In July 2014 program dietitian Vicki Bovee and her husband, Bill, committed to do a weekly challenge for a year to improve their health and lifestyle. Vicki and Bill decided to tackle a variety of challenges to eat better, eat and live more mindfully, and improve physical health and emotional well-being because there is always room for improvement. They successfully completed a year of challenges but that didn’t mean they were finished.

Challenge #55 Our holiday holdover

Here we are into February and I am still writing about the holidays. Those days on the calendar are long gone, but the fallout from the excess calories didn’t pass nearly as fast. Like most people, we had our share of parties and family meals, not to mention all the food that appeared in the break room here at the office (Yes, people send the office sweets and goodies. Our docs do all kinds of other surgeries too).

In December 2014 with Challenge #20 we took a look at holiday weight gain. So just how much weight do people gain over the holidays? If you read the popular press they usually report people gain 5 to 10 pounds over the holiday season. But what does the research show? In a study done in 2000 with 195 adults, people averaged a weight gain of ¾ to 1 pound, not nearly as much as the press reports. This 1 pound gain may not seem like much, but the problem is that when the participants were weighed in over the following year, most did not lose the holiday weight gained. So this seemingly insignificant weight gain contributes to the creeping weight gain we experience over the years.

Last year at the end of the 2014 holiday season I had lost 1.4 pounds and Bill lost 2.6 pounds. This past holiday season was a different story. Ugh. We both gained weight and we both needed to get it back off. We were not going to be like the people in the study and keep it on throughout the year. The solution was simple….keep a food record and make sure to exercise. We both have lost weight with food recording, and as I teach, it is the best way to hold yourself accountable and stay on track.

Vicki’s observations:
• I maintained my weight within 1 pound through Thanksgiving and the holiday parties. Then about December 20th the food in the break room started to show up on the scale, even though I practiced restraint. On December 22nd my daughter and son-in-law arrived from Houston for Christmas…. Meals out, too much food available at home, Christmas Day feasting with all the kids at the house….. On January 1st I had gained 2½ pounds from December 22nd and it didn’t feel good. Time to take action.
• I typically track my food two days a week but over the holidays I slacked off. I knew, for me, 2 days a week wasn’t going to be enough. Yes, tracking takes more effort. It’s simple but not always easy. I did record 18 out of the 31 days. Weekends were my nemesis, as they are for many of us.
• My behavior followed what the research shows. I lost during the week and weighed the least on Friday mornings. I ate more on the weekends and it seemed it was two steps forward and one step back. Sitting and watching football doesn’t burn calories.
• I did great with my exercise. I did a minimum of 30 minutes a day for 28 days. I averaged 9880 steps a day, just short of my 10,000 step goal. Did I already mention that sitting and watching football doesn’t get you steps? I recorded my food AND exercise in My Fitness Pal. It was spot on. When I didn’t eat the additional exercise calories, I lost weight. When I ate the exercise calories, I maintained. Exercise calories are ONLY FOR MAINTENANCE.
• One of life’s greatest injustices is that weight doesn’t come off as fast as it goes on. It took me the entire month to get off those extra pounds and it wasn’t easy nor fun.

Bill’s observations:
• My goal was to get back on track after the holidays, but I have to confess that January was a bust for me. I only tracked my food eight times during the month. I finished the month at exactly the same weight as I did at the beginning of the month. That was disappointing.
• I did not feel well most of the month. This affected my exercise routine and that is a big part of staying in shape for me. I am not still not feeling up to par so my activity level is not back to normal as of yet.
• Working from home is another reason why the weight has not come off. I catch myself eating out of boredom rather than eating because I am really hungry.
• This weight gain is mostly attributed to eating foods that taste good but aren’t that good for me. I am now concentrating on eating right all of February.

No one said maintaining weight was easy but it is possible. It’s easier to take off a couple of pounds instead of letting it creep up to 10 or 20 pounds. I am working on maintaining a 30 pound weight loss since the fall of 2012 and Bill is working on maintaining a 40 pound weight loss since winter of 2013. We don’t want to go back down that road.

I am excited about our February challenge because I know I am going to feel good and who doesn’t want that?

Eat Smarter…
Vicki Bovee, MS, RDN, LD

Want to catch up on our past challenges? Click here. You’ll find the challenges at the bottom of my blog.