Tis the season for weight gain. We are in that wonderful season where we hear, and usually ignore, those awful predictions that we’ll gain between five and ten pounds before New Year’s Day. In hopes of making your holidays a bit happier, you should know that the numbers are untrue.
The annual estimate of just how many pounds Americans will pack on between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day has been revised. More recent research suggests that we tend to gain about one pound during the holidays, as opposed to the five to ten pounds previously reported.
But before you pour yourself some eggnog in celebration, realize that most people don’t lose that one pound gain. Over several years, this slight weight gain can become problematic.
Volunteers in a study of holiday weight gain conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that on average, participants weighed a pound and a half heavier one year after the holiday season. Fewer than 10% of study volunteers gained 5 pounds or more, and those who were already overweight were more likely to have larger increases in weight.
The key factors related to holiday weight gain in this study were not the number of parties attended or increased stress, but the activity and hunger levels of participants. It’s no surprise that those who reported less hunger and increased activity were less likely to gain weight—eating too much and exercising too little are the primary reasons why two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.
With all the goodies around, hunger can seem to increase for psychological reasons. Who can pass up the temptation of Mom’s coconut pie or the plate full of peppermint fudge? Most likely though, the behavior that leads to weight gain is grazing—eating just a few bites here and there.
That broken cookie or the last few bites of potatoes can add up to significant calories over the course of a day. For example:
- Half of a cookie-baking casualty: 30 calories
- One piece of peanut brittle a coworker brought to work: 80 calories
- Cracker and spread sample at the grocery store: 40 calories
- Small samples of flavored holiday coffee: 20 calories
- One chocolate covered cherry from the box that “appeared” in the break room: 60 calories
- 3 chips and dip: 75 calories
- ½ cup of eggnog: 200 calories!
- 2 big spoonfuls of sweet potatoes to clean out the bowl: 60 calories
- Heaping tablespoon full of peppermint ice cream (just to sample): 100 calories
All of these “small bites” add up to 665 calories. Do this everyday and you’ll gain one pound a week. There’s nothing merry about that!
If you want to avoid gaining weight over the holidays, be mindful of what you’re eating and be more active. If you’re waiting for January 1st to start that exercise program, get a head start on it and increase your activity now. In reality, there’s nothing magical about that January 1st date, and there’s no reason to wait.
Good health is the best gift you can give yourself and your family. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving!
- The “Holiday Creep:” Seasonal Weight Gain (psychologytoday.com)