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Only About a Pound Lingers After the Holidays

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"Holidays are a special risk for overweight and obese people, and special efforts should be taken to help them because they are at greater risk for the complications of obesity," Yanovski says.

When the researchers looked at factors that may influence holiday weight gain, they found that only level of hunger and amount of physical activity seemed to have an impact. This suggests that carrying a Yule log to the fireplace, rather than watching one burn on TV, may be an effective way to prevent weight gain during this high-risk time, he says.

"Every adult is at risk for some weight gain during the holidays, but lifestyle modifications like taking the stairs instead of the escalator and parking at the other end of the mall when doing gift shopping may help drop weight," Yanovski tells WebMD.

"The bottom line is that people are gaining weight, and if they don't lose the weight that they gain, they will become fatter and fatter," says Denise Bruner, MD, president of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians and an obesity expert in private practice in Arlington, Va.

"At most parties, people sit around and talk, drink, or eat," she tells WebMD. "Why not try dancing instead, to increase physical activity?"

Another way to keep the pounds off during the holiday season, says Elizabeth Ward, RD, a Boston-based spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, is "never going to a holiday party hungry, because if you do, you will certainly overeat. Never stand by the food or nut bowl, and use small plates to serve yourself."

Also, "Watch out for alcohol, because there are a lot of calories in mixed drinks," she says, adding that, if they must drink, weight-conscious partygoers should start off with a nonalcoholic beverage and alternate with alcoholic ones throughout the night.

Remember, "You may not be the person that only gains a pound; you may gain two or three pounds and never take it off," Ward says. "By two years, this can add up to an extra 10 to 20 pounds."

Vital Information:

  • A new study shows that most people do not gain five pounds or more over the holiday season, although this is a widely held belief.
  • In a study of nearly 200 people, the average weight gain over the holidays was just over one pound. Obese people tended to gain more than non-obese people.
  • In the following year, most participants in the study did not lose the extra pound. Researchers warn that small, gradual increases in weight over time can be detrimental to your health.
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