Tips to help you manage your weight during the holidays

December 10, 2019 in Preventive Care  •  By Miles Varn, MD

Sugar cookies and eggnog, latkes and sufganiyot, pumpkin pie and candied yams. At home, at work, at parties—everywhere you look this time of year, there are tempting treats. All too often, holiday indulgences lead to weight gain, New Year’s regrets, and diet resolutions.

While some Americans put on between five and seven pounds during the fall and winter holidays, most only gain a pound or two. While that might not sound like trouble, the problem lies in the fact that most of those people never lose those two pounds. Over time, that can leave you 10 to 20 pounds heavier and less healthy. In fact, 71.6% of Americans over the age of 20 are overweight or obese according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

People often wonder why the scale seems to be creeping upward, but they overlook the basic mechanics of the process—calories taken in must be balanced by calories burned through activity. If you want to lose or maintain your weight, you need to expend more calories as energy than you consume.

As simple as this sounds, losing weight is still difficult for most people. But diet plans that promise a ten pound loss in a week or two aren’t the best approach. The key to effective weight management is healthy, mindful eating and slow, steady weight loss of a pound or two per week.

Tips for better weight management

One of the most significant issues in weight management is developing an accurate assessment of how many calories you actually eat in a day. Most people seriously underestimate their intake. In fact, little extras can add up quickly. Even an extra 150 calories each day (the number of calories in a chocolate chip cookie) can add up to a pound of extra weight in about three weeks. It can be helpful to keep a food diary to get an accurate picture of how many calories you’re eating. There are a number of apps that make tracking your food easier and also provide information about the nutritional value of the foods you’re eating.

These tips can help you move towards a healthy weight:

  • Honestly assess your level of commitment and energy for making the needed lifestyle and eating changes. Are there are particular stresses or distractions in your life that would make it difficult to lose weight right now?
  • Fast weight loss may be gratifying, but it’s not the healthiest approach and the weight is often regained. Plan to lose weight slowly, about one to two pounds per week.
  • Set a realistic goal. Studies have shown that losing about five to 10 pounds can significantly lower blood pressure. Another study found that seriously overweight people with asthma who lost about 31 pounds experienced improved lung function and reduced the number of severe asthma episodes and the number of corticosteroid treatment courses needed. And if you have joint problems, losing just 10 pounds decreases the force your knees absorb with each step by 60 pounds.
  • Get 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise a day. Increase the intensity of activity a few times a week to boost the number of calories you burn.
  • Build a support system. Whether you chose an organized program or rely on a friend or family member for support and encouragement, you’re more likely to succeed when you have someone in your corner.
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