When the weather outside turns frightful, it’s easy to curl up on the couch and enjoy sweet treats, leading to weight gain that sticks around. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE) is providing employees with motivation to maintain their weight over the holidays with a new wellness challenge.

The challenge, Maintain Don’t Gain, runs through January 9. Challenge participants aim to maintain the same weight or gain no more than three pounds over the holiday season. Verified weigh-ins conducted by BCBSNE wellness staff provide start and end numbers to track progress, and participants are encouraged to weigh themselves throughout the challenge.

Watching the scale over the holidays provides long-term health benefits, according to a study published by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). While most Americans gain far less weight than they think during the holidays, the pounds they add on are hard to work off.

In fact, both the NICHD study and a National Institute of Health (NIH) study conclude that most people only gain about a pound over the holidays. However, that pound sticks around and adds to the 0.4 to 1.8-pound weight gain many adults experience yearly as they age, which may contribute to obesity later in life, according to the NICHD study.

The study points out activities promoting weight stability during the fall and early winter months can help adults combat age-related weight gain and potential obesity-related health problems.

BCBSNE’s Maintain Don’t Gain fits the suggested timeframe and aims to encourage participants to set health goals before the new year, said Caroline Kahnk, BCBSNE wellness coordinator.

“The holiday season is the perfect time to set health goals rather than waiting for the new year because developing healthy habits makes resolutions easier to achieve,” Kahnk said.

Kahnk offers a few tips for staying on track, such as getting active with the whole family, watching beverage choices to avoid empty calories and tracking nutrition.

Homemade treats and favorite foods are holiday traditions that’re hard to miss out on, but the health benefits of avoiding age-related weight gain makes it easier to turn down a smiling gingerbread cookie.

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