Stephanie S. Saunders
It’s that time of year. The leaves turn majestic hues of red and gold. The air becomes fresh and crisp. We can finally put an extra blanket on the bed and cuddle up with a cup of hot tea. Yes, it’s fall. We just spent 8 months killing ourselves to get into that bathing suit, but now we’ve replaced it with a worn pair of jeans and a much more relaxed attitude towards food. After all, it’s the holiday season, and no one’ll notice a few extra pounds under layers of clothes. A little extra weight just gives us a New Year’s resolution to focus on, right?
Wrong. According to a recent study by researchers at Sweden’s Linköping University, those 4 weeks of celebrating can actually lead to long-term weight gain.
Essentially, the researchers took a group of healthy young people, increased their caloric intake by 70 percent, and lowered their exercise levels. They also had a control group whose diets weren’t altered. At 4 weeks, the participants in the test group had gained an average of 14 pounds. After 6 months, and no longer on an increased-calorie diet, only a third of these participants had returned to their original weight. After 1 year, the test group members were each still an average of 3.3 pounds heavier. After 2.5 years, the “gluttonous” group continued to gain, while the control group still maintained a stable weight.
Now, most of us don’t increase our calories that drastically for 30 days straight. Sure, there’s Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving leftovers, Hanukkah, the work Christmas party , Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day, not to mention the extra sweets, cocktails, and (ahem) fruitcake. But according to the New England Journal of Medicine, the actual average weight gain over the holidays is only 1 pound. (They obviously didn’t poll my family or friends.) So what’s the big deal? The problem is, a year later, the vast majority of people have not removed that pound. Continue this pattern over 30 or 40 holiday seasons and the problem becomes—quite literally—huge.
So how are we supposed to get through the holidays without causing weight gain? Here are eight effective ways to get yourself ready to beat the holiday bulge.