Monday, December 6, 2010

Just A Pound? Holiday Weight Gain Adds Up Over Time

Although you might feel as if you’ve already gained 10 lbs this holiday season, research indicates the average American gains only about a pound between Thanksgiving and New Years. Unfortunately, this data (from the New England Journal of Medicine) is nearly a decade old and sure to be outdated by now. Just as obesity rates have skyrocketed in the past 10 years, it’s entirely possible that those holiday pounds have crept up as well.

More recent data, however, brings several interesting facts to light. For example, the Journal of Clinical Medicine Research suggests that heavier individuals are more likely to gain weight during this time than their thinner friends. Most likely, this stems from already unhealthy habits going into overdrive. In some cases, overweight individuals demonstrate less willpower around food and can suffer from disordered eating. This behavior can become magnified during the holidays when cold weather, stress, and an abundance of comfort food take center stage.

Lawrence Cheskin, director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center in Baltimore, points out that while holiday weight gain might be minimal, it often lasts a lifetime. Despite New Year’s resolutions to exercise often and eat right, most Americans fail to fully commit themselves to their new health goals, and instead immerse themselves in their old routines, failing to shed the extra poundage. That pound or two might not make an immediate difference health-wise, but over the course of ten years, it adds up to substantial weight gain.

How can you avoid the holiday weight gain?

1. It’s been said a million times before but let's say it again: avoid the eggnog. Instead, opt for less caloric beverages such as champagne, wine, or sparkling water with lime.
2. Pick the foods you truly love and ignore anything you deem unworthy of the calories. Just because it’s the holidays does not mean you should feel obligated to eat that wedge of grandma's fruit cake. Instead, savor a rich dark chocolate truffle or munch on ginger snaps.
3. Never attend a holiday party hungry. Fill up on veggies before you leave the house so you’re less likely to gorge yourself at the buffet later in the evening.

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