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Yet another holiday season is upon on us!

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving marks the start to the holidays, as well as the start of when family, friends and colleagues gather around the dinner table for memorable feasts, potlucks and parties. Along with endless feasts, comes limitless consumption of calories and the

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inevitable holiday weight gain!

On average, Americans gain about one pound during the holiday season. However, for people who are overweight or obese, they are more likely to gain five pounds, according to a National Institute of Health study, “Holiday Weight Gain Slight, But May Last A Lifetime”. (1)

You might be thinking, “ . . . only a pound—that’s not that bad!” The caveat is, with each pound gained every year end, the pounds are not lost throughout the following year (or years for that matter), meaning, you continue to gain and accumulate weight over the years. This one pound per year weight gain may be a major contributor of age-related obesity later in life. (1)

In the study mentioned above, when 165 of the study participants were weighed a year after the study began, they had not lost the extra weight gained during the holidays and ended the year a pound and a half heavier than they were the year before.

More importantly, the study also revealed that out of several factors that might influence weight change, such as stress, hunger, activity levels, changes in smoking habits or number of holiday parties they attended, the only two factors that influence weight gain were the level of hunger and the level of activity. “Volunteers who said they were much more active or much less hungry since their last clinic visit were the least likely to gain weight over the holidays, and some even lost weight. Those who reported being less active or more hungry had the greatest holiday weight gain.”(1)

Research like this provides us with valuable information so that we can take action and implement early intervention before the damage is done. So, to help you keep those unwanted and unhealthy pounds at bay during the fall and winter months, just start implementing some of these weight management strategies!

  1. Start your day drinking a glass of water either before breakfast or with breakfast, not only to hydrate, clean and energize your body after a full night’s sleep (which is good for both cognitive and physical performance), but also to burn up any fat consumed from breakfast. (1, 2)
  2. Start your day eating a balanced breakfast. As research shows, those who eat this essential meal tend to consume fewer calories throughout the day.
  3. Include fiber in your meals by eating whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes. High fiber foods are high in volume and low in calories and will keep you full longer.
  4. Eat five small meals per day. The rule is to eat three meals and two snacks that are less than 200 calories. Think of your snacks as a small meal that will help you stabilize your blood glucose level and in turn promote a happy mood. This strategy will also ensure that your metabolism is working properly by providing a constant source of healthy fuel!
  5. In preparation for your holiday party, potluck or feast, do not skip meals throughout the day as this may result in overeating when you finally do decide to eat! Remember that holiday meals tend to be large, buffet-style, and more than likely, you will end up eating seconds or thirds. Or if you are among the people who want to forget the main course and dive head first into the dessert table, you might find yourself eating the entire cake. If this is your strategy, just remember that this will only backfire on you, because this causes your metabolism to slow down and store all of those extra calories as fat.
  6. Energy balance is key! Even if you are including nutrient-dense foods in your meal plan, remember that these foods are not calorie-free and should be eaten in moderation. Follow the Myplate method , in which half of your plate should look like a rainbow that is packed with low-energy, dense foods such as veggies and fruits – just remember to go light on dressing, sauces, cheeses etc. Using this approach during your holiday gatherings and beyond will allow you to maintain a healthy eating plan – one that can also include dessert!
  7. Eat from a smaller plate to help you decrease your portion size. Important findings from Dr. Brian Wansink’s guidelines, “Mindless Eating” showed that fifty-four percent of American adults aim to finish everything on their plates! This behavior can lead to weight gain. (4)
  8. Since we tend to not accurately remember or estimate how much we have eaten (4), consider tracking your food and sugary beverage consumption with a photo food log by using your mobile device with a camera—check out our full blog on this topic here. This can help keep your food portions under control and help you avoid indulging in ‘portion distortion.’
  9. Apply simple mindful eating techniques such as savoring every bite and eating slowly. Start by integrating all of your senses before taking the first bite; think about the food’s characteristics, texture, sent, feel, flavor and sound. Chew your food for about fifteen to thirty times per bite. Allow your fork or spoon to rest between each bite of food. Before you go back for seconds, wait ten minutes and drink a glass of water to evaluate if you really are still hungry!
  10. Do not forget to integrate thirty minutes of physical activity into you daily routine—find something that you’ll enjoy too! If you think you don’t have time, break those thirty minutes into three ten-minute workouts or two fifteen-minute-workouts.

Remember, research shows that individuals who reported being less active or more hungry before holiday parties had the greatest holiday weight gain! (1)

One last word of advice, stop eating when you are satisfied. Happy Holidays!!

_______________________________________________________________________
References:
1. www.nichd.nih.gov/news/releases/holidayweightgain.cfm
2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22281298
3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22798004
4. http://mindlesseating.org/index.php
5. http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442460011#.UKsGX2jyZH8

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