Welcome to holiday weight gain season, which kicks off sometime around October (think Halloween candy), gathers steam in Thanksgiving, and peaks over the December holiday season. Researchers and health pundits vary in estimating the average American weight gain – some say a pound or two, conventional wisdom says as much as ten pounds. But it really doesn’t matter how much weight the average American gains or loses – the real metric that matters is whether you gain weight or not!
It’s not just the extra holiday eating that can add to end-of-year weight gain, either. Another culprit can be our winter tendency to hibernate. Studies show that people generally enjoy outdoor physical activity more than indoor physical activity. But in colder months with shorter daylight hours, we are generally less physically active outdoors.
As you eye that second piece of pumpkin pie, remember that it can take up to six months to shed any of the weight you gain over the holidays. A study of holiday weight gain in three countries that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine says: “although up to half of holiday weight gain is lost shortly after the holidays, half the weight gain appears to remain until the summer months or beyond.” Study authors add, “Of course, the less one gains, the less one then has to worry about trying to lose it.”
On way to avoid the pitfall of year-end weight gain is to approach the season with a plan. Have a strategy to approach the parties and holiday meals and a strategy to add more indoor and outdoor exercise and activity to your schedule. Before those parties and events, spend a little time researching best and worst food options, calorie wise. Before attending an event at a restaurant, check out the healthier menu options. And if you are doing the cooking, look for ways to make your favorite recipes a little healthier. The Mayo Clinic offers a good start: Healthy recipes: A guide to ingredient substitutions and Greatist offers suggestions for 67 more recipe substitutions. Also, don’t under-estimate the impact of alcohol. Most alcoholic drinks are heavy on sugar and calories so be sure to factor that in and limit your intake accordingly.
We’d also point you to some of our prior posts for tips to avoid weight gain: