During the holidays, it is difficult to avoid gaining a few extra pounds. However, a recent study investigated a simple, low-intensity way to reduce weight fluctuation over Christmas.
During the holiday season, the waist tends to stretch as their self-control slackens. While food and drink flow freely, restriction is rare and sedentary activities abound. And, when we relax, we tend to throw caution to the wind and go back for a second serving of dessert. On average, after age 40, people gain 0.4 to 1 kg each year, and up to 50% of this increase occurs during holiday periods, such as Christmas.
A new approach to obesity?
Research has shown that when we gain weight during the holidays, we rarely manage to lose it once the tinsel has disappeared from the tree. Over the years, this type of seasonal weight gain accumulates. The authors of a recent study believe that targeting this time of year could offer an innovative way to reduce the impact of obesity. By focusing attention on periods of greatest weight gain, it may be possible to slow annual weight gain, as a whole.
Study of weight gain in winter
The results of the so-called “Winter Weight Watch Study” were published in the famous journal BMJ. Scientists from the Institute of Applied Health Research at the University of Birmingham and the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at Loughborough University in the UK carried out this study .
In particular, they wanted to understand whether a relatively brief and simple intervention could reduce weight gain during the Christmas period. To find out, they recruited participants just before Christmas 2016 and 2017. A total of 272 people took part in the study, 78% of them women. The researchers took the first weight measurements in November, then followed up in January.
Focus on self-monitoring through regular weight gain
The researchers divided the participants into an intervention group and a control group. Members of the intervention group were asked to record their weight at least twice a week, but preferably more often.
Regular weighing and recording of weight to check progress toward a goal (self-monitoring) has been shown to be an effective behavioral intervention in weight management programs. The researchers encouraged participants in the intervention group to think about their weight and how it changed over time. As the authors explain, the intervention “was designed to promote calorie restriction.
Additionally, attendees received weight management tips and a list of party foods along with information on how much physical activity is needed to burn the calories of each food consumed. For example, it would take them 21 minutes of running to burn the calories of a quiche Lorraine.
The control group, on the other hand, received only a flyer on healthy lifestyles.
Did it work?
After adjusting the data to account for the variables; the researchers found that people in the intervention group gained less weight than those in the control group, an average of 0.49 kg less. People in the intervention group were also more restrained, managing to limit their calorie intake more than those in the control group.
Although the difference in weight gain was smaller than the researchers had hoped, they are still excited about the results.
Since the holiday season is an annual event, even if people prevent only a small amount of weight gain each year, it can add up to a considerable amount over a lifetime.
The authors note some shortcomings in their study. For example, it focused on a relatively small group of people and the duration of follow-up was quite short. However, the results deserve follow-up. Lifestyle change is a challenge, but shorter periods of focus on weight management may be more achievable for some people.
This kind of simple tactic could help prevent weight gain in the population during high-risk times like the holiday season.
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