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Wise Eating Choices During the Holidays Can Keep Pain at Bay in the New Year

As the year draws to an end, getting together with family and friends for holiday meals is something many of us look forward to.

There is much to enjoy… beef brisket, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, mom’s old-style cookies, eggnog, sweet potato pie. The list goes on.

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or New Year’s Eve, holiday feasts also have a downside — the added pounds.

Studies suggest that the holiday season, starting from the last week of November to the first week of January, is critical to gaining weight.

The average adult gains at least 1-2 pounds during this short period.

People who are already overweight and struggling with chronic pain or other health conditions average a 5-pound weight gain.

The price you pay for holiday weight gain

Contact National Spine & Pain Centers to schedule an appointment with an affiliated pain specialist today.

So you might think

Ill take my chances with holiday weight gain and just lose the weight in January when I start my new year weight loss resolutions.

Think again!

Researchers found that overeating during the holidays leads to weight gain that is not always lost during the year.

Although a couple of pounds might not sound horrible, most people have difficulty shedding holiday weight. “Easy on” is not always “easy off."

Repeated cycles of gain weight and weight loss tell your metabolism to put the brakes on. In addition, there are hormone and even behavioral changes (increased food cravings) that make weight loss difficult.

Over just a few years, you might find that unwanted pounds have crept up and are causing health problems.

Being overweight can trigger painful conditions like diabetes, arthritis, and low back pain that require treatment from a pain specialist.

The extra pounds put you at risk for:

  • Degenerative disc disease (wear and tear in the spinal discs)
  • Compression fractures (collapsed backbones)
  • Osteoarthritis (pain in large joints such as the hips, knees)
  • Spinal stenosis (pressure on the spinal cord and nerves)
  • Spondylolisthesis (back pain caused by slipping backbones)

Preventing weight gain is the best option

Prevention is the way to fight weight gain and obesity. Here are a couple of tips to help you enjoy holiday eating without stacking on the pounds.

  • Keep exercising. Holiday weight gain is not only a result of overeating but also of decreased physical activity. Many people travel away from home and find it difficult to continue their exercise routine (if they had one, to begin with). So keep moving, even if only for a light walk.
  • Try intermittent fasting. If you find it hard to control your cravings with a steaming plate of food in front of you, try fasting instead. Abstaining from food overnight and into the morning for 10-16 hours practically cuts out a meal and reduces your daily calorie intake. (Check with your doctor first).
  • Tame your stress levels. People with chronic (ongoing) pain conditions, like arthritis or low back pain, are often stressed when their pain gets out of control. This often happens over the holidays. Over time, uncontrolled pain causes a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol. This causes exhaustion, insulin insensitivity (higher risk for diabetes), and excessive weight gain. Try to practice some form of relaxation during the holidays — meditate, listen to music, stretch.
  • Eat healthy things first.Current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables each day. Vegetables and fruits have a lot of fiber and can make you feel satisfied without stacking on the calories. At holiday meals, make sure half your plate is filled with non-starchy vegetables (string beans, tomatoes, etc.) before adding proteins (fish, cheese, legumes) and starches (potatoes, rice).
  • Drink water. Sometimes a feeling of hunger is just a sign that you are not drinking enough water. To prevent dehydration, start the morning with 1-2 glasses of water and continue drinking throughout the day for 6-8 glasses.

We hope that these tips will help you keep the weight off this holiday season. Wise eating choices during the holidays can help keep your joints and back healthy and pain-free.

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