Post-Holiday Pig Outs: We're Eating More not Less

Patient Expert

It is no secret that Americans slam down fantastic amounts of food during a holiday period of overindulgence between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. It is also no secret that we often give some kind of verbal commitment on New Year's Eve to improve our slovenly habits beginning New Year's Day. But a third not-so-secret point is that we frequently fail to improve our habits, and that post-holiday season from New Year's Day to March becomes a period of  broken resolutions.  So just how badly do we fail?

Happy New Year Nothing Changes

While weight gain for most Americans across the six-week holiday period is only a few pounds, it is weight that is never taken off. Those who are overweight or obese also  gain an excessive number of pounds in the holiday period, and researchers have found that even after the six week holiday period, it all stays about the same, at least for a while.

Prof. Lizzy Pope of the University of Vermont, led a study as a post-doctoral researcher at Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab. She discovered people buy about twice as many calories per serving in food in the first three months of the new year, than they did during the holiday season.

Researchers reviewed shopping patterns among 200 New York state households based on how much was spent on groceries over three time periods: the holiday period from Thanksgiving to New Year's, the post-holiday period from New Year's until March, and the baseline amount from July to Thanksgiving.

The number of calories purchased each week increased 9.3% after the new year compared to the holiday period and increased 20% when compared to the baseline.

Americans buy about 440 extra calories per serving during the holiday season and another 450 calories per serving post-holidays. While a desire to change eating habits after the holidays have passed is sincere, the game plan leaves much to be desired. Although the purchase of healthy foods increases post-holidays, the purchase of less than healthy foods remains the same as during the holiday period.

Suggestions Anyone?Pope suggests using a written shopping list that can help to corral impulsive purchasing of non-healthy items. She also reminds us that not sticking to the list is going to produce a predictable result.

Pope also suggests swapping less-healthy foods with fresh produce, instead of just adding healthy foods to the shopping cart.

Her final thought is to split the grocery cart into halves and to fill one half with only healthy foods. A visual reminder may help to keep us on track.

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