An article in today’s Wall Street Journal (December 13, 2005) reports that most people don’t actually gain as much weight as they think during the holiday season. That’s the good news:
Although it has been widely asserted that people pack on five to 10 pounds during the holiday season, research shows that holiday weight gain has been greatly exaggerated. Not only have media and even some medical reports overstated how much weight people tend to gain during the holidays, but individuals themselves also think the problem is worse than it is.
The WSJ article references a report appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine in March 2000 which tracked the weight of 195 healthy adults over the course of a year, and found that the average weight gain for the study group during the holidays was about 1 pound (0.48 kg).
Some people gained more or less than others, in particular people who were already overweight or obese gained an average of about 5 pounds. Immediately after the holidays, the average person in the study also lost a little weight, and gained a little weight during the rest of the year.
The bad news about holiday weight gain is that while the actual amount of weight gained is usually less than individuals think, the study also found that participants had a net gain at the end of the study, even after losing weight during the post-holiday season. The average weight gain for an entire year was around 1.5 pounds.
The holiday season offers many fun and festive occasions featuring food and other treats. Rather than trying to avoid the Christmas cookies and cakes altogether, a good strategy is to simply pay attention to what you’re eating and try to avoid binging. A study in the International Journal of Obesity reported that consistent eaters were nearly twice as likely to succeed in managing their weight compared with those who took weekends and holidays off and only ate healthy diets during the weekdays.
It’s also important to maintain your exercise and activity routine. During the holidays it can be tempting to skip workouts, but staying on a regular routine and maintaining healthy daily eating habits will give you a much healthier start to the New Year!
- (no link to Wall Street Journal – requires paid subscription)
- The Skinny On Holiday Weight: Extra Pounds Add Up, WCVB-TV Boston, December 13, 2005
- A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain, Jack A. Yanovski, PhD, Susan Z. Yanovski, M.D., Kara N. Sovik, B.S., Tuc T Nguyen, M.S., Patrick M. O’Neil, PhD, and Nancy G. Sebring, M.Ed, R.D., New England Journal of Medicine, March 23, 2000, Volume 342:861-867.
- Behavioural correlates of successful weight reduction over 3y. Results from the Lean Habits Study, J. Westenhoefer, B. von Falck, A. Stellfeldt and S. Fintelmann, International Journal of Obesity, February 2004, Volume 28, Number 2, Pages 334-335