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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