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Jan 23rd 2024

Holiday Overeating May Have Long-Term Consequences

. . . a month of gluttony encourages weight gain years later in Swedish study Thanksgiving can be the start of one long holiday eating binge that doesn’t end until the New Year. There seems to be an instinctive tendency to become less active and eat more mid-winter. Yielding to this urge as well as to all the goodies that surround us, we say, “Oh well, I may put on a few pounds during the holidays, but I’ll lose them once the holidays are over.” But pounds gained during the holidays may be harder to lose than we anticipate. A 2010 Swedish study found apparent long-term metabolic changes from a month of over-eating combined with lack of exercise. A group of healthy twenty-somethings of normal weight were asked to limit their physical activity to 5,000 steps per day (monitored by a pedometer) and substantially overeat (they ate about 70% more than usual, with an emphasis on fast food) for 4 weeks while a similar group continued eating and exercising as they normally would. The over-eaters gained an average of 13 pounds, while the normal eaters maintained their weight. Although the over-eaters lost more than 10 pounds of the weight they had gained over the next 6 months as they went back to their usual eating and exercise habits, they retained some of the extra weight. The real kicker came two and a half years later. While the normal eaters had maintained the same weight, the over-eaters had gained on average almost 7 pounds! Apparently the month of gluttony had altered their metabolism long-term! While most of us aren’t going to eat 70% more calories than normal daily, binging during the holidays on unhealthy food (often followed by the even more dangerous penitence of the starvation diet)  is a cultural habit we all need to break. Historically, feasting occurred in the context of food scarcity; many pilgrims starved to death before stable food sources were established. They had good reason to celebrate food abundance. We don’t need to celebrate food abundance anymore. We are surrounded by it daily. How much more appropriate it would be on Thanksgiving to share a delicious but light and healthy meal with loved ones, and focus our attention less on food and more on reflecting on the past year and what in it we’ve been especially grateful for.  
Ernersson A, Long-term increase of fat mass after a four week intervention with fast food based hyper-alimentation and limitation of physical activity. Nutrition and Metabolism. August 2010;7:68.




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