Vacation season is here: Study offers unique suggestion to avoid weight gain

A University of Georgia study suggests a simple solution to prevent weight gain during vacation: Step on the weighing scale every day.

ByChetana Belagere

Published Dec 27, 2023 | 4:39 AMUpdatedDec 27, 2023 | 8:50 AM

Vacation season is here: Study offers unique suggestion to avoid weight gain

As people enter the vacation season, a common concern is how to prevent gaining extra weight during the holidays.

Here’s a novel suggestion that this study offers: Step on the scale every single day!

“If you are trying to avoid that extra weight come 2 January, taking a minute each day to simply step on the scale may be all it takes to keep off the extra weight this holiday season,” says the study.

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What did the study find?

The study, which was conducted at the University of Georgia, took an experimental group weighed themselves every day for 14 weeks beginning before the holiday season and ending after all the celebrations typically stopped.

Participants used university scales that also had information on weight fluctuations and targets.

Meanwhile, members of a control group that was part of the research were not asked to weigh themselves each day.

They were instead instructed to do their best not to gain weight. However, they weren’t given any instruction on how to go about avoiding weight gain.

Interestingly, across both groups, 111 adults between the ages of 18 and 65 were part of the research.

They found that the self-weighing experimental group had successfully avoided gaining weight over the holidays, with some even managing to shed some pounds too.

Conversely, participants in the control group gained weight.

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Aspects of the ‘solution’

Researchers claim that being constantly exposed to their own weight fluctuations and being provided with a visual target weight every single day helped the experimental group stay dedicated to their diets.

Lead author Jamie Cooper, an associate professor with the Department of Foods and Nutrition at the University of Georgia, said in a statement, “The subjects themselves selected how they were going to modify their behaviour, which could be effective, because we all know that interventions are not one-size-fits-all.”

However, co-author Michelle vanDellen, an associate professor of psychology at the UGA, said these results validated the theory that people became especially motivated when they were faced with concrete evidence of changes in their body — like appearance and performance.

“When people see that they are not achieving their target every single day, it tends to lead to behavioural change and daily self-weighing ends up doing that for people in a really clear way,” she said.

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The details behind ‘holiday meals’

Agreeing with the study, that checking weight every day could help keep people motivated to ensure they did not put on weight, metabolic health coach and low-carb-diet practitioner Shashikant Iyengar explained that people tend to gain weight due to a combination of factors.

“Increased caloric intake is common. Holiday meals and treats are often rich in calories, refined carbs, sugar, and fat,” he explained.

“Social gatherings centred around food encourage overeating, while the disruption of normal routines often leads to reduced physical activity, especially in colder weather,” said Iyengar.

Meanwhile increased alcohol consumption, which is typical during holiday festivities, contributes additional calories and can lead to less mindful eating choices, adds Shashikant Iyengar.

He advises consuming low-carb foods and starting meals with protein-rich options such as chicken or paneer to promote fullness and reduce carbohydrate intake. Additionally, he emphasises the importance of incorporating at least half an hour of walking into one’s daily routine, even while on vacation, to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“We suggest to eat food that is low carb, fill their stomach with protein starters like chicken, paneer etc so that it is filling and the carb intake goes less. Also, it would be best to try and accommodate half an hour of walk even during vacations,” he added.

Swetha Adarsh, a nutritionist based in Bengaluru, says from her clinical observations and several studies, an average of 200-480 grams of weight gain is possible per day during vacations. That will account to about 2kgs if a person goes on a vacation for three days.

“There are many reasons including lack of exercise, choice of food that we eat, lethargic lifestyle during vacations, calorie-rich food that we consume, can all add to weight gain,” explains Swetha.

She says, many people tend to go off the diet as the group they are with, especially women, may make fun of them when they decide to eat healthy on a vacation.

However, Swetha doesn’t agree with checking weight every day. She said that even though one was working out, following a diet every day was no guarantee to reduce weight and hence may become a demotivating factor.

They said was is better to check measurements of any kind-height, weight, chest circumference, must be seen only in appropriate intervals and not be stressed over it.

“Weight should not be checked every day it may push us into the pressure zone. We may start overthinking. We may go into a negative depressive mode of oh my effort is not paying off, instead. I should stop doing the diet,” she added.