A study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that the average American gains just under 1 pound during the holiday season. That might not sound like a lot, but studies also show that this weight is often not lost once spring and summer roll around. Add that to the so-called “Quarantine 15” (the weight people say they have gained during this pandemic) and this year the pounds can really add up.
So why do we gain weight this time of year?
“Many people who generally manage their weight year round, may feel a lack of control over the holidays, especially after such a trying year,” says Jayne A. Lieb, MD, FACS, FASMBS, a bariatric (weight-loss) surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital and an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. “Many experienced a loss of control when quarantine orders caused dramatic changes to our regular daily routines. The holidays also disrupt our regular routine and put us around more food and higher-calorie meals. Additionally, social stressors may be different this year with more time indoors with close family than ever before.”
When holiday weight gain isn’t then lost, the cycle of weight gain over one’s lifetime may continue, which can increase the risk of many diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, Dr. Lieb says.
Here, Dr. Lieb offers strategies for keeping your weight in check while also enjoying the holidays.
Continue to Stick to a Routine
It is easy to deviate from structured mealtimes and usual exercise in the name of celebration. This lack of structure may increase one’s tendency to overeat at holiday events or gravitate toward high-sugar food choices.
Eat Protein in the Morning
A high protein breakfast can keep blood sugar and “hunger hormones” more stable throughout the day, which can help control appetite. Some suggestions: egg-white omelets, Greek yogurt, and protein shakes.
Get Adequate Sleep
While we may not be out late at large holiday events this year, one can easily disrupt a sleep routine by staying up late if they are off from work the next day. Too little sleep or nonrestorative sleep may stimulate weight gain-inducing hormones.
Many people enjoy a few more drinks than their norm over the holidays, but a significant increase in alcohol — especially mixed drinks with high-sugar content — can lead to increased caloric intake. Sticking to clear liquors with club soda while limiting beer, wine, and mixed drinks is a good approach.
Exercise Early in the Day
Getting even 10 minutes of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) in at the start of the day will keep your metabolism revved and ensure you don’t miss a workout if your day gets busy later on.
Try a Protein Preload
Having a protein-rich snack, like a shake or bar an hour before an event will allow for more self-control.
Fill up on vegetables before you reach for the high-carbohydrate hors d’oeuvres. Starting the evening with crudites will lead to longer-lasting fullness and less space for non-nutritious foods.
Don’t Deprive Yourself
The holidays are a fun time to enjoy many types of food. Indulge mindfully by eating small portions of several things you want to taste rather than filling your plate with large portions of a few dishes.
Jayne A. Lieb, MD, FACS, FASMBS, is a General and Bariatric Surgeon practicing within New York-Presbyterian Medical Group Hudson Valley and an assistant professor of surgery at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. She specializes in surgery for obesity and other related diseases and performs a variety of laparoscopic, robotic and minimally invasive surgical procedures. Dr. Lieb is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the American Society Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.
To make an appointment with Dr. Lieb, call (914) 293-8600 or visit nyp.org/medgrouphudsonvalley. Visit healthmatters.nyp.org for more news and information about science, care and wellness.