Health

Don’t Put This on Your Christmas List

Decide right now how you'll avoid the extra holiday weight gain

Dark chocolate fudge. Mochi ice cream. Bratapfel. It doesn’t really matter what you eat for the holidays or where you eat it — chances are, you’ll gain weight.

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people in America, Germany, and Japan all pack on the celebratory pounds. Researchers used wireless scales to track the weight of 2,924 participants over the course of the year.

A food diary will help you realize how much you’re actually consuming. We minimize our intake in our minds.

“In all three countries, the participants’ weight rose within 10 days after Christmas Day, as compared with 10 days before Christmas Day,” researchers found. Americans gained an average of 1.3 pounds, Germans gained about 1.75 pounds, and the Japanese gained 1.1 pounds.

You may be chuckling to yourself — thinking that’s nothing to worry about. But although the participants dropped half of that weight shortly after the holidays, the extra weight for the other half stuck around until summertime or even later. This could mean bad news for the cumulative weight gain of these populations.

Of the 1,781 Americans in the study, 24 percent were already considered obese. That’s lower than the national average: Currently two of every three adults are overweight or obese.

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These numbers represent averages, said Elina Helander of Tampere University of Technology in Finland. “There are people who gain more and who do not gain at all,” she told LifeZette.

Related: Who Can Afford to Eat Well?

She also pointed out that people who buy expensive wireless scales are not representing a random sample of the population. “People who already have these scales are probably even more health-oriented than a typical person. So even these more ‘motivated’ people gain weight, and the average person is probably gaining more and taking longer to lose it.”

If you’re hoping to avoid getting soft around your middle — decide now.

Helander said the one-time big meals aren’t the real problem. It’s the culture of the holiday season that proves truly problematic.

“The holiday dinners, such as the Thanksgiving dinner, don’t need to be changed, and we can continue enjoying them. It’s what happens before and after that — eating related to holidays appears to start much earlier than that and continues after the holiday.”

Exercising better self-control during the holidays is one answer. Focus on talking instead of snacking at parties. Eating a nutritious snack before a party can get you started on a full stomach and curb the temptation to dig into the goodies. And for the truly vigilant, staying accountable with a food diary will help you realize how much you’re consuming. We tend to minimize our intake in our minds.

“To not gain that weight in the first place means you’re not going to have to spend five months trying to lose it,” said Brian Wansink of Cornell University and the lead author on the study.

If you’re hoping to avoid getting soft around the middle, decide now. January will be too late.

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