It turns out that our fears about excessive holiday weight gain are a bit excessive. After weeks of eating turkey, ham and gingerbread, and downing cranberry cocktails, most revelers only gain about one pound. And, there's more reason for cheer: only about 10 percent of us gain more than five pounds during the holidays.
But before you stop worrying about holiday pound packing, here's a little coal for your stocking: Research shows that overweight and obese people are the most likely to gain weight during the holiday season. This means if you weigh more, you're at risk for gaining more.
So, what should you do to ensure that you maintain, and don't gain weight this holiday season? Try these quick tips, which I call the P.I.E. principle.
P. Proximity is the problem. The biggest risk factor for overeating is simply being around food. This year, consider giving your kitchen a holiday makeover. Move those overflowing gift baskets, fruitcake tins and candy bowls out of arm's reach. When it's time for dinner, serve it from the counter, not the table (where second helpings seem to serve themselves). And, be selective about which food gifts you keep. Remember, there's nothing more American than regifting, so if it's not something you really enjoy, slap a bow on it and revel in the holiday spirit.
I. Indulge selectively. Good food, drink and friends (and occasionally family) are central to the holiday season. Most of us will eat too much of something, but we should try to avoid eating too much of everything. So, if you're going to indulge, pick something -- one thing that you enjoy the most. Don't fill your entire plate, just pick that one item and have a second helping (that's one second helping, mind you).
E. Exercise helps. This may sound obvious, but the relationship between exercise and weight loss is pretty complex (no matter what fitness centers want you to believe). Exercise isn't the best method to help you lose weight, but it's an excellent way to stave off weight gain. In fact, in the study I mentioned, people who were physically active during the holidays were the least likely to put on holiday weight. But, there's no need to battle the crowds of people signing up for gym memberships. Just grab a cheap pedometer or install a free step-counter app on your smartphone. Walk at least 10,000 steps each day, moving briskly as much as possible.
No matter what scare tactics the media throws your way, remember that holiday weight gain is not inevitable. Most of us don't gain excessively, but some of us are definitely at higher risk. If that's you, try a little P.I.E. this holiday season and maintain, don't gain your way to a more healthful new year.