Your dreadful holiday nightmare has begun: all the scrumptious meals you ate during the holiday rush are now starting to catch up to you.

You may have put on an added pound or two this year, and if you calculate it, a one- or two-pound weight gain every year for the next ten years could be an added 10 pounds or 30 pounds overall. Research has shown that for Americans, holiday weight gain adds up to the risk for obesity.

Unfortunately, most people resigned to the fact that they will gain weight during the holidays. After all, the extra weight can be shed through dieting, and the New Year is always the perfect time to begin one, right?

Probably not, an expert at the University of Texas at Austin said.

Nutritional scientist Molly Bray believes that weight gain during a short period--which in this case is during the holidays--followed by restrictive dieting can have dire consequences.

What You Need To Know About Holiday Weight Gain

"I think most people are not aware of the potential for lasting effects of holiday weight gain," said Bray.

People with inconsistent and fluctuating weight are more susceptible to long-term weight gain than other people, she said. Habitual dieting even has a higher chance of resulting to weight gain than weight loss.

Bray said there are intricate mechanisms in our brain that regulate our eating behavior and the storage of body fat, like an internal detector attached to a certain area of our brain. These mechanisms are effective in keeping our weight stable.

Because of this hardwiring in our brain, it's difficult to put off weight and then keep it that way. After dieting and losing weight, several neurons in our brain kick in to increase our hunger and lower our body's metabolic rate, because the brain is attempting to regain what it thinks is our "optimal weight." Our brain works in the opposite way as well, detecting weight gain and decreasing our hunger.

Imagine two systems in the brain's control center for body weight and hunger regulating the maximum and minimum limit of our optimal weight. The problem arises when the two body systems work out of sync with each other. A vicious cycle of holiday binge-eating upsets the balance between these two regulatory systems, she said.

Ways To Get Back On Track After Gaining Weight

Fortunately, all hope is not lost. There are several ways to fight against the dreadful holiday weight gain.

1. Keep the pounds you gain to a minimum. As you start your New Year's diet, you have to remember that the brain resists weight loss in order to maintain an optimal weight. In order to keep from gaining too much weight, you must partake in daily exercise. Even a 10-minute run each day can do much to help you.

2. Drink lots of water. Whenever you feel like you are hungry, you must think twice. Some people mistake thirst for hunger. Experts suggest that every time you feel like eating, you must drink water first as it helps you feel like you're already full.

3. Find alternatives for the usual holiday feast. Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Mike Roizen recommend creating a unique and personalized weight-control strategy. For instance, in order to avoid those mega-calorie holiday drinks or those heavy pastries, you must instead indulge in mint, citrus or tangerines. If you aren't allergic, you can also treat yourself with a healthy mix of walnuts, dried cranberries and dark-chocolate chips. You can also upgrade your holiday dinner to extra spicy. Salsa can be a substitute for mayo, without delivering the fat.

4. Take baby steps. Losing weight does not happen overnight. It is better to create weekly resolutions in order to see progress. Said progress may be little by little, but you will eventually feel its effects.

5. Stay away from soda and go easy on the alcohol. Beverages are a source for calories, especially alcohol. A beer with 12 oz. contains 150 calories; wine with 3.5 oz. contains 85. Meanwhile, a Purdue University study found that when people ate either jelly beans or soda with 450 calories, those who took the latter gained more weight. If you plan to lose weight, stay away from soda or alcohol.

6. Relax and give yourself a break. At the end of the day, you have to relax. Studies show that people who are stressed are more likely to binge-eat. Since the holidays is a particularly stressful time, if the stress is unmanageable, try learning meditation or yoga. Even simple breathing exercises can help you in the long-run.

Photo : Dani Lurie | Flickr

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