Holiday Indulgence Can Lead to Winter Weight Gain

11/21/01    Portland, Ore.

The holiday season is an excuse for many people to indulge in rich, hearty food that add pleasure to their festive occasions. But as Americans reach for second helpings of their mother's famous recipe, they may be unaware of the heavy consequences. Winter weight gain is the term used to describe the extra pounds people put on from holiday feasting. According to William Connor, M.D., professor of medicine, (diabetes and endocrinology clinical nutrition), OHSU School of Medicine. "The overall clinical impression is that people, after the holidays, weigh more than before because of feasting and lack of physical activity."

An Oregon Health & Science University study conducted by Connor, his research partner and wife, Sonja Connor, R.D., research associate professor of medicine, (diabetes and endocrinology clinical nutrition), OHSU School of Medicine, and son Rodney Connor M.D., in the Sierra Madre Mountains of northern Mexico, focused on the diets of native Tarahumara Indians. The study identified the risks and consequences of turning from a healthy diet during the holiday season. The Connors fed the Indians a diet that was high in fat, cholesterol, sugar and calories, and low in complex carbohydrates and fiber, which is common of a traditional American holiday diet. The food was in stark contrast to the Indians normal diet of corn, beans, vegetables and small game. During the course of five weeks, the Indians gained weight and saw their cholesterol levels rise. "We think Americans gain about eight pounds," Connor said of the overall patterns during the holidays.

Connor states that there are ways Americans can avoid undesirable weight gain. He gives the following recommendations:

  • Use low-fat holiday recipes.
       
  • Eat smaller portion sizes.
       
  • Use a small plate to help regulate food portions.
       
  • Exercise regularly, and even more so when eating high-fat foods.

Connor practices what he preaches -- at age 80 he still rides his bike daily and participates in his family's annual Thanksgiving hike. He has co-authored three cookbooks with his wife, Sonja. The cookbooks have a wide variety of low-fat recipes. Low-fat versions of traditional holiday recipes such as pumpkin pie and egg nog, along with new, tasty additions such as a "holiday wreath salad can be found in "The New American Diet System."

Connor believes the best way to avoid winter weight gain is through prevention. He says that sometimes people cannot lose the weight they gain and every holiday season their weight increases. So the most effective solution to winter weight gain, is a little self-discipline. For free sample recipes from "The New American Diet System" and "The New American Diet Cookbook," visit www. ohsu.edu/news/112001recipes.html.

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