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Even Internationally, Holidays Bring Weight Gain

November 21, 2016

The holidays are right around the corner, which means many Americans will overindulge on desserts, foods filled with saturated fat and alcoholic beverages that contain way too much sugar.

All this overindulgence isn’t good for your waistline, and now there’s scientific evidence that even internationally, you’re more likely to gain rather than shed weight during the holidays.

Americans aren’t the only ones subject to holiday weight gain either, according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In the study, researchers used data from wireless scales to examine daily weight changes of 2,924 participants over a year-long period. Nearly 1,800 study participants were from the U.S., 760 were from Germany and 383 were from Japan. The U.S. participants were about 42 years old on average, had a BMI of 27.7 (which is considered overweight), two-thirds of them were men and 24 percent of all U.S. participants were obese. The German and Japanese study participants had a slightly lower overall BMI, 26.6 and 24.7, respectively. Nineteen percent of German participants were obese, while only 11 percent of Japanese participants were in the same category.

Researchers found that across all three countries, participants gained weight within 10 days after Christmas compared to the 10 days before the holiday and that they gained weight around important national holidays in each country. In the U.S., it’s no surprise that this holiday was Thanksgiving — one of our country’s most gluttonous annual celebrations. Christmas was no better, the study found. U.S. participants’ weight increased by 0.4 percent around Christmas time, while it increased by 0.6 percent in Germany and 0.5 percent in Japan during this period.

And what’s even more concerning is that holiday weight seems to stick around well beyond the holiday season. The study’s author said people lose half of their holiday weight right after the holidays, but the other half remains until the summer and beyond.

“Of course, the less one gains, the less one then has to worry about trying to lose it,” they said.

So, what can you do to prevent this holiday slide?

Making a pre-holiday resolution to make healthy choices can help you avoid the most tempting treats at the table. Eating a healthy snack before you go to a holiday gathering also will ensure you get the necessary nutrients and that you don’t starve if the meal starts too late. Otherwise, you’re bound to overeat and choose the unhealthiest options on the table. Also be careful about how many holiday drinks you consume. Eggnog, boozy cocoa and other holiday favorites come loaded with calories of their own. But it’s not just holiday drinks that are filled with sugar, holiday desserts have them, too. Though it can be tempting to sample every bite-sized treat on the dessert holiday table, be aware of how much you eat and limit yourself to just one or two of your favorite items. And don’t forget to make time to exercise. During this busy time of year, our health regimen often slips and exercise becomes less of a priority, but doing physical activity for 30 minutes a day a few times a week can help offset some holiday weight gain.

The holiday season is a time to enjoy the company of family and friends. Focusing on those instead of food, and being more conscious of what you put on your plate can minimize holiday weight gain and ensure these pounds don’t stick around well into the new year.