It should come as no surprise that the average American will experience some unwanted weight gain over the holidays. Starting today, most households will have bowls full of leftover Halloween candy to get through for the rest of the month. Then we get to Thanksgiving, when a single day of overindulgence and pie usually turns into a weekend, spiraling into a few weeks of calorie-dense foods and desserts.
It’s not uncommon to still have leftover pie in the refrigerator come mid-December. If you shop at Costco, you may even have some Halloween candy left in December. We love buying in bulk to get a good deal here in the U.S. almost as much as we love sugar.
That takes us through to Christmas. It doesn’t matter if you celebrate Christmas or not; this is when you’ll get offered sugary Christmas cookies no matter where you go. Everyone always brings sugar cookies to a work holiday party or get-togethers with friends. They might have cute little trees on them or happy snowmen, but these cookies are just sugar and butter baked together under those decorations. That’s why they are so good. That’s also why they are so bad (for your health).
And then, of course, you top it all off with some champagne to celebrate the New Year and that new diet you are planning to try to get back on track. At this point, most people go all out on the food and booze. What’s the point of staying disciplined when you know you’ll go into new-year-new-me mode come Monday?
It should be no surprise that the average candy-hoarding, pie-loving, Christmas-cookie-eating, champagne-celebrating American will gain some weight over the next few months. But here is the piece that may seem a little surprising. According to a 2014 review of multiple studies looking at Western societies, the average weight gained during the holiday season was just about 1.1 lbs from mid-November to the end of the year.
Holiday weight gain fluctuates based on habits
That doesn’t seem like a lot. As a matter of fact, the number seems so insignificant that it has led to some headlines referring to holiday weight gain as a myth.
However, looking a little deeper into the study, you quickly realize that this 1.1 lbs average can be a little deceiving. While the average weight gain may seem insignificant, researchers point out that there was a large range in individual weight gain among participants. People who were already overweight or obese gained a lot more weight than those who went into the holiday season at a healthy weight.
What does this tell us? Holiday weight gain is not a myth but rather a time that disproportionately impacts people already trending in the wrong direction. Researchers also pointed out that when the average weight gain for participants was measured across the entire calendar year, the holiday weight gain was a significant contributor to the total weight gained throughout the year.
The key takeaway? Santa Claus might not be real, but holiday weight gain absolutely is. Holiday weight gain is a big problem for people already struggling to maintain a healthy weight. Headlines that read as though candy, cookies, pie, and champagne won’t lead to significant, unwanted weight gain are incredibly misleading.
Does this mean you can’t enjoy those things over the next few months? Absolutely not. You should enjoy the holidays and share those experiences with your loved ones around some of the foods and treats that make you happy. But you should go into this season understanding that the next few months can significantly impact your weight if you don’t practice some responsible moderation.
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