Perhaps once, likely as children, we all wished we could live in the spirit and Christmas forever. Why wouldn’t we? Christmas is a time for music, celebration, giving, receiving, loving, lounging, drinking and, of course, eating. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
It is this idea of Christmas coming but once every day of the year that got us thinking in more detail at Treated.com. We imagined what would happen if Boxing Day never came, if we rose each morning to yet another Christmas Day. Perpetually waking to presents underneath the tree, Christmas dinner and Christmas music. Christmas, Christmas, Christmas - forever.
We have conducted a comprehensive study surrounding this idea. We have been in touch with several people who specialise in health, nutrition, digestion and psychology to consider what would happen if it really were Christmas every day. Our findings are startling to say the least.
People in Britain eat 6000 calories on Christmas Day
When people think of Christmas, it’s virtually impossible not to think about food. In fact, people in the UK consume more food over the Christmas period than any other time of the year, “which needn't be too disconcerting,” comments GP clinical lead at Treated.com Dr Daniel Atkinson, “as long as there is some recognition that come January, the month of resolution, we should return to eating healthily and exercising regularly.”
In 2016, a survey by Wren Kitchens revealed that the average Briton will consume roughly 6000 calories on Christmas day, around three times the daily recommended average.
Specifically, the average woman should aim to consume no more than 2000 calories in a single day, and the average man 2500. If Christmas did come every day, then so too would this excessive consumption. If people wanted to burn these calories, they would have to jog for roughly eight hours, which would be almost physically impossible for the average person. (and not something many people would want to spend their Christmas doing).
Though it will differ depending on the individual, an excess of 3500 calories is roughly equivalent to a weight gain of one pound. If people ate as the average person does on Christmas every day, men would gain a pound in weight a day, and women just a little over a pound.
These pounds would begin to add up and lead to severe weight gain and potential obesity. However, as authored nutritionist Jill Weisenberger explains, “The rate of gain would initially be very high and would gradually slow down. As people gain more weight, the difference between their calorie needs and calorie intake begins to shrink. Extra weight means a higher metabolic rate.”
She continues, “Many, if not most, would see unfavorable changes in bloodwork. I’d expect to see rising triglycerides, LDL-cholesterol, blood sugar levels and markers of inflammation. Blood pressure would likely go up. Many would develop fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. They’d likely supper more physical injuries such as knee tendonitis or back pain. Carrying excess body fat is also linked to a number of cancers, so over time, we’d likely see more cancer diagnoses too.”
A study conducted in 2018 found that the average Briton will consume roughly 26 units of alcohol on Christmas. This is almost double the recommended 14 units a week.
Most people tend to wake earlier than normal on Christmas Day, especially where children are concerned. According to a study in 2018, people in Britain are most likely to have their first drink on Christmas just shy of high noon, at around 11:54 a.m. A quarter of those people will begin their festive drinking with champagne, prosecco, bucks fizz or something otherwise bubbly.
Throughout the rest of the day, steady alcohol consumption is maintained for some people. What people drink on Christmas is usually entirely preferential, but may include seasonally themed ale, hot drinks like mulled wine or cider or a cockle warming spirit like brandy or gin.
If Christmas succeeded Christmas then these levels of alcohol consumption would likely be maintained - it would not be in the spirit of Christmas to do otherwise.
However, registered dietician Maeve Hanon at Dietetically Speaking notes that “A high intake of alcohol is associated with a higher risk of liver disease, certain types of cancer, heart disease, mental health issues and injuries. So we are advised to have 1-2 alcohol-free days per week, and to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week (the equivalent of 7 pints of beer, or 7 standard glasses of wine).”
Daniel adds, “It’s likely some people could easily surpass the recommended 14 units of alcohol per week on a single Christmas Day. Some people aim for January to be a month of resolute sobriety, to try and offset the heavy seasonal drinking.
However, if we took this hypothetical to be truth, and people were consuming alcohol as if it were Christmas every day - then the long and short term impacts on health would be catastrophic.
People would wake with throbbing headaches, feelings of sickness and other symptoms associated with hangovers. Then the festivities would demand that it be hair of the dog and the alcohol consumption would continue.
“Because of these heavy and sustained levels of drinking,” Daniel continues, “the long-term impacts on health my be very serious including mouth, throat, stomach, bowel, liver and breast cancer. stroke, heart disease or failure, liver disease, brain damage and problems may begin to occur in the nervous system”
And this is without even considering the psychological impacts drinking heavily every single day would have. Some people would grow dependent and we would also see vast declines in people’s moods and emotions.” he concludes.
Research shows that when Christmas music starts to play, commonly in advertisements and on the radio, people are relatively unfavourable of it. This might surround the fact that, in Britain, we begin to hear Christmas music not long after Halloween and bonfire night have concluded. Some consider this too early.
Then toward the start of December, people become more inclined toward hearing it and may actually begin to enjoy it. This has been linked largely with the nostalgic element attached to Christmas music. However, by the 25th of December, many people grow tiresome of it again.
With our hypothetical repetitive Christmas in mind, this would mean listening to music every single day that people did not enjoy.
“When hearing the same Christmas songs over and over again, the initial nostalgia wears off and other effects of the music become more salient,” comments Dr Annemieke Van Den Tol at the University of Lincoln, “you might start to get a bit annoyed, maybe even disgusted, hearing the music over and over again.”
She concludes, “if you do not like the music [you are listening to] and it disgusts you so much to the extent that it would start stressing you out - there is plenty of research to support that stress has negative effects on health (so try to stay away from it if you can).”
The stress of Christmas, every day
Christmas can be a stressful time of year. Ensuring presents have been bought in time, hosting the family, cooking Christmas dinner, travelling home and being the peacekeeper between warring family factions.
These heightened levels of stress are usually worth it because Christmas only comes once a year and seeing relatives happy at Christmas is an immediate vindication of the pressure.
However, if Christmas did occur every day - then this pressure would never be alleviated, it would have to be maintained to meet people’s expectations. The temporary stress of Christmas as we once knew it would become chronic and unending.
“Emotionally,” comments Daniel, “people would quite rapidly come to feel overwhelmed, irritated, anxious, and self-esteem would take a nosedive. Psychologically, we’d see a surge of racing and irrational thoughts, constant worry, a loss in concentration and a decline in mental health, likely resulting in forms of depression and anxiety.”
He continues, “This would also take its toll on physical wellbeing. This could result in headaches or migraines, tension in the muscles and joints, dizziness, problems sleeping or insomnia, feeling tired and would result in changes in diet.”
Immobility / Lack of natural sunlight
While everyone’s Christmas day routine may differ, many people tend to spend the entire day inside across the whole day. This might have several impacts on health for several reasons.
Firstly, winters in Britain tend to be largely without sun. The sunlight is the main contributor to our absorption of vitamin D. There are several reasons as to why vitamin D is important. Mainly, it helps to keep the teeth, bones and muscles healthy.
April through to September are the best times for people in the UK to absorb their required amounts of vitamin D. It can also be found in certain foods, such as oily fish, liver and egg yolks. Not much of the food consumed on Christmas Day contains these ingredients. There is eggnog, but you would have to consume a fair amount to consume enough vitamin D.
If Christmas did come about every single day, then Winter would exist forever. This means it would be nearly impossible to absorb enough vitamin D.
“This could eventually lead to a number of physical problems,'' comments Daniel, “decreased calcium levels and weakened muscles could lead to bones fracturing more easily and osteoporosis. In children, it can cause rickets.”
So unless your cupboards are full of vitamin D supplements, you’d be in something of a predicament. The lack of vitamin D over a long period of time could devastate bone and muscle density.
Some people are more at risk of being deficient in vitamin D. These include people who have obesity, Crohn’s or celiac disease, people who have had gastric bypass surgery, people with osteoporosis or people with chronic kidney or liver disease. Young children are also more likely to be vitamin D deficient because they can not absorb sunlight as efficiently as adults. You can read more about it here.
The lack of mobility/variance in environment should also be considered. If Christmas came every day, then people would not move so much nor would their environments change. A lack of mobility can contribute toward weakened muscles and bones.
However, staying in one place continually would also have a severe psychological impact. The saying goes that ‘variety is the spice of life.’ If our environments never changed, this could contribute to a mental decline.
Should we be thankful Christmas only comes once a year?
“With all of this in mind,” Daniel concludes, “I would say that one Christmas each year is plenty. While it is a wonderful time of family and togetherness, and a break from work we can all look forward to, I would certainly worry if it had to be celebrated every day.
I think it would quite quickly stop being something we excitedly anticipate, and become quite an ordeal. The impacts on our physical and psychological well being would be both severe and widespread.
It would lead to inevitable weight gain and obesity, severe liver damage, alcohol dependence, anxiety, depression and a whole spectrum of potential long-term health conditions.
What all of this tells us is that Christmas is generally a day of excess. It is a very stressful time, one of increased alcohol and food consumption. So much the case that we consume more on Christmas than any other time of the year.
It’s also a day when overlook the fact that we don’t move around very much and are generally quite lazy. For the entire day we’re usually deprived of sunlight. If Christmas never ended, we’d also be largely deprived of sleep - which can come with its own risks also.
To conclude, Christmas is a day when we really put our minds and bodies through their paces. This is why when some of us go to bed, we feel quite achey or even like we have stomach cramps.
So when Christmas does come around, it is important to enjoy it and make the most of seeing family, and the time off work. But we should also try not to overdo it. Above all, we should approach January with an added emphasis on the fact we should eat well and exercise often.
Lastly, I would just wish everyone a healthy, happy and stress-free Christmas.”