Holiday Weight Gain and Related Health Hazards

In Fitness and Physical Therapy, Physical Therapy Articles by Jeff Gilliam, PT, PhD, OCSLeave a Comment

On the average how many pounds do US adults put on during the holidays? 2-3 pounds?  4-5 pounds?  After following 165 adults during the holidays, researchers demonstrated the average weight gain was .48 kg or just a little over 1 pound. Another study showed 195 adults gained only .37 kg or .81 pounds during the holidays, however those who were overweight or obese gained more and 14% put on more than 2.5 kg (5 pounds). While the magnitude of weight gain during the holidays does not seem significant, the problem is holiday weight gain stayed with those that gained and has been found to explain 51% of annual weight gain. These findings suggest that holiday weight gain is a contributor to the rising prevalence of obesity.  Adding a pound of extra weight each year for 10-20 years might explain that upward progression in your blood pressure over the years or the increase in your blood glucose levels. It might also be contributing to the increase in joint pain involving the weight bearing joints like the ankles, knees, hips and low back.

Perhaps a much bigger problem is cardiac mortality during the holidays. Research statistics demonstrate that Christmas and New Year’s holidays are a risk factor for cardiac and non-cardiac mortality. There may be a number of reasons for the increase in risk during this time period including, increased calorie intake from high saturated fats and sugar sources that often accompany parties and festivities, stress levels from the business of the season, as well as potentially delaying medical treatment because of the holidays.

Ways to avoid holiday weight gain start with preplanning. Eat a low calorie snack that’s filling like a large apple before going to a holiday party. This way you’ll stifle any hunger drive that would push you to overeat. Bring your own snacks or deserts when going to a party. Avoid alcohol which often unleashes any inhibitions and hinders good judgement in food choices. Instead choose low calories beverages, teas and coffees. Use a small plate to put your food on, and preplan not to go back 2 and 3 times to fill your plate. For those foods that are extra rich, but you want to try, take just a taste, a small spoon. Stay active during the holidays by planning a number of family walks through planned outings each day rather than sitting endlessly in front of the television.

By first acknowledging that holidays are a difficult time that can cause you to gain weight and increase your health risk puts you in control to make some changes by preplanning your holiday eating and activity.  This is the time of year when I reflect with gratitude on my health and the health of my family. I hope you all have a happy, healthy and safe holiday this year.

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Jeff Gilliam PT PhD, OCS: is a weight loss specialist, who has studied extensively in the areas of health behavior, exercise physiology and nutritional biochemistry at the University of Florida. Jeff has taught a course at the University of Florida called ’Research Applications to Obesity and Weight Loss’. He has also taught courses for the DPT program at UF in Health Promotion and Wellness’ and ‘Evidence Based Practice III’. He has presented on a national level on topics related to diseases related to obesity and changing behavior to facilitate a healthy lifestyle. His PhD research was in the area of effective behavioral interventions for obesity and its associated diseases. He is founder of Physicians’ Choice for Weight Loss, a successful lifestyle/weight loss program, which can be found in over 50 clinics in the eastern US. He currently is clinical director of ReQuest Physical Therapy (Gainesville, Florida) and incorporates his lifestyle/weight loss program into his patients’ physical therapy to help them achieve their healthiest body weight. Jeff Gilliam is an Orthopedic Certified Specialist through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties

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