Millions of Americans will again become heavier over the holidays. For many it's an experience as reoccurring as the season itself. It seems almost inevitable that we overeat too often and exercise too little this time of the year. While the resulting weight gain is not always dramatic, getting rid off the extra pounds afterwards can be a real challenge.
"Americans probably gain only a pound during the winter holiday season -- but this extra weight accumulates through the years and may be a major contributor to obesity later in life," finds one study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
In other words, even a little uptick in body weight each holiday season can add up over time until it becomes a potential health problem. For people who are already overweight or obese, the situation can be worse. Research by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that the average weight increase in this group was as much as five times higher. "These results suggest that holiday weight gain may be an important contributor to the rising prevalence of obesity," the NCBI study concluded.
Most Americans who gain weight between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve generally don't lose that weight ever again, says also Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiologist and talk show host. Some meals people eat during the holidays can add up to 2,000 calories or more, according to Dr. Oz, so they could actually put on an extra pound every day if they keep indulging like this. Once they become used to the higher calorie intake, it may seem like normal and they continue on that level.
So what can be done to prevent us from falling into the same trap year after year? While the holiday season is no time to start dieting because of all the temptations around us, there are a few tricks you can apply, says registered dietitian Marisa Moore. She suggests keeping tempting treats as much out of sight as possible. "Just seeing food can trigger the desire to eat," she warns.
Especially beware of calorie-laden drinks like eggnog, which can have 350 calories or more per glass. When you attend a party where lots of food will be served, "ruin your appetite" before you get there, Moore advises. Rather than arriving ravenous, grab a handful of protein and carbohydrate-rich snacks like nuts or cheese with some fruit. It will leave you less inclined to overload on heavier foods later.
Also, don't forget to maintain your exercise schedule between your partying. In fact, you may want to increase your workout efforts a bit for counterbalance.
Last but not least, don't forget to get enough sleep. Your full social calendar can wreak havoc on your body, says Moore. Lack of sleep and resulting exhaustion can contribute to weight gain as well because you are less likely to exercise restraint and keep your eating habits under control.
The more you are aware of your inclinations (some call it weaknesses), the easier it will be to work around them. Always have a plan ready for how much you are willing and able to consume without having to deal with dire consequences later.
Remember that the holidays are primarily there to reconnect with family and friends and to celebrate good times. Enjoying delicious food is certainly part of that, but it shouldn't be the main focus. Instead of standing around the buffet, you can hit the dance floor, or simply enjoy a good conversation with old and new friends that doesn't require more than you being your lovely self.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy reading "'Tis the Season for Weight Gain - And What (Not) to Do When Celebrating the Holidays"
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