Stephan Guyenet, an obesity researcher whose work I’ve linked to in the past, on why we tend to get fat over Thanksgiving and Christmas:
Thanksgiving is a special time in the United States when we gather our loved ones and celebrate the abundance of fall with a rich palette of traditional foods. Yet a new study suggests that the 6-week holiday period that spans Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve accounts for most of our country’s weight problem (1). Understanding this fact, and why it happens, gives us powerful insights into why we gain weight, and what to do about it.
The human brain is the product of millions of years of survival in the face of scarcity, and it has a number of hard-wired tricks up its sleeve that helped us stay alive in the world of our distant ancestors. One of these is an important function called reward, which mostly whirrs away below our conscious awareness. In a nutshell, every human brain is wired with specific motivations that help us seek the things that are good for us, including physical comfort, sex, social interaction, water, and of course, food (3). But not just any kind of food: the brain isn’t wired to make us crazy about celery sticks and lentils, but rather to seek concentrated sources of fat, starch, sugar, and protein that would have met the rigorous demands of ancient life (4, 5, 6). In everyday experience, we feel cravings as we smell turkey roasting in the oven, or see a slice of pumpkin pie obscured by a generous dollop of whipped cream. This craving, along with the enjoyment we feel as we eat delicious foods, is the conscious manifestation of reward.
Click through for more info, and steps to help curb holiday weight gain.
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- Book Notes: ‘Waking Up,’ by Sam Harris