Holiday Weight Gain - Fact or Fiction?

Guest post by Vicki Bovee, M.S., R.D., L.D., a registered dietitian with over 25 years experience in weight loss, weight management, and specializing in bariatric nutrition since 2003.

As we approach the final few weeks of the holiday season, it's a good idea to check in with the scale to see how you are doing with your weight management goals. So how much weight do we gain over the holidays? Well, you can't believe everything you hear or read. We often hear that Americans gain anywhere from 5 to 10 pounds. Where did this number come from? Did you know this is a popular belief without any scientific basis?

Preventing Holiday Weight Gain

Average Weight Gain is One Pound but More for Those Already Overweight

There is actually one study that measured weight gain from mid-November to early January and it dispels the myth of the significant holiday weight gain. In a study published in  2000, 160 people were weighed before Thanksgiving and after New Year's. The average weight gain was less than 1 pound. Less than 10% gained more than 4 pounds. However, those who were overweight or obese had a significant weight gain of about a 10 pound average.

Unfortunately, It Stays All Year

Now a 1 pound weight gain probably doesn't seem too bad but the problem was that these people never lost it over the year. In, fact they gained about another 0.4 pounds when they were reweighed the following September. If they made New Year's resolutions to lose weight, they didn't follow through. So the weight that was gained over the holidays stuck around and the researchers concluded that holiday weight gain contributes to the gradual weight we experience as we age.

From this study it would seem to  be prudent not to gain weight over the holidays. There are still several weeks left to stay focused. If you have had bariatric surgery, you are not immune from weight gain especially if you are more than a year post-op. Be choosey about holiday treats. On those days when you don't have a party or holiday meal, toe the line and stay on track. It's much easier to stay on track if you don't veer too far off.

Eat Smart...

Vicki Bovee, MS, RD


Reference: Yanovski JA, et al. A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain.  New England  Journal of Medicine, 2000.



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