There’s nothing like a vacation or the holidays to sabotage a diet. Whether you’re out of your ordinary environment for a relaxing getaway or in celebration mode, it’s easy to gain a few pounds in a short period of time. A new study suggests that one way you can prevent that from happening is to weigh yourself daily.
Daily weighing makes you likely to catch how much your weight has gone up after a few days enjoying the buffet at your hotel or sampling pastries as you sightsee, and it gives you a chance to take steps to stop further weight gain in its tracks. Prevention is a good defense — and a lot better than getting on a scale a few weeks after your vacation or holiday and finding you've gained some serious weight that it may take you weeks or months to work off.
Just over 100 adults took part in the study. Half of the participants were asked to weigh themselves daily for 14 weeks during the holiday season, using scales that showed their weight fluctuations on a graph. After determining each person’s baseline weight, they were told to maintain that weight, but they were given no instructions on how to do that.
Vacations and the holidays are two times people are likely to gain weight. These gains can have a big impact on a person’s long-term health if they aren't addressed.
The other group did not weigh themselves every day and weren’t provided with the challenge to maintain their weight, yet they made the same number of study visits to the lab as the other group.
The people who weighed themselves every day maintained or, in some cases, lost weight during and after the University of Georgia study. Those in the other group gained weight.
For the people who were weighed daily, seeing that visual graph that showed their baseline weight and any changes on a daily basis might have motivated them to adjust their diet or behaviors in order to maintain that baseline weight.
“Maybe they exercise a little bit more the next day (after seeing a weight increase) or they watch what they're eating more carefully,” said researcher, Jamie Cooper, in a statement.
People are sensitive to discrepancies between their current selves and their goal, explained researcher Michelle vanDellen. A discrepancy tends to cause behavior change, which is what daily self-weighing did in this study.
Vacations and the holidays are two times when people are most likely to gain weight in a very short period of time, according to Cooper. And if the gains aren't addressed, they can have a big impact on a person’s long-term health.
The average American gains a couple of pounds each year from overeating during the holidays or on vacation, and these gains can add up over time. The holidays are a few months away but a summer vacation may be just around the corner. Ongoing reminders of the weight you may be putting on while away from home could help to nip weight gain in the bud.
There are ways to keep track of your your eating even if you don't have a scale handy. Maybe you need to put a sticky note on the bathroom mirror in the hotel to remind you to “Eat sensibly today.” Better yet, stick one on your smartphone. You will see it all day long.
Checking the calories on restaurant menus or smartphone app could be eye-opening and help you reconsider what you order. You might even decide to share a meal with someone.
Use the hotel’s fitness center to burn off some of those extra calories. If there is a scale, weigh yourself daily. Most drugstores and some grocery stores now have scales, too. Use whatever visuals will work for you as a reminder to monitor your weight and eat sensibly.
Take advantage of the environment you are in and see it up close and personal. Walk on the beach. Hike in the mountains. Walk or cycle through urban areas.
The study is published in Obesity.