Dont Be Afraid; Take Action To Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Elizabeth S. Reames, Merrill, Thomas A., LaFleur, Kara D.  |  12/13/2006 1:36:36 AM

News You Can Use Distributed 12/12/06

Gaining weight during the holidays is a fear most people face this time of year, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

Although many people do gain weight this time of year, that gain is more like 1 pound than the 5 pounds many people fear they may pick up, Reames says of the little bit of good news. The bad news, however, is that most people will keep that pound during the next year and add to it, she says.

"The average weight gain for most Americans is one to two pounds a year," Reames says.

Citing one study on holiday weight gain, Reames says researchers from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and the Medical University of South Carolina studied 195 people and found that people in their study gained an average of about 1 pound from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day. In that study, fewer than 10 percent of the subjects gained 5 pounds or more over the holidays.

"But that extra pound, on average, was still there for the group of 165 participants who came back to be weighed almost a year later," Reames said.

The LSU AgCenter nutritionist says the study also revealed other hints that may be able to help you plan to avoid such weight gains this holiday season.

"Those who reported being less active or hungrier had the greatest holiday weight gain," she said. "And those who were already obese or overweight were more likely to gain more than 5 pounds.

"On the other hand, factors such as the number of holiday parties attended and stress had little effect," she said.

Reames also offers these tips this time of year to help you avoid holiday weight gain include:

–Be realistic. Instead of trying to lose weight over the holidays, strive to maintain your weight.

–Eat a light, nutritious snack such as soup, fruit or cereal before going to a party to help curb hunger and assist you in making better choices.

–If you have two parties to attend, choose small portions at each.

–To avoid nibbling on food without thinking about it, move away from the food table after filling your plate.

–Try to eat a large salad before meals.

–Aim for making vegetables take up half the room on your plate.

–Eat foods with high water content, such as pasta dishes with additional vegetables, soup, fruits and vegetables. These offer a way to cut back on calories and help you feel full and satisfied.

–Do not deprive yourself of your favorites. Make it a balancing act. Cut the salad dressing and go for a small slice of chocolate mousse pie. Or balance your favorites with low-calorie foods, such as vegetables with a small amount of dip or boiled shrimp with lemon.

–Be selective at a buffet. Choose only the foods you really want and watch portion sizes.

The LSU AgCenter nutritionist says not to forget physical activity this time of year, because activity can help you avoid picking up extra weight.

"Physical activity is important all year round but can be especially helpful during the holidays when you may be eating more than usual," Reames said. "Physical activity also helps build muscle, and the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn.

"In addition, physical activity can improve your sense of well-being and help reduce your stress level."

Among the ideas Reames offers for increasing your physical activity during the holiday season are:

–Take a walk in the woods to collect foliage and pine cones for decorating.

–Take a walk with friends and family after holiday meals. If your neighborhood is decorated, enjoy the time to admire the decorations.

–If you are near a mall, try mall walking. Find out about special hours reserved for walkers. Do some window shopping and enjoy the decorations.

–Take time to play with your children. Try favorite activities such as biking, throwing the football, shooting hoops or roller-blading.

–Try some different activities – line dancing or an exercise video workout.

–During halftime of your favorite football game, join friends in a game of flag football. You can burn as many as 140 calories for every 15 minutes of play, while you burn only 71 calories for each hour of watching the game on TV.

–Celebrate your holidays by spending more time with family and friends than you do with food. In other words, be sure to plan time to get together that does not revolve around a meal.

For additional information about eating healthfully using MyPyramid, contact the LSU AgCenter Extension agent in your parish or visit www.lsuagcenter.com.

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Contact:
Beth Reames at (225) 578-1425 or breames@agcenter.lsu.edu
Writers:
Kara LaFleur at (225) 578-2263 or klafleur@agcenter.lsu.edu
Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or tmerrill@agcenter.lsu.edu

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