The winter holidays have come and gone, but, according to a new study, the holiday weight gain may still be hanging around. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you indulged this past season and have had to loosen those belt buckles as a consequence. It’s totally natural, but unfortunately, those extra pounds are hard to shed quickly.
The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study from Cornell University researchers that showed how that last half of Christmas weight gain was still sticking around the following summer. In the 10 days following Christmas, 3000 adults from 3 countries experienced up to a 0.6% weight gain compared to the 10 days prior to Christmas. In the United States, adults gained an average of 0.6 kilograms (approximately 1.3 pounds) between Christmas and New Years. Fast-forward to the next summer, and participants had lost just half of the holiday weight gain.
Results echo those of a 2014 study published in Physiology and Behavior, which highlighted an average weight gain of 0.5 kilograms between the months of November and January. While it may not sound like much, this average actually translates to substantial individual weight gain. The research showed that people who were already overweight or obese were more prone to holiday weight gain than were people of a healthy weight. Researchers also determined that the weight put on over the holidays was a primary contributor to annual excess weight gain.
Tips for Losing the Christmas Weight
According to the Royal Society for Public Health in the United Kingdom, people eat an estimated 6,000 calories Christmas day, nearly 3 times the suggested daily caloric intake. It’d take an hour and a half of running to burn off Christmas dinner! So, how do you safely and effectively lose the holiday weight? All is not lost—just follow the tips below!
- Go Slow and Be Good to Yourself
Here’s what happens when you go on a crash diet in an attempt to lose the holiday pounds: you really just lose water and muscle, while the fat stubbornly hangs on. To lose the unwanted fat, go slow, and aim to lose no more than 2 pounds a week.
- Retrain Your Brain
So, you’ve gorged on holiday sweets and treats…and your body wants more of the yummy stuff! It’s time to retrain your brain to crave nourishing foods, particularly fruits and vegetables for fiber, vitamins A and C, and folate, protein from beans, nuts, and seeds, and whole grains versus refined grains. Prioritize healthy meals and be patient with your progress.
- Control Portions
It’s back to portion control. You can check the labels and delineate portions that way, or just check in with your body’s hunger and full signals. Eat slowly, and when you start to get full, stop. If you’ve eaten your targeted portion and are still hungry, then have seconds, but make them vegetables…or some fruit for dessert!
- Pump Up the Exercise
For weight maintenance, experts recommend 30 minutes of exercise a day. If you’re looking to lose weight, then increase exercise time to 60 minutes a day, or increase the intensity of your 30 minutes of exercise. To make sure you don’t burn through your muscles as you are burning through the calories, do at least 2 strength-training sessions a week.
- Drink Water
Often, when we feel hungry, we are actually just thirsty. Keep a water bottle beside you at all times to make sure your thirst is satiated and to keep hunger at bay.