Simple measures to prevent weight gain over Christmas

Christmas time is usually a time of indulgence that leads to unwanted weight gain. A new study has shown that if simple weight loss tips are followed and individuals weigh themselves regularly at home, this weight gain can be avoided.

This is the first study of its kind called the Winter Weight Watch Study the results of which are published in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal.

Image Credit: Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock

The study was titled, “Effectiveness of a brief behavioural intervention to prevent weight gain over the Christmas holiday period: randomised controlled trial”.

The study from Universities of Birmingham and Loughborough looked at 272 volunteers who were divided into two groups between the months of November and December of 2016 and 2017. One of the groups was called the “intervention group”. This group weighed themselves regularly and recorded the weight in a record card. They were provided with tips to keep weight away during the festive season. They were given a simple 10 tips guide about the amount of exercise they would need to burn the calories consumed in Christmas food.

At the end of the study this group weighed an average of 1lb (0.49kg) less compared to the other group called the “comparison group.” This comparison group were not asked to weigh themselves regularly and were only provided with an educational leaflet about healthy lifestyle and were not given dietary advice. The weight and other parameters were measured again for the participants in January and February in the following year.

The 10 tips given to the intervention group were;

  1. Routine meals at around same time each day
  2. Choice of reduced fat foods over fatty foods
  3. Walking at least 10,000 steps per day
  4. Choice of healthy snacks such as fruits or low calorie yoghurts.
  5. Understanding food labels and choose foods with less sugar and fats
  6. Intake of smaller food portions
  7. Stay upright standing for at least 10 minutes per hour each waking hour
  8. Choice of water and sugar free squash over sugary drinks and alcohol. Limit alcohol to one a day for women and two a day for men
  9. Eating slowly and focus on the food.
  10. Eating at least five portions (400gms) of fruits and vegetables per day

The study was led by Frances Mason, of the University of Birmingham's Institute of Applied Health Research who believes that weight gain during the festive season, if prevented could help prevent long term obesity as well. She said, “People gain a kilo of weight on average annually.

Often this weight gain happens at Christmas, and is never fully lost. This could possibly be a factor driving the obesity epidemic.” She added that there are small changes that can be made to prevent the weight gain. “It's small changes like say instead of consuming five pigs-in-blankets, consume one or two. Or make sure you get out of the house for a walk. Research shows people underestimate calories, and overestimate their calorie expenditure. This is why accurate self-monitoring is an effective strategy for weight management.”

Corresponding author Dr Amanda Farley, lecturer in public health and epidemiology at the University of Birmingham said in a statement, “The results of this study are encouraging. The information given to participants was tailored to the local cultural context but could also easily be adapted for use in other settings and countries.”

The study was supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and funded by the University of Birmingham.

Ananya Mandal

Written by

Ananya Mandal

Ananya is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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