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Holidays may bring good cheer, but they also bring weight gain, study finds

The study’s authors point out, “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."

Uh-oh. The collective weight of America is about to go up.

For, according to a study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Americans add, on average, 0.7 percent to their weight during the Christmas-New Year holiday season. 

That’s about 1.3 pounds. 

And that doesn’t include another third of a pound or so that we also put on around Thanksgiving.

And, yes, we do lose some of that weight in the ensuing months, but not all of it, according to the study — a finding that may help explain why 70 percent of American adults are either overweight or obese.

Wireless weigh-ins

The authors of the study came up with these findings in a rather interesting way. They had 2,924 people weigh themselves daily for a full year (Aug. 1, 2012 to July 31, 2013) on wireless scales, a method that allowed the data to be sent directly to the researchers.

But only 1,781 of the study’s participants came from the United States. The others were recruited in Germany (760) and Japan (383).

Having three countries represented in the study enabled the researchers (who are from the U.S., Finland and France) to observe the weight trends of people whose cultures emphasize somewhat different holidays.

Similarities and differences

We aren’t alone, apparently, in piling on the pounds during end-of-the-year festivities. The Germans in the study added, on average, 2.2 pounds, and the Japanese added 1.3 pounds, during the Christmas-New Year holiday season.

Those countries did not, of course, see a gain in weight around Thanksgiving. But the Germans put on another third of a pound or so around Easter, a major multiday holiday that includes plenty of food, including a traditional Easter Sunday lunch. And the Japanese did the same during Golden Week, a period each spring that includes many different individual holidays.

The importance of being mindful

This study has its limitations. It included relatively small numbers of people from each of the three countries, and those who did participate in the study tended to be wealthier, better educated, and more motivated about maintaining a healthy weight than most of their fellow citizens.

Still, the weight-loss patterns revealed by the study’s data underscore what most of us probably already know: If we want to maintain a healthy weight, we need to be more mindful of our eating behavior during the holidays.

The New England Journal of Medicine © 2016

As the study’s authors point out, “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."

“Of course, the less one gains the less one then has to worry about trying to lose it,” they add.

And that’s true no matter what holiday you celebrate.

FMI: The study was published online in the NEJM, where it can be read in full.

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Comments (1)

Does it ever occur...

Maybe this constant barrage of articles about dieting and weight aren't actually helpful? Especially when they just recycle previous articles over and over again. People gain weight over the holidays? Serioiusly? What's next? Is too much caffeine bad for us?