Vanilla crescents, gluhwein, speculoos: the christmas season is a time of pounds for many people.
Apparently, however, it is enough to follow a series of simple tips to avoid the furrowed holiday kilos – at least that is the result of a study by six researchers from the british universities of birmingham and loughborough, which they present in the medical journal "the BMJ".
The fact that the end of the year is a challenge for the slim left is nothing new: germans are at their fattest ten days after christmas, US researchers from cornell university found back in 2016. On average, participants in the corresponding experiment gained 0.6 percent over the holidays.
The problem: the fat deposits accumulated over the festive season take much longer to melt away – if at all. As amanda daley, a behavioral health specialist and author of the current study, explains: "on average, people gain up to one kilo over the year."However, a large part of this increase is due to the christmas period. "Weight gained during the holidays is often not lost again," the loughborough university scientist now notes.
A gain of one kilo is not much in itself. Over ten years, however, the increase has been considerable. However, with so many temptations in december, even the most disciplined people find it hard to hold back on calorie intake. "On christmas day alone, people consume up to 6,000 calories – three times the recommended daily intake," emphasizes first author frances mason, a nutritionist at the university of birmingham.
Under the name "winter weight watch study," the researchers tested recommended actions in 2016 and 2017 that were intended to keep people from eating too much. For this purpose, they divided 272 volunteers with an average age of 44 years into two groups. The intervention group was asked to weigh themselves at least twice a week, but ideally every day, and to record the weight in writing.
In addition, the test persons were given ten simple tips to avoid gaining weight. The new diet includes eating at the same times every day, eating low-fat meals, walking 10,000 steps a day, eating healthy snacks, eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and not eating meals while watching TV. In addition, participants should watch out for hidden sugars and fats, as well as calories in drinks and their portion sizes.
Sitting for too long should also be avoided: the subjects in the intervention group were advised to stand up for ten minutes every hour 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, it takes 21 minutes of running to work off the traditional english holiday pastry "mince pie", while a small glass of gluhwein requires 33 minutes of walking.
In contrast, the comparison group received only a general information leaflet on healthy living, without any nutritional advice. All participants were measured and weighed in november and december as well as in january and february of the years under investigation.
In fact, members of the comparison group gained an average of 0.37 kilograms over the period, while those in the intervention group actually lost 0.13 kilograms. The difference was about one pound.
The scientists concluded from these results that the intervention group was more likely to discipline itself with the help of the recommendations and regular weighing. "Our research shows that even a brief intervention over the christmas season can help prevent the small weight gains that accumulate and drive the obesity epidemic," summarizes behavioral health specialist daley.
Accordingly, healthcare decision-makers should consider such simple programs that "prevent weight gain in the population at a high-risk time like the holidays," concludes the study, which was supported by the UK’s national institute for health research (NIHR).