For many, no matter how strict the diet, all bets are off as soon as the sweet potato casserole comes out of the oven.
Yes, during the six-week stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, it seems easier than ever to gorge on carbs and sweets, surrounded by irresistibly delicious fare and grandmas who love nothing more than to heap another serving (or three) on your plate. The result? You’ll suffer from the dreaded holiday weight gain. But, while you may feel like an expanding balloon by the time January 1st arrives, the truth is that the average person doesn’t put on quite as much as you might imagine.
According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the average American’s weight increases by 0.4% over Christmas, and 0.2% over Thanksgiving. In total, this amounts to around one pound gained per holiday season for the average person.
According to the researchers, the bulk of this weight gain occurs in the ten days after Christmas—perhaps hinting to the fact that the cheer of Christmas Day throws off your diet equilibrium until the New Year brings forth another year of steadfast dieting resolutions. (Here’s a small nugget of comfort: Americans aren’t the worst offenders when it comes to holiday weight gain. The study points out that Germans actually gain more weight between Christmas Day and the beginning of the New Year, though the difference is negligible: in total, it amounts to 1 percent.)
But here’s the rub
While gaining one pound may seem like a small price to pay to be able to indulge in your favorite holiday treats, researchers in the study point out that what makes this weight gain so harmful to your waistline is the fact that you’re unlikely to lose the added weight after the conclusion of the holiday season. The weight gain you experience in one holiday season compounds with what you gain during the next, and the next, and the next, so on and so forth, ad infinitum. Within a few years, you’ll really see the pounds accumulate.
To aid in the reversal of holiday weight gain, Milton Stokes, Ph.D., of One Source Nutrition, told Best Life that maintaining a proper fitness routine throughout the holiday season keep the pounds from multiplying.
“After all, if you’re consistent in your exercise habits, there’s no need to change your eating patterns. Unfortunately, many people spend their winters eating a bit more and exercising a bit less,” he says. In short: sure, eat the calorie-laden food at the holiday party—but be sure to stick like glue to any exercise routine. (And if you don’t yet have a regular regimen, it should go without saying that you should pick one up.) That way, any added calories will have a harder time sticking to your waistline.
Further, to avoid snacking on the same unhealthy foods after the close of the season, make it a point to throw out all of the leftovers, rather than leaving them in your fridge. After ringing in the New Year—with resolutions abound—the last thing you’ll want to face is all of the temptations of last year.
At the end of the day, the moral of the story isn’t rocket science: Be kind to your palette and your physique this holiday season by practicing a healthy mix of healthy habits and tasty treats.
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