Stop Worrying: Why “Holiday Weight Gain” Is (Mostly) a Myth

Every year around this time, my clients start stressing about the holidays and the weight gain that supposedly always happens. People always quote the statistic that the average American inevitably gains at least five pounds during the holiday season, but I have some good news here folks, it hasn’t been proven.

There have only been a few studies that even examine holiday weight gain in Americans. The most well-known one, which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that most people only gained a single pound during the holiday season. One pound, not so bad, right? The problem with this single pound is that the study also found that this weight gain wasn’t corrected for afterwards, leading to adults gaining at least one pound each year. After 10 years, that weight is more than just a little issue.

At my practice. I try to work with my clients to not make such a big deal of this time of year. Don’t overthink it or obsess about food, it’s only going to lead you in an unhealthy direction. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah and New Year’s should all be wonderful times and should be enjoyed as special occasions. The difficulty for a lot of people is that Thanksgiving starts them off on a downward spiral of overeating and overindulging that only ends when the New Year comes and a new diet resolution is made.

Are you interested in stopping the holiday weight-gain creep? Check out this recent New York Times article by Gretchen Reynolds about a study suggesting that it’s relatively easy to walk or run the holiday weight gain off. I always encourage my clients to make physical activity part of any holiday, and it’s a great tradition to start this year. Go out for some touch football, go for a walk together, just get moving and help prevent this year’s pumpkin pie from becoming next year’s muffin top. And if you have a lot of holiday parties to attend, don’t go hungry — have a healthy snack before you go, and be sure to keep your physical activity high to help compensate.

[Photo: Whitney/Flickr]

About this Gun

Brooke Alpert

Brooke Alpert

Brooke Alpert, MS, RD, CDN, is a nutritionist and the founder of B Nutritious, a nutrition counseling practice based in New York. Follow @bnutritious.