U.S. researchers say, if you want to avoid packing on the pounds in the holiday season, simply weighing yourself every day could be a step in the right direction.
The new study from the University of Georgia examined 111 adults between the ages of 18 and 65, in a period from mid November 2017 to early January 2018.
Researchers instructed half of the participants to try to maintain their baseline weight throughout the holiday season, but did not tell them how to go about it.
The remaining participants were given no instructions whatsoever.
At the end of the study period, the participants who weighed themselves daily and saw their weight in graphical feedback either maintained or lost weight, while the control group gained weight.
"Maybe they exercise a little bit more the next day [after seeing a weight increase] or they watch what they are eating more carefully," study author and University of Georgia associate professor Jamie Cooper said in a press release. "The subjects self-select how they are going to modify their behavior, which can be effective because we know that interventions are not one-size-fits-all."
Despite conventional advice against weighing yourself every day, as weight ranges can fluctuate, the study found that the participants who did would modify their own behaviour based on what they saw.
"People are really sensitive to discrepancies or differences between their current selves and their standard or goal," said fellow author and associate professor Michelle vanDellen. "When they see that discrepancy, it tends to lead to behavioral change. Daily self-weighing ends up doing that for people in a really clear way."
Weight gained over the holidays can be difficult to lose and can contribute to long-term weight gain, according to previous studies.
"Vacations and holidays are probably the two times of year people are most susceptible to weight gain in a very short period of time," said Cooper. "The holidays can actually have a big impact on someone's long-term health."
The long-term health effects of retaining holiday weight can include obesity and an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Cooper added that obese individuals are more susceptible to gaining holiday weight but noted that individuals who regularly exercise are not protected from weight gain.
Researchers say future research involving larger, more diverse groups is needed to determine if daily self-weighing without graphical feedback would be effective in weight gain prevention.
The results of the study will be published in the June 2019 issue of the journal Obesity.