Good news about holiday weight gain
Here’s the wonderful reality - holiday weight gain is much smaller than we’ve been led to believe, on average, less than two kilos. The fear about packing on weight over the holidays appears to be a myth and the reality is much more manageable than we thought.
Winter weight gain - the reality
A major study reveals that while piling on the pounds over the holidays is largely a myth, there are some risk factors. If we can recognise them, we can deal with them, and that means we’re more likely to have a fun and successful holiday season.
Four surprising facts about holiday weight gain:
- Holiday weight gain is usually less than two kilos
- The most likely people to gain this weight are those who are already obese
- Sadly, for the people most likely to increase their weight, winter weight gain has higher risk factors (Type 2 diabetes and cardio-vascular disease, for example)
- People’s assessment of their holiday weight gain is wildly inaccurate - many people in the study estimated they had put on four times more weight than they really had!
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Long term outcomes of winter weight gain
The underlying problem revealed by this research is that while the weight gain was much less than they expected, those who put on weight in the holidays tended not to lose it - so by the following year, the extra weight gained between November and January had become permanent.
Who is most likely to gain weight in winter?
Studies reveal just two common factors that can indicate a tendency to winter weight gain:
- Increased appetite (feeling hungrier)
- Reduced exercise (changes in physical activity).
This is cheering news, because many of us thought that the following factors would cause us to gain weight:
- Stress and depression being made worse by the season
- Smoking habits - being able to smoke less (no cigarette breaks during the holidays) leading to ‘compensation eating’
- Seasonal Affective Disorder triggering ‘comfort eating’
- Parties and celebrations confronting us with ‘guilt foods’.
It turns out that those factors don’t influence weight gain, although they may influence how we feel and the actions we take as a result of those feelings.
If we only have to contend with two triggers - increased sense of hunger and decreased tendency to exercise, we can design a plan that gets us through the holidays without wait gain and without starving ourselves. Some suggestions are:
- Planning a walk every day of the holidays, with mall walking as the fallback if weather is bad. Walking is best done in the morning, as it kick-starts the metabolism and the benefit continues through the day.
- Making an early resolution to take exercise with a friend or family member. From taking a dip in the local pool through to planning a festive bowling session with work colleagues, making exercise a part of our holiday fun can boost our wellbeing as well as creating wonderful memories
- Recognising and responding to hunger pangs. Sometimes we’re just hungry but often, it’s an association between a particular found and the time of year. Strategies include:
- Carrying delicious snacks around with us, such as mango slices and melon balls, which we can consume without guilt,
- Making sure we drink water throughout the day, whether we think we need to or not because often we’re dehydrated and eat instead of drinking
- Drinking a glass of hot water with a twist of citrus before we eat any holiday goodies - water makes us feel fuller so we indulge in fewer calorie rich treats.
- Taking healthier options at potlucks and family events - shredded turkey with a winter salad is a great meal and if you sprinkle the whole dish with dried cranberries you get the proper festive flavour without the calorie rich stuffing, gravy and dressing.
By boosting our activity, managing our food intake and enjoying the winter season, we can thrive throughout the holiday period and not beat ourselves up for our weight gain.
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