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Holiday weight gain may last a lifetime
By Bethany Waldrop Keiper
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The good news is, most people don't gain as much weight as they think they do during the holidays. The bad news is, the weight people do gain then is not likely to be lost during the new year.
In early 2001, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases concluded a study about holiday weight gain with some surprising results.
Most people overestimated the amount of weight they had gained during the holiday season. But, those who were already overweight gained more than those at a healthy weight. Researchers at the institutes explained that knowing that people actually accumulate a large part of their yearly weight gain during the winter holiday season may prove useful in treating weight problems.
"People have a lot of excuses for not exercising during the winter holidays," said Rebecca Kelly, a registered dietitian and human nutrition specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. "It is cold outside, it gets dark early and there are many holiday tasks to get done. But you can take the stairs or go walking indoors -- whether it is at your workplace, a super store or a mall. It's the extra steps in your day that can make the difference because the little things add up."
In addition to keeping activity levels high, try avoiding common holiday pitfalls, including alcohol and binges.
"You can still eat rich foods -- but just have a small piece, not the whole pie," Kelly explained. "Also try to avoid alcoholic beverages. These have a lot of calories, and they lower blood sugar and stimulate your appetite."
People may want to team up with a friend or relative to increase their willpower, but make sure not to compete with each other for weight loss or weight control goals. Plan ahead to avoid diet disaster before facing culinary temptations at a holiday event.
"Eat sensibly the day of a party if you know you will indulge. Have light, nutritious meals during the day. At the party get a small piece of anything you want. You don't have to deprive yourself -- just be conscious of portions," Kelly advised. "Pile your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables. These are not only delicious and nutritious, but they also help you feel full."
Also bring a low-fat item for snacking, keep a glass of water in your hand at all times for sipping, socialize with other partygoers rather than snacking, and don't hang out with the food. Put some food on a plate, leave the buffet and sit to eat it, Kelly recommended.
Attempt conscious efforts all winter to slim down before spring. Unfortunately for those seeking a quick diet fix, slow and steady is the best approach for weight loss that stays off.
"Try to gradually take off the weight you want to remove -- no more than a pound a week. That may not sound like much, but by eating sensibly and losing weight slowly, in six months you will have lost 24 pounds -- pounds that will stay off," Kelly said.
Generally, any diet that excludes a food group is not recommended.
"People think they need a high protein, low carbohydrate diet for quick weight loss. These types of diets can work while you are on them, but with any quick weight loss plan you are losing water and lean body mass rather than fat," Kelly said. "People are looking for rules about what not to eat, but the truth is, unless you are on a special diet for medical reasons, you can eat anything in the correct portions."
Kelly recommends a visit with a registered dietitian to learn more about portion control and weight loss.
"Dietitians are experts at helping people with their eating. Be honest about your eating habits during your visit. This helps them find the areas where you can cut back or make substitutions," she said.
For more information, contact: Dr. Rebecca Kelly, (662) 325-1801