Is Holiday Weight Gain A Myth

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Is Holiday Weight Gain A Myth?

Everyone loves a great holiday recipe and it seems like from the dates of Thanksgiving all the way up until New Year’s Day are filled with celebration, delightful drinks, and amazing dishes. However, with all of the festivities also comes holiday weight gain – or so you think. Is the concept of holiday weight gain real or is it perception that has built into our minds after a little too much turkey and stuffing with a slice of pie? We explore.

How Much Weight Do People Gain During The Holidays?

The first thing to really understand when looking into the notion of holiday weight gain is that weight gain during the holidays has never really been significantly studied. However, with the amount of research that’s out there, it’s suggesting that overall, the perceived notion that weight gain during the holidays might be in our heads more than it is our stomach (and if it is in our stomach here are six ways to avoid holiday weight gain.

Holiday Weight Gain During Thanksgiving

Ah yes, aside from the football and family get togethers, Thanksgiving might as well be known as the Day Of Feasting rather than the Day Of Giving Thanks. According to the Calorie Control Council, the average amount of calories consumed during the Thanksgiving Holiday is about 4,500 calories – over double what most of us actually need in a day (4). But how does all this calorie consumption transpire over the long run of the holidays?

One study took a small look at college age individuals over the course of Thanksgiving. What they found was that for those who were overweight, those people gained a total of 2.2 pounds/1 kg. In the group that wasn’t classified as overweight or obese the average weight gain was 0.2 kg. or about half a pound. Overall, the average weight gain during Thanks giving was 1 pound / 0.5 kg (3). While that may not seem very significant, weight gained is often not lost and while it’s only one pound – imagine that 1 pound happening every single year. Another thing to take into consideration is that the study focused on college age individuals. Older populations who aren’t as active or those who are already obese/overweight may gain more and have a more difficult time with weight loss.

The Perceived Notion Of Holiday Weight Gain

The most frequent number thrown around when it comes to holiday weight gain is the number of five pounds – that’s the number most of us believe we pack on over the pain of several weeks of gorging on food and attending holiday events. The truth to that number is much less. The New Engling Journal of Medicine took a look at the weight of people before Thanksgiving and after New Year’s Day. What they found was that the average person had only gained approximately 1 pound / 0.48 kg of weight during that time (2).

Another study (and a much smaller one) looked at changes in weight and body composition over a six-week holiday period. What this study found was that the majority of participants believed that they had gained over 4.4 pounds / 2 kg when it came to holiday weight gain. What this study found was that the body weight and body fat remained virtually unchanged and that only four (out of the thirty-four) people actually had a holiday weight gain of more than 4.4 pounds (1). The problem with this study is that it was a very small group of individuals.

So, the moral of the story? Your holiday weight gain most likely isn’t the weight gain that you think it is. And if it is, well, then that’s okay it just means you’ve got a bit of work to do.

The Problem With Holiday Weight Gain

The problem with holiday weight gain is like I said, once it’s on, the majority of people aren’t going to get it back off. The same New England Journal of Medicine also looked at individuals in the months following the holidays as well. What they found was that after they weighed the patients after the holidays, the patients weight in the fall remained virtually unchanged and had contributed to about 1 pound / 0.5 kg of weight gain from the previous year (2).

What Can We Learn From Holiday Weight Gain

1. The most important thing is that for the most of us, we’re not really gaining that five pounds we thought we were.
2. We need to take into consideration holiday weight gain. The long term effects of holiday weight gain will continue to contribute to overall weight gain. So what can you do? Eat healthy. Move.

Has holiday weight gain effected you? Here are six ways to avoid holiday weight gain.

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1. Larson, J., Wagner, D., Wengreen, H. “Weight and Body Composition Change Over A Six-Week Holiday Period.” Eating and Weight Disorders Journal. Mar. 2012. Web. Nov. 13. 2013.
2. Nguyen, T., O’Neil, P., Sebring, N., Sovik, K., Yanovski, J., Yanovsky, S. “A Prospective Study Of Weight Gain.” New England Journal Of Medicine. March 2000. Web. Nov. 13. 2013.
3. Dinger, M., Fields, D., Hull, H., Radley, D. “The Effect Of The Thanksgiving Holiday On Weight Gain.” Nutrition Journal. Nov. 2006. Web. Nov. 13 2013.
4. “Stuff The Bird Not Yourself.” Calorie Control Council – Healthy Eating and Exercise For Life. 2013. Web. Nov. 13 2013.


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