Christmas is the worst time of year for weight gain.
Christmas is the worst time of year for weight gain.

Simple way to keep the kilos off

WE'RE about to hit holiday season and the endless amounts of food, booze and sitting around that comes with it.

It's also at this time that we are bombarded with warnings about Christmas weight.

The guilt and shame overwhelms us before we've even had a chance to tuck into some juicy turkey and fret over how we'll hit the beach with a summer-ready body after all the work we've done taking off the winter weight.

But it seems that guilt is actually a blessing in disguise.

Research has now shown that to keep the kilos off all you need to do is take notice of all that educational material and hit the scales.

In a UK study, half the participants regularly weighed themselves and were given pictures showing how much exercise they'd have to do to work off specific holiday foods.

The researchers found this group reached the goal of gaining no more than half a kilogram, but those only given a leaflet gained one kilo on average.

They say these "low intensity" interventions targeting high-risk periods such as Christmas could be important in preventing obesity.

On average, people gain a small amount of weight each year, between 0.4-1kg.

And studies have shown weight gained during holiday periods - the time where our weight peaks - is usually not fully lost.

"On Christmas Day alone an individual might consume 6000 calories, three times the recommended daily allowance," researchers wrote in the paper published in The BMJ this week.

"Characteristically people enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle and participate in more social events during the Christmas holiday period, which presents situations for increased energy intake."

University of Birmingham researchers recruited 272 adults with a range of weight categories prior to Christmas in 2016 and 2017.

They then checked them in November and followed up in January.

Most were white females, aged about 44 years and from areas of higher deprivation, taking part in the study for an average of 45 days.

When they were randomly divided into two groups, one was encouraged to record and reflect on their weight at least twice a week.

They also received tips on managing their weight and a list of physical activity calorie equivalents of popular festive foods and drinks.

For example, the calories in a mince pie require 21 minutes of running and a small glass of mulled wine requires 33 minutes of walking.

Their goal was to gain no more than 0.5kg of their baseline weight.

The other group received a healthy living leaflet with no dietary advice.

On average, participants in that comparison group gained some weight over Christmas but participants in the intervention group did not.

There was also a significant increase in restraint in the intervention group.

The researchers said although the difference in weight was marginally smaller than expected, it was still important because any weight gain prevented had a positive impact on health outcomes.

They said the results "should be considered by health policy makers to prevent weight gain in the population during high-risk periods such as holidays".