Nikki Vaughn

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(Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

The holidays are a time of year most fret about gaining weight. But you may be pleasantly surprised to learn the real truth about holiday weight gain.

☞ Most people gain a full size during the holidays: MYTH. A Texas Tech University study found that female test subjects gained about one pound and males 1.5 in the six weeks leading up to the New Year. That’s far less than the 7-10 pounds often cited for this time of year.

☞ Bloating isn’t the same as fat weight: FACT. One reason you may feel like you’ve packed on more weight than you have is because many holiday foods trigger bloating and water retention. The main culprit? Carbs. And sodium. (And pecan pie. And mashed potatoes with gravy. And shortbread cookies…)

☞ Exercise staves off holiday pounds: MYTH. More than one study has found that those who work out around the holidays gain the same amount of weight as those who didn’t. But remember, there are numerous other benefits to exercise, including stress reduction and improved sleep. (On the other hand, if I’m working out, I’m not drinking eggnog — usually!)

☞ I’ll lose it in January: MYTH. Studies show most of us never lose our holiday padding, probably because after giving up on New Year’s resolutions, we tend to gain back the weight we’ve lost. (Hoping to get pajama pants for Christmas…again…)

☞ It’s not too late to avoid gaining weight this holiday season: FACT: Commit now to two simple goals: budget your carbs and drink more water. Both can help you avoid having to make that annual New Year’s resolution to lose weight. (Well, as we’ve learned, at least I don’t have to work out!)