“Some may not think that is a serious amount, but research shows us people usually do not lose the weight they have gained after the holidays are over, which could lead to them gaining 10 to 20 pounds in the next 10 years or so,” said Allison Childress, an instructor, registered dietitian and nutritionist at the university.
So what can you do to prevent this weight gain? Childress and Professor Debra Reed, another registered dietitian and nutritionist, bust some of the myths many rely on to justify all of those extra calories:
Myth: Christmas is only once a year. Fact: Today, people often eat like it's Christmas a few times a week, compared to three or four decades ago when binge-eating really did only happen during the holidays. And now "the holidays" have evolved into a month-long food and drink fest.
Myth: Splurging on a high-fat food is always a bad idea. Fact: Not so, but do it wisely and in small portions. Reed recommends party-goers first assess all of the food available and decide on one special treat, fill the rest of your plate with healthy foods and then, don't get seconds!
“There isn’t any food to absolutely avoid in order to stay healthy during the holidays,” Childress writes. “But it is important to watch your portion intake and pay attention to what your body is telling you so you don’t overeat.”
Myth: If a host puts the food away too early, people will want more of it. Fact: Party-goers will make socializing the focus of the party instead of food if the hostess puts the food away after a reasonable length of time. Leave the food out, and people will "graze all day," they write.
Myth: The end of November is a great time to start a diet. Fact: Most who diet during the holidays will fail, instead, they write, the goal should be to not gain any weight.
“Even people who are very, very successful weight maintainers struggle in the holidays,” Reed said. “It’s not a good time to lose weight.”
Myth: Liquid calories don’t count. Fact: A couple of cocktails (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) can have more calories than one meal, they write. Reed recommends having a favorite drink at a party, drink it slowly, and then switch to water.
Myth: Skipping meals will help keep calories down. Fact: This will likely cause you to eat more.
Myth: There is no way to avoid gaining weight in the holiday season and still have fun. Fact: There is a way, Make sure gatherings include healthy choices alongside the treats. If you are hosting, include fresh fruits and vegetables and find ways to make your favorite holiday dishes healthier. For example, switch to whole wheat flour, reduce the amount of sugar in recipes or use low-fat dairy products. It is also important to shift the focus from food to activities and social events.
“There are a lot of easy things to do that make a little bit of difference,” Reed writes.