What's the Latest on Holiday Weight Gain?

Published:October 18, 2013DOI:
      A perennial holiday question received by registered dietitian nutritionists is: What is the average holiday weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day? General belief and self-reports of winter holiday weight gain range from 5 to 10 pounds, but no clinical research study supported this belief. A classic study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that Americans gain, on average, about 1 pound during the winter holiday, contrary to popular belief.
      • Yanovski J.A.
      • Yanovski S.Z.
      • Sovik K.N.
      • Nguyen T.T.
      • O'Neil P.M.
      • Sebring N.G.
      A prospective study of holiday weight gain.
      One hundred and ninety-five study participants who were primarily National Institutes of Health (NIH) employees were weighed at 6-week intervals before, during, and after the winter holiday season. Compared to their initial weight, the volunteers gained just over 1 pound by late February, and most of that weight gain occurred during the 6-week interval between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. The researchers also found that study volunteers who engaged in more physical activity had less holiday weight gain, suggesting that increasing physical activity may be an effective method for preventing weight gain during this “high-risk” time. In addition, study volunteers believed they had gained much more weight than they actually had over the holidays, overestimating their weight gain by slightly more than 3 pounds. Fewer than 10% of subjects gained more than 5 pounds over the holiday season. However, the overweight and obese volunteers were more likely to gain 5 pounds than those who were not overweight, which suggests that the holiday season may present special risks for those who are already overweight.
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        • Yanovski S.Z.
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        • Nguyen T.T.
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      Additional Resource

      1. Integrating the Registered Dietitian (RD) into Primary Care—Comprehensive Primary Care Initiative (CPCI) Toolkit.