Elizabeth S. Reames | 12/1/2005 10:17:06 PM
Most people face the holiday season with some fear of gaining weight. The good news is that although many people gain, research suggests that the gain will probably be only 1 pound, not 5.
"The bad news is that most people likely will keep that pound during the coming year," says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames, explaining, "The average weight gain for most Americans is 1 to 2 pounds a year."
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health 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. Fewer than 10 percent of the subjects gained 5 pounds or more over the holidays. That extra pound, on average, however, was still there for the group of 165 participants who came back to be weighed almost a year later.
Factors such as the number of holiday parties attended had little effect. People who reported being hungrier and less active during the holidays gained the most weight. Those who were already obese or overweight were more likely to gain more than 5 pounds.
Reames offers several tips to help you avoid holiday weight gain.
§ Eat a light nutritious snack such as soup, fruit or cereal before going to a party to help curb hunger and make better choices.
§ Try to eat a large salad before meals. Aim for making vegetables take up half the room on your plate.
§ To avoid nibbling on food without thinking about it, move away from the food table after filling your plate.
§ Don’t forget physical activity. It is important all year round but can be especially helpful during the holidays when you may be eating more than usual. In addition to burning calories, physical activity helps build muscle. 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.
Reames recommends several ways to increase physical activity during the holiday season.
§ Take a walk in the woods to collect foliage and pine cones for decorating and, perhaps, even your tree.
§ Take a walk with friends and family after holiday meals. If your neighborhood is decorated, enjoy the time to admire the decorations.
§ If you’re 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 – rink or ice skating, line dancing or an exercise video workout.
"Celebrate your holidays by spending time with family and friends. Plan time to get together that does not revolve around a meal," the nutritionist advises.
For additional information about eating healthfully using the food guide pyramid, contact the FCS agent in your parish. For information on related family and consumer topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage, at www.lsuagcenter.com.