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Obesity and Weight Management

Don't Grow Santa's Belly During the Holidays

Gaining weight over the holidays is a concern for many people. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2000 showed that about half the average 1.4-pound weight gain over the course of a year occurs between Thanksgiving and New Year's. In that study, fewer than 10 percent of the participants gained five or more pounds during the holidays, but even those who gained less than a pound had difficulty shedding it afterwards.

How can you prevent weight gain in the first place? It's no secret: Just burn as many calories as you consume. Of course, that's harder at this time of year than almost any other. So, here's the skinny on keeping you on the straight and narrow:

Weigh yourself every week. Don't obsess -- an extra pound one day can disappear the next. But it's a good idea to keep track. If you see the scale inch up, you'll be less likely to have that second (or third?) treat.

Do what you can to increase your metabolism. Walk a little faster at the mall, through a parking lot, or down the grocery aisle. Put that holiday movie on "pause" a few times so you can make a quick trip up or downstairs or refill your glass of ice water. Do some deep breathing and stretches periodically during any period of sedentary activity.

Be sensible when it comes to portion sizes, and balance your daily consumption. For example, you only need five to seven ounces from the meat and beans food group each day, depending on your age, sex and activity level. In the grains group, you should consume between five and 10 ounces, and half should be whole grains. At the same time, you should be eating (even during the holidays) 1.5 to 2.5 cups of fruit and two to four cups of vegetables each day.

For adults, recommended calorie intake per day to maintain your weight ranges from 1,600 to 3,000. You can estimate your individual calorie needs at The Food Guide Pyramid. Keep all of that in mind as you make choices when you're eating out, hosting a party, or enjoying a holiday treat.

Don't skip meals in anticipation of a big holiday dinner or party. That can lead to disaster. Remember, balance is key.

If you drink, watch the alcohol. Not only does it offer very little nutritional benefit for the number of calories it contains, it also can weaken your resolve to get through the holidays without weight gain.

Keep a food and exercise diary. If you know you will write it down, you're more apt to be "good."

This article originally appeared in Chow Line (12/8/06), a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission, 2008.

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Last Reviewed: Dec 05, 2008

Sharron   Coplin, MS, RD, LD Sharron Coplin, MS, RD, LD
Former Lecturer
Food & Nutrition
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University

Jaime  Ackerman Foster, MPH, RD, LD Jaime Ackerman Foster, MPH, RD, LD
Extension Nutrition Associate
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University