Let’s face it – Santa is chubby, and that’s putting it lightly.
Old Saint Nick is hardly the depiction of health with a belly that ‘shakes like a bowl full of jelly’.
Not exactly an ideal role model for young children.
But if you asked him, Santa would probably have his own set of plausible reasons as to why he isn’t as thin as he was when he was a youngster. Weight gain is complex, so let’s explore the underlying cause of his ‘plus’ size frame.
Santa’s excess weight may have something to do with his occupation. Thanks to all the little boys and girls around the world, every Christmas Eve Santa consumes millions of cookies, contributing around 38 billion calories to his daily intake.
All this before he chugs down bucket loads of full-cream milk, far exceeding his Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of calcium, energy, fat and protein in one fell swoop.
Place yourself in his position – delivering millions of presents to children around the world is a logistical nightmare.
‘Stress makes us fat’, he might argue.
And he would be right. Stress has been shown to make us fat. In response to stress, the body releases cortisol and adrenaline, hormones that trigger sugar cravings, increase blood sugar and encourage the body to store fat.
In addition to stress, Santa doesn’t move as much as he should. His elves do most of the manual labour and he rides in a flying sleigh conveniently pulled along by a troop of reindeers. However, to lose weight, Santa wouldn’t need to buy an expensive cross-trainer. Twenty minutes of walking (equivalent to 1.4% of his day) might be all it would take for old saint Nick to avoid the yearly weight gain*.
That’s 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening – hardly a huge request from a guy who only works one day a year.
Perhaps it’s the cold winters that have made him thicker around the waist than he would like. In autumn and winter, levels of a hormone, melatonin, increase, which can affect hunger. In the North Pole, I bet nothing tastes as good as comfort food cooked by the voluptuous Mrs Claus, who herself, it might be said, could probably afford to lose a kilo or two as well. Around Christmas time, food is particularly delicious and energy-dense, and it becomes hard to know where one meal ends and the next starts. On average, we gain 0.5-2.0kg of fat each Festive Season.
Santa Claus does not appear to be an exception to this statistic.
It seems Santa has a bundle of valid excuses as to why he is bigger than he should be, but this still doesn’t change the fact that his health is suffering, and that he is likely to die before he should. Early death aside, does his excess weight adversely affect our children?
A 2009 study conducted at Monash University found a correlation between countries that recognise Santa and a higher rate of childhood obesity. Children learn habits from people they admire, and Santa is one of the most recognisable figures in the western world. So, should he lose the weight to benefit our kids?
In my opinion – no.
Truth is, we adore a plump Santa Claus. A skinny Santa would go against the Christmas message of over-indulgence, but even if he wanted to lose weight, would he be able to? Santa could take a product like ‘Fat Blaster’ for a couple of weeks, or finally set up his Ab King Pro from last Christmas. However, statistics suggest his good intentions will fail him and he will be forced to swear off pudding once again in the New Year.
Santa will never beat the bulge until he makes serious changes to the way he lives his life.
And yet, let’s not forget, it may be short sighted to think Santa wants to lose weight.
Perhaps both Mr and Mrs Claus like his curves just as much as we do.
Lyndi Polivnick is The Nude Nutritionist, an accredited practising Dietitian who believes that diets cause more harm than good. She adopts humour and common sense to help ‘frequent flying dieters’ learn to fall back in love with food.