No reason to add pounds over holidays – Commercial Appeal

It’s that time of year. No, I am not talking about elections, the flu, or holiday shopping — but rather weight gain.

The myth is that Americans gain 5 to 10 pounds during the holiday season. And while it’s entirely possible, it is perhaps not that bad.

The weight gain begins with Halloween. A package of my favorite candy, two Reese’s peanut butter cups, has 210 calories, about one-tenth of our daily recommended calorie allowance. Then comes Thanksgiving, which not surprisingly is the biggest day of food consumption in America, where an average American will eat 4,500 calories, or twice the recommended calories in a day.

During Christmas and New Year we are in a vacation mindset, allowing unhealthy fatty foods to be permissible and exercise to be procrastinated. And then to top it off on the biggest sports event day, Super Bowl Sunday, we do not exercise or play but we eat, making it the second biggest day of food consumption.

So, by the end of fall and winter, it would seem we Americans would have gained a lot more weight.

But, here is the science and statistics behind annual and seasonal weight gain.

Nearly all of us, as young adults, gain weight as we get older, about half a pound to pound and a half per year. Women gain most weight during adolescence, pregnancy and midlife while men gain weight after marriage. Our wedding tuxedo pants and bridal dresses can confirm this.

Undoubtedly, the winter and fall are when we are most vulnerable to weight gain.

Half of the annual weight gain occurs during the holiday season (Thanksgiving to New Year’s).

Busting the 5-10 pound weight gain myth was a study in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine journal which found that the perceived weight gain during the holiday season was only 3 and a half pounds. In reality, this was four times higher than the actual weight gain of less than a pound. (0.8 lbs to be exact).

For many of us, there is comfort in these numbers. But for those who are overweight or obese, the holiday season posed the greatest risk of weight gain. Twenty percent of those who are obese and 10 percent of those who are overweight gained over 5 pounds.

If it makes you feel any better, weight gain during the holidays is not unique to Americans. Another study showed that during the holiday season Germans gained 1.8 pounds and the Japanese gained 1.1 pounds compared to the Americans who gained 1.3 pounds. Half of this weight is lost during the spring and summer while the other half remains for years — possibly a lifetime.

So what can we do?

First we need to accept that weight gain, even a few pounds, during the holidays is avoidable. Here are few scientific tips and tricks to enjoy the holiday season and its culinary pleasures and not gain the weight.

Be aware of your weight. Those who stepped on a scale four or more times a week gained less weight and lost it more quickly.

Eat and chew slowly. Enjoy and relish the food. Eating slowly allows you to swallow more air and feel full, and gives the needed 20 minutes for the brain to register through chemicals that you are full.

When drinking, choose a tall and thin glass — it will reduce your intake of alcohol or other high-calorie drink. When eating take a smaller dish rather than a larger plate, the empty white space on a large plate signals your brain to increase the serving size.

Drink water. One study found that drinking about 2 cups of water before each meal along with a low-calorie diet reduced weight by 4 pounds over a 12-week period. This was a 44 percent greater decline in weight compared to those who just ate a low-calorie meal.

Weight gain is not inevitable, rather it is a choice. And just simply being mindful of what is to come in the next few months during the holiday season can help deter or at least diminish how much weight we will gain.

Source : Commercial Appeal

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