It’s the time of year when people start regretting all the ham, cakes, cookies, and other holiday treats they’ve been eating. You may have heard that the average person gains about five pounds during the holidays. I decided to do a little research to see if this is true.
One study followed almost two hundred adults for a year to see how holiday eating (Thanksgiving through New Year) affected their weight. They were weighed preholiday, holiday, postholiday, and a year later. The study showed that most adults did put on extra weight during November-January, but it only averaged about a pound (.37 kg to be precise–as shown above). Obese individuals tended to gain more, and 14% of the subjects did indeed put on five pounds. Here’s something else the researchers discovered: most of the subjects in this study never lost the weight they gained during the holiday. The damage done was never reversed.1,2
This research backs up what we already know from personal experience and/or observation: weight gain is accelerated in the holiday season. Most people don’t gain five pounds, but whatever they do gain stays with them (presumably for life). It’s one contributing factor to the problem of obesity in the US.
One solution is to use the momentum of New Year’s resolutions to undo the “damage” caused by holiday eating–make a plan to drop a few pounds (more if needed). There are plenty of good programs available to help you get started.
1. N Engl J Med. 2000 Mar 23;342(12):861-7. A prospective study of holiday weight gain.
2. Nutr Rev. 2000 Dec;58(12):378-9. Holiday weight gain: fact or fiction?