Dealing with Holiday Weight Gain: Myths and Reality

Holiday Weight Gain:  Urban Legend or Reality?

In America the holiday weight gain actually begins in October and we usually reach our highest weight ten days after Christmas.

The average Christmas day meal is often to end up being around 6,000 calories, almost three times the recommended daily amount!  So what you normally hear that the average person gains between 10-15 pounds during the holidays sounds true and reasonable.

Is this really true?  

Six research studies conducted between 2005 and 2013, revealed that 90% of people gain around one pound between mid-November and January first.  The remaining 10% gain 5 pounds or more!  I know for me and others in the 10%  it is only wishful thinking (without planning) for such a small gain as a pound!  The heavier you are research has shown the more weight you tend to gain during the holidays. The sad reality is that the next holiday season rolls around and most people have not lost any of the weight they had gained in the previous holiday season  Yes they made the New Year with the resolution to lose the extra weight but it never happened!

What is it about the holidays that cause us to be so susceptible to weight gain?

  • Social Acceptance – It is “socially acceptable” to relax, eat whatever you like and not focus on your health during this time of the year. Sad, but true!  And if everyone else is overeating it “encourages” us to do the same!
  • Stress – This time of year there are high expectations, family obligations, extra financial pressures, strained relationships and  many people deal with stress by eating. All of these things pushing down becomes the gateway to an eating frenzy as a way of coping. Cortisol which we know increases fat retention is released during times of great stress. A one two punch for weight gain!
  • Changed Routine – When we get off our schedule/routine we tend to be over tired and our judgement becomes laxer and we just settle for eating whatever is there or convenient, especially when traveling. IF you are visiting for the holidays, you often have little or no control over what your host cooks as well.
  • Emotional History – If you have many memories associated with special people and certain foods, it makes it harder to pass up these treats when they appear at the holidays. We tend to want try to relive those precious memories through eating those foods.

All of the above are food cues or triggers as why we might end up overeating during the holidays.  The key is to find other non-food ways to respond to these cues/triggers without overeating.  To succeed you need to have a very deliberate planned strategy for handling these situations.  If you just try to “wing it” you will find yourself eating the whole super size order of wings and fruitcake before you know it!  The holidays present you with an opportunity to plan, strategize and react in a healthier way.  You have to choose and plan wisely.

Researchers say holiday weight gain is nothing to panic over and it isn’t a catastrophe.   I disagree to a point, if research shows that people do not ever lose their gained holiday weight that would mean on an annual basis a person’s weight would increase a pound year if you are average but if you are one of the 10%, your weight would increase by five pounds or more a year.  Think about that effect over several years!  It adds up!  And if you are a formerly overweight currently overweight person your average is set to be much higher!  If we do not make plans to stay ahead of the food triggers, we are setting ourselves up for health issues such as obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Through careful planning and monitoring we can keep from gaining excess weight and stay healthy all throughout the year despite those testy holidays!

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