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Behavioural intervention can prevent holiday period weight gain

by Diana Khanna

For many, the holiday season is synonymous with calorie dense festive meals. An individual may consume three times the daily recommended calorie allowance during Christmas. A relaxed lifestyle and ample opportunities to indulge in high-calorie foods contribute to weight gain during the holidays.

It is shown that people gain between 0.4 and 0.9 kgs during the holiday season, which is not entirely lost afterward. Over the course of a decade, these small weight increases would result in an increase of 5-10 kg in body weight. This is enough to fuel an already escalating obesity epidemic.

A randomised controlled trial conducted by researchers at the University of Birmingham in the UK examined the effectiveness of a brief behavioural intervention designed to promote restrained eating and drinking during the Christmas holidays and prevent weight gain. Their study sample comprised intervention and comparator groups. Participants in the intervention group were instructed to self-monitor and record their weight at least twice a week and reflect on their weight trajectory. Additionally, they were provided with 10 tips for weight management and information on physical activity calorie equivalents (PACEs) of festive foods and drinks. Meanwhile, the comparator group only received a leaflet outlining healthy lifestyles with no dietary advice.

A multicomponent intervention prevented significant weight gain post-holiday season, compared with receiving only a leaflet. Participants in the intervention group also demostrated more restrained in their eating behaviours than those in the comparator group.

As shown in this study, a brief behavioural intervention such as this, which is relatively easy to implement, can effectively mitigate the risk of weight gain over the holiday period and contribute to obesity prevention initiatives.

In this study, prevention is better than cure. It emphasises preventing weight gain as opposed to treating established obesity through lifestyle changes that may have limited impact. Researchers recommend that health policymakers include interventions aimed at preventing weight gain during high-risk periods, such as holidays.

Photo by Jed Owen / Unsplash


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