This holiday season, as COVID restrictions have eased around the world, we are blessed to once again break bread with our friends and family. For some people, however, the holiday season comes with weight gain anxiety.
Popular media articles often cite a study of 195 adults published more than 20 years ago which revealed that participants had gained an average of 0.5 kg during the holidays. But the range of weight change was wide, from losing 9.3 kg to gaining 8 kg.
One more recent study examined Christmas weight gain in around 1,000 participants in a weight loss trial in the UK, Denmark and Portugal. They found that weight increased, on average, by 1.35% in December. The weight of the participants then decreased between January and March but remained 0.35% higher than the pre-Christmas weight. These results suggest that it’s a good idea to make some changes while on vacation to avoid long-term weight gain.
Here are four tips:
1. Eat mindfully
Mindful eating is eating slowly, without distractions like a phone or TV. It involves engaging all of your senses in noticing the look, smell, and taste of food, and recognizing the physical cues of hunger and satiety (fullness).
It takes your brain up to 20 minutes recognize that you are full. By slowing down when we eat, mindful eating helps avoid eating past the point of fullness — or even the point of discomfort.
If you end up eating more than you’ve had at one meal during the holidays, don’t worry. You’re not going to gain long-term weight after just a few big meals. Don’t worry about these two meals and instead focus on long-term eating habits.
2. Avoid eating ultra-processed foods
These are pre-packaged foods and drinks that tend to contain more than five ingredients, some of which may be difficult to pronounce. Many so-called diet foods such as flavored low-fat yogurts and high-protein meal replacement bars fall into this category. Ultra-processed foods are designed to keep us from controlling the amount of food we eat.
Evidence of a randomized controlled trial in which 20 young adults were fed, in random order for two weeks, an ultra-processed diet or an unprocessed diet adapted to have about the same nutrient content, showed that the same people consumed about 500 calories more when they are under ultra-processed. transformed diet. The same people gained 0.9 kg during the ultra-processed diet and lost 0.9 kg during the unprocessed diet.
Another possible mechanism by which ultra-processed foods may affect your weight is through increased exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. These chemicals are associated with weight gain. A class of endocrine disruptors, phthalates, is used in food packaging. Studies have shown that people who eat more ultra-processed foods are more exposed to phthalates. So this holiday season, aim to cook more at home from unprocessed or less processed foods.
3. Get out and move every day
Although exercise is not very effective in losing weight, it is quite effective in avoid weight gain. Aim for 10,000 steps a day this holiday season. As the days get shorter, going out for a walk meeting or phone call, or to meet friends or family, can also promote mental well-being.
4. If you drink, do so in moderation
Studies show that light to moderate alcohol consumption is not associated with weight gain, whereas heavy alcohol consumption is. Both men and women are advised do not regularly drink more than 14 units per week. A 175ml glass of wine or a pint of beer is two units. Alternating alcoholic beverages with a glass of water can help reduce the amount you drink and also prevent you from becoming dehydrated.
We’ve all had a tough few years. The holiday season is not the time to worry about weight gain. After all, stress can play a big role in overeating.
Make your resolution this holiday season and into the new year to develop a positive new relationship with food instead. Consciously eating whole foods helps us understand how food can bring us together and nourish our bodies. And by doing so, it can also help us avoid gaining weight.