Mohave County
May 2024
Volume 24 Issue 3

Holiday weight gain may have long-term impact

Health, January 2024, Journal | 0 comments

January 2024

Overindulgences over the winter holidays may have long-term effects, some researchers argue. Obesity is the fifth leading cause of death around the world. In their recent systematic review, experts in Romania observed that people are more likely to gain and keep extra weight during the winter holidays.
The researchers found that people with obesity perceive food differently than those with lower body mass indices (BMIs), which can lead to increased caloric intake. They say that ‘comprehensive’ and ‘persistent intervention and support’ may effectively counter the progression of the disease.
Obesity is an increasingly prevalent and chronic disease, strongly associated with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. Research suggests that the winter holiday season, from the last week of November to the first or second week of January, can be a time of significant weight gain.
Medical specialists at the Grigore T. Popa University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Iasi, Romania, surveyed winter holiday dietary patterns, noting an overconsumption of high-calorie, high-sugar foods and drinks, along with decreased physical activity. They considered psychological factors and the nutritional makeup of popular festive foods.
Most people in the studies analyzed kept the weight they gained during the holiday season, especially those with obesity. This systematic review is believed to be the first to explore the significance of nutritional patterns during the winter holidays. The findings, published in Nutrients, aim to encourage behaviors linked to long-term success in weight management.
Older research suggested that Americans typically gain just under one pound during the holidays. However, this gain often does not reverse as seasons change, potentially contributing to gradually increasing weight over a person’s lifetime.
Dr. Steven Batash, a board-certified gastroenterologist, suggests that the holiday season can be stressful, leading to higher cortisol levels which may cause weight gain due to an increased urge to eat. He also noted that people might have up to 80% higher levels of melatonin during the winter holidays, disrupting sleep and increasing appetite.
Kelsey Costa, a registered dietitian, points out that the abundance of highly palatable and calorie-dense foods during this time is a significant contributor to overeating. The shift in dietary habits may be propelled by a ‘one-last-time to indulge’ attitude before adopting healthier habits in the new year.
Dr. Nilda Agnes Abellera, medical director of Infuze MD and The Superhuman Clinic, cautions against complacency in exercising during this period. She has observed some patients gain 5–10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s due to excess sugar and reduced physical activity.
The Grigore T. Popa University team conducted a systematic search of literature on eating behaviors and weight gain during the winter holidays. After screening 216 articles from 2013 to 2023, they focused on 10 that specifically addressed the topic. A total of 4,627 individuals were included in these studies, predominantly conducted in the United States, Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan.
The researchers found that typical winter holiday eating patterns consistently induced weight gain in people with normal or higher BMIs. Furthermore, individuals with obesity gained more weight than those with normal weight and had greater difficulty losing the extra pounds after the holiday season.
The study authors emphasize the need for developing effective strategies for fighting obesity, a condition often difficult to reverse once established. They suggest several tips for reducing the risk of weight gain during the winter holiday season, including adjusting meal consumption to smaller portions, opting for salads or sugar-free beverages, limiting screen time, checking food labels, managing stress, and finding an accountability partner for motivation.
—Jeanna D. Smiley

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