Vanillekipferl, mulled wine, speculoos: The Christmas season is a feast of pounds for many people. However, it seems sufficient to follow a series of simple tips to avoid the dreaded holiday packages – at least that’s the result of a study by six women researchers from the UK universities of Birmingham and Loughborough, which they present in the medical journal „The BMJ“.
There is no new insight that the time to the end of the year is a challenge for the lean left: the Germans are the thickest ten days after Christmas, and in 2016 US researchers from Cornell University found out. On average, participants of the corresponding experiment on the holidays at that time increased 0.6 percent. The problem: The fat pads chewed over the contemplative days take much longer to melt again – if at all.
Much of the year’s increase is due to Christmas time
As Amanda Daley, a behavioral doctor and author of the current study, explains: „On average, people take up to a kilo over the year.“ However, a large part of this increase is due to the Christmas season. „Weight gained during the holidays is often lost,“ notes the Loughborough University researcher. An increase of one kilo in itself is not much. However, over ten years, the increase would be significant.
However, given the many temptations in December, even the most disciplined people find it hard to restrain their calorie intake. „On Christmas Day alone, up to 6,000 calories are consumed – three times more than the recommended daily intake,“ says lead author Frances Mason, a nutritionist at Birmingham University.
„Winter Weight Watch Study“
Under the name „Winter Weight Watch Study“, the researchers tested recommendations for action in 2016 and 2017 that were intended to discourage gluttony. To this end, they divided 272 volunteers with an average age of 44 into two groups. The intervention group was asked to weigh at least twice a week, ideally every day, and to record the weight in writing.
In addition, the subjects were given ten simple tips to not increase. This included eating at the same times whenever possible, eating reduced-fat foods, walking 10,000 steps a day, grabbing healthy snacks and eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and no meals along the way, such as watching TV to consume. In addition, participants should look for hidden sugars and fats, as well as calories in drinks and their portion sizes.
Avoid sitting too long
Too long sitting should also be avoided: For example, subjects in the intervention group were advised to get up every hour for ten minutes during the day. At the same time they got an overview of how much physical activity is needed to burn popular Christmas treats. For example, you have to run for 21 minutes to get rid of the traditional English holiday pastry „Mince Pie“, but for a small glass of mulled wine you have to go 33 minutes.
In contrast, the peer group received only a general info sheet on healthy lifestyle without nutritional advice. All participants were surveyed and weighed in November and December as well as in January and February of the investigation years. In fact, the members of the peer group increased in the period on average 0.37 kilograms, while those of the intervention group even decreased 0.13 kilos. The difference was about one pound.
„Even short intervention over Christmas time can help“
The researchers concluded from these results that the intervention group was more disciplined with the help of recommendations and regular weighing. „Our research shows that even a brief intervention over the holiday season can help prevent the small weight gains that accumulate and drive the obesity epidemic,“ says behavioral therapist Daley.
Accordingly, healthcare professionals should consider such simple programs that „prevent population weight gain during a high-risk period, such as holidays,“ concludes the study, which was supported by the UK’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).