Sunday, November 28, 2004
The holiday season typically is defined as the six weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. In terms of eating and overeating, that might be extended from a few days before Halloween to Super Bowl Sunday.
How much weight are we likely to gain during this period?
When asked in surveys, U.S. residents typically report gaining 5 or more pounds. A study of 200 subjects published in the New England Journal of Medicine, however, found that the average weight gain was actually only 1 pound. Before we start celebrating this news, we should point out another study -- one that found this extra weight tended to become permanent.
Factors contributing to holiday weight gain are fairly easy to identify. Delicious but high-calorie candy and cookies are readily available for snacking. Festive dinners and parties provide ample opportunity for overeating. The holiday rush makes it difficult to maintain a regular exercise program.
Although we tend to feel guilty about the overeating, the most important factor may be missing exercise.
While it may be difficult to find the time, it's well worth the effort to maintain -- or even increase -- your exercise routine during the holidays. A good workout just before a party or dinner actually should curb your appetite. The more vigorous the exercise, the greater the appetite suppression, according to studies.
As for the never-ending procession of snacks and meals, it's reasonable to expect to eat more than usual. This is the hardest time to stick to a diet and lose weight. A more reasonable goal might be to aim to maintain your present weight.
The best advice is to keep on exercising before, during and after the holidays. You'll have better overall health and less stress.