Tis the season for family, presents, and weight gain! Holiday weight gain is one feared by many, as it is said to happen around the time of Thanksgiving and last until around New Years when all the holiday festivities have fully simmered down. While I hear people talk of this quite often and especially right now, I myself have never experienced any noticeable weight gain during the holiday season. With that being said, is it really true that many people gain weight around the holidays, or is it just another debunked myth?
According to New York Times, although the average surveyed person says they have gained about 5 pounds over the holidays (and media stories exaggerate the weight gain to 5-7 pounds), many studies show the average is actually just one pound or less. Many people tend to overestimate their weight gain due to post holiday guilt, i.e. they feel bad about how much they indulged during the holidays and therefore assume they packed on the pounds. So while the average person is not at any high risk for weight gain during the holiday season, people that are already overweight are. There has been many studies which suggest those who start with a higher BMI tend to gain more weight in general, and therefore during the holidays will in fact gain the 5-10 pounds, or even more. This was coincidentally found in the same study (of 2000 participants) that debunked holiday weight gain, which showed 20% of obese subjects, and 10% of overweight subjects gained more than 5 pounds (only 5% of non-overweight people in the study had the same result).
Another study revealed that those who were formerly overweight struggled with weight gain over the holiday season. 178 people who had formally been very overweight, but lost a very significant amount (77 pounds or more), were tracked in this specific study, and also 101 people who have never been overweight. Despite trying their hardest to not gain weight and making careful plans, 39% of the formerly overweight people gained at least 2.2 pounds over the holidays, in comparison to 17% in the group of 101 people.
But what about us college kids? We are used to eating dining hall food and maybe even eating less than when we are at home. That being said, do college kids gain a significant amount of weight over holidays? A study conducted by researchers at the University of Oklahoma weighed 94 students the day before Thanksgiving, and then weighed them again about two weeks later. Students who were of normal weight gained about half a pound, while students who were overweight (body mass index of 25 or more) gained about two pounds. With that conclusion, I think it is safe to make the assumption that you can expect the same results in regards to Christmas and New Years. If you find yourself still worried about the possibility of gaining a few pounds over the holidays, Health.com lists 15 tips to help avoid it. Some of the most notable ones suggest setting up a workout to do in the morning, to be very picky with what you eat (especially on the actual holiday), to build up will power, and to chew slowly to minimize how much you eat.
It’s safe to say that the dreaded holiday weight gain is in fact a myth as there have been countless studies throughout the years coming up with the same result; the weight gain is insignificant (although some studies show that the one pound gained over holidays is hard to lose, and some people never do; but this mostly pertains to adults). Of course for some this is not a myth, as if the third variable of being overweight is involved, significant weight gain can and most likely will occur. Thus most of us can face the holidays without fear of packing on the pounds. And with that, happy eating!