Will you gain weight this holiday season? Here's what science says
For most of us, Christmas and its festivities revolve around consuming tasty food and drinks with colleagues, friends and family. Between work Christmas parties, Christmas lunch or dinner, edible presents and New Year’s Eve, it can be an effort not to gain weight.
The human body can be quite remarkable in its ability to maintain a stable weight over the long term.
One small American study reported average fluctuations of just 0.5 kg throughout a year. Weight peaked in winter, which may be due to poorer weather and lower physical activity, but returned to normal.
Others, however, gradually gain weight over the years. A study of 120,000 Americans found weight gain averaged 3.35 lb (1.52 kg) over 4-year periods.
The good news is that reducing your energy intake by around 100 calories (418 kilojoules) per day can prevent such weight gain. This could equate to not having that extra biscuit, or walking more each day.
Are we likely to gain weight over Christmas?
We often don’t follow our normal routines during the holidays. Therefore our lifestyle behaviors and body weight can change.
There aren’t many high-quality studies that look at body weight and fat changes over the Christmas period, but the studies that have been done report conflicting results.
A 2009 American study of 195 adults over the 6- to 8-week winter holiday reported an average weight increase of 0.37 kg.
Another study of 26 English adults over a two-week Christmas holiday found they gained an average of 1 kg, even though 5 were sick (and 3 lost weight). The maximum weight gain was 4.4 kg.Y
Yet another study reported a weight change of around 0.4 kg in non-obese Swedish adults over a 2- to 3-week Christmas break. Obese participants, however, reported highly variable changes in weight, from a gain of 6.1 kg to a loss of 8.8 kg.
Some studies reported no weight gain, but an increase in body fat over the holidays.
However, other studies found no change in either body weight or body fat over festive periods, even if there were changes to eating and physical activity patterns.
What’s to blame?
In the large study of 120,000 American adults, the foods associated with weight increase over 4-year periods were these: potato chips, potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages and unprocessed and processed red meats.
Foods that were associated with lower weight included vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts and yogurt.
Other lifestyle behaviors were also associated with weight gain: physical inactivity (including television watching), alcohol intake and sleeping less than 6 or more than 8 hours each day.
It’s not hard to imagine these factors at play in someone’s Christmas holidays. Potato chips, soft drinks and alcohol might fill the table at the work Christmas party.
Hangovers and too little or too much sleep might mean that you indulge excessively in fast food burgers while binge-watching Netflix.
So avoid the chips, the soft drinks, the alcohol and fast-food during your free days and you should be just fine over the holiday season!
Want more tips on how not to gain weight? Here are 5 tips on how to avoid a belly like Santa's this Christmas. – Rappler.com
This article was first published on The Conversation.