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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Holiday Weight Gain

We used to believe that the average American adult gained 5 or more pounds during the holiday season, between Thanksgiving and New Year. But a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in 2000 changed all that. It concluded that the average Holiday Season weight gain was "only" 1 pound.

But this just didn't sound right. As many of you know, my practice had a weight management division for over 25 years, known as Health Extenders, where we followed a large number of patients for their weight and behavior over long periods of time, including the holiday period. We never believed the 1 pound weight gain, and I still believe it's much higher than that.

Revisiting the NEJM article recently, the study was relatively small, including only 200 people. In reality, the study showed that perhaps 3 pounds were gained during the actual holiday season, and that one of these three pounds was still "retained" during the following 6-9 months. In addition, the study did suggest that, the heavier you are, the more you are likely to gain weight during the holiday season. The statistical variability between individuals was, in my opinion, too wide to render a scientifically valid opinion.

So what's the lesson? Weight gain during the holiday season is still a real problem, which, if it goes unchecked, can lead to ongoing weight gain. Taken cumulatively over several years, this can indeed become a real health hazard.

Especially during this holiday season, please be selective in your choice of foods. Politely reject the fatty cuts of beef, the skin on the chicken, the fried food, and, yes, the white wheat products and sugar. Choose the leaner cuts of meat (even lean pork is OK today), chicken, turkey and fish. Don't forget whole wheat bread and pasta, and use Stevia instead of sugar to sweeten your drinks. Exercise, not only to help maintain a lower body weight, but also as a relaxation method.

Above all, enjoy the holiday season, your friends and family, and drive responsibly.

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