Weekend feasting may be the culprit for yearly weight gain
True or false? The average person gains seven pounds during the holiday season.
The answer is false, at least based on one study in a small sample of about 200 adults that found the average weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day was slightly less than one pound. However, overweight adults were more likely to gain more than five pounds and, perhaps more importantly, the weight gain seemed to be permanent. The people who gained weight carried the excess pounds to the next holiday season.
Maybe we are focusing too much on holiday weight gain and not paying attention to a real cause of weight creep - weekend eating. Dawn Jackson Blatner, registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, believes that we ought to be more aware of what we eat Friday through Sunday.
Researchers found that in the 19- to 50-year-old age group, the average calorie increase was 115 calories each day for a total of an extra 350 calories Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
"Do the math," says Blatner, "52 weekends a year times 350 calories equals an excess of 18,200 calories, for a potential weight gain of five pounds a year."
While the researchers couldn't point to particular foods that caused the weight gain, they did find that the calorie increase was coming from two sources: alcohol and fat. "Dietitians know that people eat differently on the weekends than during the week," Blatner says, "but this study validates that by focusing on small changes in our weekend eating and drinking habits, we can curtail weight gain."
And "with these seven small changes the grand total weekend calorie savings is about 620 calories, nearly double the 350 calorie excess that most people overeat on the weekends," says Blatner.
Dawn Jackson Blatner offers the following plan to shave calories off each weekend activity.
FRIDAY NIGHT HAPPY HOUR - Drink light beer (100 calories) instead of beer (150 calories) and save 50 calories. If you drink vodka tonic (180 calories) switch to vodka and club soda (100 calories) and save 80 calories.
FRIDAY NIGHT PIZZA PARTY - Try two slices of cheese pizza with mushrooms instead of two slices of pepperoni pizza, for a 100-calorie savings.
SATURDAY SHOPPING AT THE MALL - Drink a 16-ounce cappuccino with low-fat milk (140 calories) in place of a 16-ounce latte with low-fat milk (190 calories) and save 50 calories. Skip the cheese on a fast-food burger (250 calories versus 300 calories), for a 50-calorie savings.
SATURDAY NIGHT OUT - Choose a baked potato (128 calories) instead of mashed potatoes (237 calories) to save 109 calories.
SUNDAY BREAKFAST - Skip the two pats of butter on your pancakes. Use syrup but no butter and save 72 calories.
SUNDAY SNACK - A taffy apple with nuts is 300 calories. Without the nuts, it is 140 calories, for a 160-calorie savings.