How Much Weight Do People Gain at
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November 22, 2015
By Susan Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist





How is Thanksgiving like the stock market?  The stock market
may go up 10% in a year but that doesn’t mean that it goes up
every day. In fact there are only a certain number of days in an
average year in which the market goes up. The other days are a
flatline or barely move. If you miss out on investing your money
on those few days, you miss the whole bonanza for the year.   


Your weight is like that too.


It may surprise you to learn that, if you are overweight, your
weight barely moves for most of the year.  Sure, you go up or
down a bit but it usually settles back to where it started.This
teeter-tottering goes on throughout the year until you hit a few
special days.   There are only a few predictable periods of time
when you gain most of the weight you will gain for the entire
year. One of those days is, drum roll...Thanksgiving.


Scientists from the University of Oklahoma conducted a study in
2006 to try to learn just how much weight college students gain
during the Thanksgiving holidays. For the experiment, they
chose 94 students who were fit and normal weight and also
students who, were overweight.



They weighed the students before they left to go home for
Thanksgiving. Then, they compared that weight to the weight of
the students when they go back to campus after Thanksgiving.


Here is what they found.  The overweight students, on average
gained an extra kilogram, 2.2 pounds, over the Thanksgiving
holidays. The only students who did not gain weight were the
ones who started out as normal weight before Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Pounds Are "Permanent Pounds"




























What’s the big deal about gaining a couple of pounds over
Thanksgiving?  Well, it turns out that it is a very big deal for one
important reason.  The weight that we gain over Thanksgiving
tends to stick around, for years, scientists have found. These
pounds we gain at Thanksgiving become, in many cases,
permanent pounds.


In a study in 2000 by Dr. J. A. Yanovski  and Dr. Susan Yanovski,
both of the National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development, National Institutes of Health, scientists conducted
an experiment to discover when people gain weight during the
year.  They examined the body weight of 195 adults in the
period leading up to the holidays, from late September  to the
middle of  November.  They kept measuring for the holiday
period, from mid-November to mid-January, and after the
holidays, from early January to early March.


Compared to their weight before the holidays, people gained an
average of about half a kilogram, 1 pound.  But here’s what’s
really important. When the scientists looked at their weight after
the holiday period, in March, they discovered that the extra
pound was still there. People who gained weight over the
holidays kept that weight on.

As the scientists observed ominously,”Since this gain is not
reversed during the spring or summer months…[the] weight
gain in the fall and winter probably contributes to the increase in
body weight that frequently occurs during adulthood.”



Over a 10-year period, the extra  2.2 pounds that you gain each
year at Thanksgiving translates to an extra 22 pounds of fat. By
the time you hit age 40, you would have gained an extra 44
pounds.   


When you think about, that extra 40 pounds or so more or less
matches the extra weight we Americans carry on average into
our 50’s and 60’s.  


Can Exercising Keep the Extra Holiday Pounds Off?


If you know that you’re going to eat more during the holidays,
can  extra exercise session help to combat the weight gain?
Surprisingly, the answer is “probably not”.



In 2013, scientists from Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX set
out to answer this precise question. They looked at 148 people
between the ages of 18 and 65, who on average were at a
healthy body weight. They weighed the participants before the
holidays and after.  Some of the participants were also put on
exercise routines of 4.8  hours per week.


After the holidays, the scientists discovered that the participants
gained 0.78 kilograms, 1.76 pounds, over the holidays.  Those
who exercised gained just as much as those who did not.

Again the scientists noted that the pounds we gain over the
holidays are responsible for almost all of the weight we put on
during the year.

Of course, the study did not look at the effects of doing intensive
exercise for more than 5 hours a week. But who are we kidding?
Few of us will do more than 5 hours of exercise a week and even
5 hours didn’t reverse the weight loss in the study.


People Eat More in the Presence of Others


One of the reasons we gain more during the holidays is that we
are eating together, as a family.


Scientists have discovered that we humans eat more when we
eat in the presence of others. Dr. John de Castro of Georgia
State University  conducted a series of experiments in 19995 on
people who lived in community settings. He took 7-day food
diaries of the participants measuring how much they ate when
alone versus how much they ate when others were present.  


What Dr.  de Castro found was that, on average we eat 44%
more in the presence of others.


We also eat more because more food is put in front of us during
the holidays. In 2002, scientists from The Pennsylvania State
University found that people ate 30% more when larger portion
sizes were put in front of them.



What Is the Best Pre-Holiday Game Plan to Avoid Weight Gain?


Given that most of us would not want to shut ourselves away in
a room to eat alone, are there effective strategies you can use to
limit the damage to your weight loss goals inflicted by the
holidays?


The best strategy is to plan a lower calorie Thanksgiving meal. If
the meal prep is out of your control, the second best strategy is
to limit your portion control. How?  


Fill up your stomach with a glass of water before the meal starts.
Skip the wine.


Pass up opportunities to eat bread or stuffing to cut down on
carbs.  In this way, you at least “save a little room” for that
inevitable pumpkin or sweet potato pie dessert coming up.


Add an extra serving of beans.  Try to skip or cut back on the
gravy.


Try to eat one serving of the meat. Or, if you have to have
seconds, again skip the gravy.


Eat your protein and vegetable before your carbs. Studies have
found that this helps to
lower your blood sugar which will help
with weight loss.


When you gather for Thanksgiving, remind yourself that one of
the best gifts you should be thankful for is simply making it to
another Thanksgiving. Give thanks for your health and maintain
it by creating barriers between you and overeating during the
holidays. Otherwise, the bad effects of that Thanksgiving meal
on your health will be with you for decades to come.


































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