If there’s one phrase unlikely to be uttered by Canadians this season, it’s “hold the whipped cream.”
According to Statistics Canada, the delectable dessert topping achieves its annual peak in December, with sales of whipping cream historically climbing nearly 40 per cent over the monthly average to reach roughly five million litres — enough to fill more than 31,400 oil barrels.
Add that to seasonal increases in food and beverage purchases — which in December 2011 soared 20 per cent above average — and indulgence in candy, confections and snacks, whose monthly sales ballooned by more than one and a half times their usual size, and it’s easy to see why Christmastime doesn’t see people fall off the diet wagon so much as break it.
“The way we do Christmas now is so excessive in terms of the long period we do it for and in terms of how much we consume. Really, it’s a form of social disordered eating,” says Heather Evans, a food historian and professor at Queen’s University.
“If we only did it for a couple of days, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But we do it for weeks.”
In December 2011, Canadians bought 5.7 million litres of eggnog, on top of the two million litres purchased the month before (picture three Olympic-sized swimming pools filled with the sugary swill, and you’ll get the idea). As for turkey, the bulk of which is consumed over Thanksgiving and Christmas, we carved into 159.6 tonnes of it last year.
The irony of this excess isn’t lost on Evans, who observes that Canadians “become the physical embodiment of the very thing they complain about” — consumption, consumption, consumption — each Christmas.
Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, a Canadian obesity researcher, sums up our eating habits in a single word: mindless.
“People rationalize each indulgence as, ‘;Just one more Timbit,’ or ‘;Just one extra glass of wine,’ ” Freedhoff says. “That would be fine except that it’s never just one; they do add up.”
To wit, a 2006 Cornell University study revealed that the typical person estimates making just 15 food-related decisions a day whereas in reality, it’s about 15 times that number: 221, on average.
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