Holiday Weight Gain: How Bad Are We Really?

September 3, 2013

Originally published Dec. 12, 2011

During the holidays, magazines and newspapers are rich with hints and tips to avoid the holiday weight gain. Many articles claim that the average American will gain more than five pounds between Thanksgiving and the New Year! 

According to our last PHPOLL, PHWEEK readers feel the same way. “I would imagine that one can gain five to seven over the holidays,” wrote Sylvia Boykin, Vendor Management Relations Manager for the Georgia WIC program. 

That’s enough to make you reconsider dessert after your holiday dinner. But, how bad are we really during the holidays?

Scientific studies fail to prove that Americans pack on significant pounds during the holidays. In fact, one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that many Americans appear to only gain about one pound of body weight during the holidays, on average. 

These surprising findings do not offer us a free pass to gorge on fruitcake. There is bad news: The study showed that people did not lose that pound after the holiday season, and that pound can add up year after year making it an important factor in adult obesity. There is more bad news for those who are already overweight. Overweight people tend to gain closer to five pounds, or more, over the holidays. 

Another study, published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism, found that while subjects did not gain any weight, researchers did observe a significant increase in body fat percentage and fat mass. This may be attributed to less activity and exercise as cold weather sets in and decadent foods abound. A decrease in fat-burning muscle mass or a gain of one pound a year can be detrimental to a person’s health by increasing his or her risk for heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

The Department of Public Health (DPH) encourages all Georgians to be aware of the threat of holiday weight gain. Stick to your regular workout routine, or get a jump on your New Year’s resolution with a commitment to eating healthy and being active starting now. DPH wants Georgians of all ages to make better health a priority by following the guidelines of the Live Healthy Georgia campaign: Be Active, Eat Healthy, Be Smoke Free, Get Checked and Be Positive. Visit the Live Healthy Georgia website for information on how you can make healthy choices this holiday season, and for a lifetime.  

About the Author