Holiday Weight Gain Is Inevitable, But Not Something To Stress Over, Scientists Say

Digital scales with woman feet on them and sign"OMG!" surrounded by christmas decorations, sweets and alcohol
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The holiday season is typically a time when people indulge a bit more — Thanksgiving feasts, seasonal desserts, and sugary holiday beverages are enough to throw a few diet plans off course a bit. Weight gain during the holidays is definitely not a myth, but the amount of added pounds is often exaggerated — and is truly nothing to fear, science shows.

While many consumers may think that they gain five to ten pounds in the last six weeks of the year, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that holiday weight gain is only about 0.7 percent of a person’s lightest body weight during the year. So, for example, someone who weighs 150 pounds earlier in the year will probably only gain one extra pound during the holidays.

Additionally, a review of several holiday weight gain-related studies in the Journal of Obesity reported that the average amount of added pounds over the holiday season is about half a pound to two pounds. Those who are a bit more health and diet-conscious are less likely to be significantly impacted by holiday weight gain.

Essentially, a person’s level of weight consciousness throughout the year will determine how many extra pounds get added on during the holidays. Those who are overweight are more likely to gain pounds significantly during the holidays, and, in turn, struggle to get rid of the weight in the new year.

A study in the Nutrition Journal observed the weight patterns of college students during their Thanksgiving breaks from school — and found that overweight students returned to school with two extra pounds, while students who classified as a normal weight experienced little to no change.

It’s important to keep in mind that, just because the weight gain may not be significant, any holiday weight gain at all will likely be difficult to drop after the seasonal affairs. In fact, it can take up to five months to lose the weight.

“It might be better to advise patients that 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,” the New England Journal of Medicine study said.

It’s best to take precautions against weight gain altogether when the holiday season comes around, but that doesn’t always work. In the event that you do gain extra pounds, Health suggests following a three-step plan — one that includes eating protein and fiber early in the morning, getting extra hours of sleep, and tracking what you consume.