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The Lean Plate Club: Sally Squires

Holiday Challenge 2004

The Demands of the Season Seem to Expand Yearly. That Doesn't Mean You Have To

By Sally Squires
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 16, 2004; Page HE01

It's that time of year again. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the holiday season is about to begin, punctuated by Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and the grand finale, New Year's Eve.

With so many opportunities to celebrate -- plus the stress and joy of travel and family gatherings -- it's no surprise that a National Institutes of Health study found the holiday season often makes unwanted contributions to your weight.

Amy Ginn maintained her 12 lb. weight loss over the dangerous holiday season with the Lean Plate Club. (Juana Arias - The Washington Post)

How much weight you gain seems to depend on your starting point. The 2000 study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine and written by Jack Yanovski and colleagues at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, showed that people at a healthy weight put on just under a pound between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

But it was a different story for those who were already overweight. (That's now two-thirds of adults; about half of those carrying too much weight are categorized as obese, according to the latest figures from the National Center for Health Statistics.)

The study found that the overweight and obese -- are you sitting down? Well, now get up -- add an average of five pounds during the holidays. What's more, the researchers discovered that this extra weight often isn't shed by spring. So it's five pounds this year, five more next. Do the math, and things get scary pretty fast.

With all that in mind, let the fourth annual Lean Plate Club Holiday Challenge begin.

The Holiday Challenge is not about dieting or trying to lose weight. This is a difficult time of year to make a vow to change your life and lose pounds.

The goal is simply to keep the bathroom scale stable through the holiday season, to make sure that what you weigh on Jan. 1 is no more than what you weigh today. If you can accomplish that, you'll have escaped unscathed from the part of the year most likely to add pounds to your frame. Beat the challenge, and you can decide whether to make more changes in your lifestyle and cut some weight in 2005.

As always, we'll be providing weekly tips and goals to help you stay the course. Look for charts, lists and other handy tools, which will be updated both in the Health section and at www.washingtonpost.com/leanplateclub.

Last year, Lean Plate Club member Amy Ginn, 30, a lawyer with the National Labor Relations Board, approached the holidays with some trepidation. Ginn had lost 12 pounds before Thanksgiving and worried that the holidays might bring them back.

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