Ep. 13 – Limiting weight gain this holiday season
The holiday season is upon us. This is the time when food is plentiful for most people and foods found only at this time of the year. Do you have a plan for limiting your weight gain this year? Dr. Chet talks about strategies that may help, but it all depends on you
Welcome to Straight Talk on Health, I’m your host Dr. Chet Zelasko. Together with WGVU in Grand Rapids, Michigan I examined the latest and greatest new world of health. Whether it's research that makes headlines, another miracle diet, a new supplement or an exercise trend. I look at the science behind them and let you know whether it's real or not. You can check out the other things that I do on my website drchet.com. And please sign up for my free emails.
Now, as I record this we are into the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday season. And the thing that I get asked a lot is this is the season to gain weight. Doctor, Chet, it's going to start on Thanksgiving and we're really into it big time now. How can I stop from gaining all the weight that I typically gain over the holiday season? Well, if I was an expert at that, I wouldn't gain any weight in, you know, pretty much I don't.
So I'm going to turn to the research first before I give you some personal observations about what I do in order to control my weight. And I'm not going to tell you a marvelous at it, I’m not. But digging into the research, I think can sort of open and see if there are any trends, you gain the experience of people who've done it. And to do that, we're going to look at a couple studies that basically what they do are these are members of weight loss registries.
There's one that I've talked about many times before. It's the National Weight Control Registry. And in order to join that club, you have to have lost 30 pounds or more and then maintained it. And so a long time ago and this is a study from the Journal of Consulting Clinical psychologist in 2008. And, you know, when you look at research, good research stands the test of time. Now, there may be the developing new technologies that are used. There may be other ways of assessing things, but good research stands the test of time. And so that's one of the reasons that I'm going back to this one. You know, I've told you about what the National Weight Control Registry is. And essentially the question that we're looking at here is should you have a strict polity eating strategy if you lost weight. The last thing that you want to do is see it again.
So what are you going to do? Well, here's what here's what researchers did way back then. They took a group of recent additions to the study. So these newbies, these were people who lost weight but and maintained it for year. Remember the 30 pounds, but they were relatively new. This would have been their first holiday season after they qualified to be in the registry. And you what they did is they ask them specific questions about their strategies during the holiday season. What were they going to do? And then they tracked how they did you ask people how are you going to do? And some people will say and just going to relax and enjoy it. Other people were going stick to the plan. And then they compared that with a group of normal weight controls and they did the same thing. They asked them what they were going to do to prevent weight gain over the holidays and then they tracked them. Now most of the experimental group, the people that were in the registry said they were going to follow their typical routine as related to diet and exercise plan. Now exercise that's not as hard as diet. Diet can be tricky what they are going to do is try to follow their normal weight loss routine.
Now, the normal weight individuals, he didn't really have any special plans. So they just went around eating what they want to do. Now. Most successful losers did follow their plan, although based on interviews with them, it was more difficult during the holiday season about the same percentage of successful losers and normal-weight subjects gained weight, maintain their weight or in fact, lost weight during the holiday season. So from a percentage perspective, they were all about equal. The difference was that the successful losers, those who continue to lose weight founded a whole lot more challenging to do based on their responses to the survey questions. So is having its strict control over your diet and exercise the best way to approach the holidays. I think for some people it may be. But let's take a look at another approach in this particular case.
Let's look at a relaxed holiday eating plan. Now. This is from the journal Nutrition, which is part of the British Medical Journal group of Journals. So what did they do in this study? Well, in this case, they look at the Portuguese weight control registry. Now it's similar to the National Weight Control Registry. We have in the United States, but the amount that they lost and maintain was different. It was 11 pounds. And again, they still have to keep the weight off for at least a year to maintain it. The researchers asked what technique participants used for weight maintenance, comparing weekdays versus weekends and holidays versus non-holidays.
And you know that when you think about it, that's very similar to the 5 to fasting program that's going around now. And this is this is a study that was done in a 2019. So it's fairly recent. The subject, who relaxed their eating plan on weekends maintain their weight loss better than those who strictly adhered to their diet and exercise program compared with holiday and non-holidays habits didn't show any differences in weight regain. There were a significant number of subjects who dropped out, but it that could probably impact results was a relaxed approach better again, I think it comes to your mental preparation. If you're say that I'm going to goes in this party and many have this Thanksgiving dinner, I'm going to have Christmas and going to have the holiday parties, New Year's Eve parties. If you're going to relax during those times, but then get back on track, if you can do that and it's not a way of moving towards eating whatever you want, then I think that's fine. But there are some people who feel that discipline would be better for them.
And so that may be that following your adherence to your program might be the best thing to do. But there may be a tool that you can use to help you. So the registries are not perfect. You're looking at a large group of people. You're not tracking them each and every day. But what if you could? What if you could track one metric? Because people didn't say anything in the journal, but do they do it?
The study published in the journal Obesity in 2019 took a look at a metric. And in this case, what did they look at? Weight loss? No they didn’t look at weight loss. They looked at people who weighed themselves. Now, that hard metric body weight. You can't mess around with it because not only did they have the people weigh themselves on a regular basis. They also connected via Wi-Fi to the Internet. So once they stepped in this scale, not only did they know what they weigh, whether they were gaining or losing weight. So did the researchers. Fascinating study.
So here's the way they did. They recruited subjects who were overweight and obese but have been losing weight. Plus, you guessed it a group of normal weight subjects. They further divided. The 2 groups in 2 control groups, an experimental groups. The control group simply weighed in before the holiday season begin at Thanksgiving and then after the season ended on January 1st and then again, they weigh them a month later. Now, here's the difference. The experimental groups also weighed in during those times. But in addition, they were told to weigh in every day using that scale with the Wi-Fi access, their results were displayed graphically so they can chart their progress.
What happened? You could probably predict this, to control groups, whether overweight or obese or normal weight gained an average of close to 6 pounds during the holiday season. Those that were normal weight who weigh themselves daily maintain their weight. Those who are were overweight and obese continued to lose weight, losing on average 2 and a half pounds. At the one-month follow-up, the control group lost only have to wait that gained over those holidays. Now the researchers speculated that the annual holiday weight gain becomes cumulative and ends up being permanent over the years.
So what's the bottom line? What's the best strategy for holiday eating? Well, I think there there's a couple things that I would recommend then the things that I do when it's time to relax and have that mashed potatoes and gravy and stuffing or whatever does it for you, relax that day and have it okay. But then get back on not overdoing it every week. Second thing, You've got to exercise. Don't change your exercise program. If you've got to do something at home instead of going into a gym, find a way to get it done. And then the third thing is I would recommend that you weigh yourself each and every day. That's the only way you know exactly where you are and your weights going to fluctuate a little bit of carbs and you’ll retain fluid, not so much carbs and you may lose pounds. You're not gaining or losing. Look at the average of it in my opinion, that's the way to control your weight vest so that you don't gain the now holiday weight. That's all the time we have for the show until next time. This is Dr. Chet Zelasko saying health is choice, people, choose wisely today and every day.
Narr: Straight Talk on Health with Dr. Chet Zelasko was recorded in the studios of WGVU Public Radio in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The views and opinions expressed on Straight Talk on Health are not necessarily those of WGVU, its underwriters, or Grand Valley State University. Episodes are found at wgvunews.org and wherever you get your podcast, please rate and subscribe.