Party season is coming, and so are the finger foods, eggnog and other goodies. Sure, the occasional treat is fine in a balanced, healthy diet, but overindulging for a few weeks could lead to permanent weight gain, according to a recent study. Researchers from Linköping University in Sweden compared subjects who increased their caloric intake over four weeks with those who did not. A couple of years later, they found that the first group’even those who lost the weight they’d gained after the high-calorie period’weighed an average of three kilograms (around seven pounds) more than the second group.
‘It seems that a short period of overeating may cause long-term increase of fat mass,’ says Asa Ernersson, one of the study’s authors. ‘We concluded that short periods of overindulgence should be avoided.’
We asked Sharla Stoffman, a registered dietitian with Nutriworks Nutrition Consulting in Calgary, for some advice on how to brace ourselves for party season:
A few weeks before a big party
‘ Do not drastically reduce your calorie intake to ‘make room.’ It can lower your metabolic rate, making it tougher for your body to burn those extra calories.
‘ Ramp up your exercise routine, including cardiovascular and weight training. This may help you drop a couple of pounds’and therefore ‘break even’ when the holidays are over.
A week before a big party
‘ Alcohol depletes vitamins B and C, and thiamine. So be sure to maintain healthy levels of these nutrients by eating grains and a variety of fruit and vegetables.
‘ Buy snacks you can keep in the car (like nuts) so you’re not starving between shopping and visiting family.
‘ Make sure you get enough sleep. This can help you avoid added pounds, says Stoffman; lack of sleep has been tied to weight gain.
A few hours before the party
‘ Remember to drink water. ‘Thirst can often be confused as hunger,’ she says.”If you’re well hydrated, you’re less likely to snack.’
‘ Don’t skip a meal to save calories; it’s worse to go to a party hungry. Eat a healthy snack before you go out’like’a bowl of cereal or a sandwich.
While you’re at the party
‘ ‘Have one plate of food with normal portion sizes,‘ Stoffman says. Do include some treats. Enjoy the food, then put the plate down and go talk with other guests.
This article was originally titled "Party Countdown," in the November/December 2010 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!’and make sure to check out what’s new in the latest issue of Best Health.