are the different kinds of foods and dishes that can lead to weight gain and thus affect nutrition during this season?
Canday: When we get together with family and friends, we tend to consume a lot of processed foods, fried foods, sugary foods, alcoholic beverages, and overeating happens when that may lead to weight gain.
Desai: Usually, the festive season accounts for high calorie and fatty foods like different types of traditional sweets, farsan, fried foods, etc. Some people also tend to keep fasts and end up eating a lot of carbohydrates in the form of potatoes, chips, etc. All of these extra calories and no physical activity leads to weight gain during the festivities.
How can people avoid eating such food during this time without moving away from the festive spirit? Can they mix it up in the same dish or during meals to balance it out?
Canday: One should neither feast nor fast at any given point. People should avoid being on an empty stomach for a long period of time and then consume foods. Secondly, I always suggest that one should eat slowly, practice mindful eating and begin your meals with fibrous foods like salads, soups and vegetables. So that you can enjoy your dessert in moderation and not like a main course. Remember hydration is important as sometimes overconsumption of alcoholic beverages could lead to dehydration. Hydration in any form is useful, one can also have coconut water, lime water, buttermilk and fresh juices to compliment with water.
Desai: Festive spirit is a must but it is also important to maintain one's health while celebrating. One should make sure they're consuming small portion-controlled meals, adding more fibre to the diet in the form of vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruits and limiting the fattening foods.
Does any particular group have to be more concerned about weight gain during this time?
Canday: Weight management is important for every group. But people who are diabetic should be very careful with their blood sugar balances, pregnant women who would probably unnecessarily put on too many kilos than what is medically or physiologically required for pregnancy, they should be very careful. Older adults, somewhere between the 40 - 60 years should also be more careful. As for teens and adolescents, if they eat more, they tend to be very active and they can shed it off but for people who have already achieved their weight goals with a lot of difficulty should be careful. They should be vigilant and eat in moderation.
Desai: Anyone can gain weight during the festival season. It is not limited to any particular individual or age, or gender. One will have to adhere to a well-balanced diet during the festival season. See that you don't go overboard.
If one has to indulge in the festivities, what are the tips they can follow to get the right nutrition?
Canday: One should eat slowly, practice mindful eating and begin your meals with fibrous foods like salads, soups and vegetables. So that you can enjoy your dessert in moderation and not like a main course. Remember hydration is important as sometimes overconsumption of alcoholic beverages could lead to dehydration. Hydration in any form is useful, one can also have coconut water, buttermilk and fresh juices to compliment with water.
Desai: To get the right nutrition, one should make the right food choices. Make sure you're consuming mini meals and not loading yourself with sweets and fried foods. Don't forget to add a source of fibre and protein to each meal as they help in balancing the appetite and not lead to weight gain. One can try choosing fruits, smoothies, nuts over traditional sweets and sugary drinks at least on alternate days of the festive season.
Should people plan their meals according to their events for the day?
Canday: A planned meal is always better. So, they should opt for dishes like low-fat shrikhand, kesar sweet or a tandoori platter and ditch dishes that require too much oil and fat to prepare. They could use the natural herbs to make their dishes.
Desai: Not only the type but the time of eating food is also important. One should make sure they're not skipping breakfast and are also consuming small mid-meals during the day while travelling/celebrating to avoid over-eating throughout the day. Based on the events of the day, one can place small mid-meals in between.
If one does gain weight during the festive season, what can they do to get back in shape after the season?
Canday: They should go back to their restricted diet regime as soon as possible. Secondly, they can also look at their activity pattern and their physical activity when they get back to their exercise. We generally tend to pull the festival on for a very long time because there are certain kind of farsan and sweets that are prepared for festivities that tend to run for many more days to be consumed. In such situations, remember to cook in moderation and not in excess.
Desai: Avoid full-cream milk and opt for low-fat milk. Drink enough water to eliminate toxins from the body. Just like dieting, you need to exercise daily and sleep well to lose weight and stay healthy. One should make sure that they don't follow any fad diets to lose weight as that is the unhealthiest way to go. The weight gained during the festive season can be managed with the help of a professional dietitian or nutritionist. With the right type of guidance, the person can lose and maintain the weight together.
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(Disclaimer: This article is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Mid-day Online does not in any way endorse the accuracy, completeness, efficacy or timeliness of any advice or line of treatment mentioned in this article. Readers must always seek the advice of a certified medical practitioner and/or a mental health professional before deciding on or starting any course of treatment.)