Significant weight gain occurs during holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.
Food is synonymous with the holidays. It is a common focal point of celebrations across countries and cultures, and inevitably involves the increased intake of favorite meals, desserts, and drinks. This, in turn, leads to holiday weight gain and the dreaded task of trying to lose the weight post-holiday.
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine examined how the holidays – Thanksgiving in the U.S., Easter in Germany, Golden Week in Japan, and Christmas in all three – affected weight gain in these countries. Weight patterns of approximately 3000 participants were measured using wireless scales over a 12-month period from August 2012 to July 2013. Researchers compared the weight of participants no more than 10 days after the start of the national holiday to their weight 10 days before the holiday.
U.S. participants had a mean age of 42 years and body-mass index (BMI) of 27.7, where 34% of participants were women and 24% were obese. German participants had a mean age of 43 years and BMI of 26.6, where 34% were women and 19% were obese. Japanese participants had a mean age of 41 years and BMI of 24.7, where 26% were women and 11% were obese.
Within ten days after Christmas, significant weight gain was observed in all three countries compared to before the holiday. The weight increased by an average of 0.4% in the U.S., 0.6% in Germany, and 0.5% in Japan. For an adult male weighing 80kg (180lbs), this translates into weight gain of approximately 0.32 kg (0.7 lbs) in the U.S., 0.48 kg (1.05 lbs) in Germany, and 0.4 kg (0.9 lb) in Japan.
Participant weight also significantly increased following other national holidays. During Golden week in Japan, weight increased by 0.3%, or approximately 0.24 kg (0.5 lb) in an adult male. German and U.S. participants’ weight increased by 0.2% during Easter and Thanksgiving, respectively, translating into a 0.16kg (0.35 lb) gain in an adult male. Weight loss patterns over the course of the study show that half of the weight gained during the holidays was lost immediately following the holiday, but the remaining half remained into the summer months and beyond.
The minimum annual weight, or the minimum weight of the participant during the 12-month period, was also compared to their weight gained during the holidays. During the Christmas to New Year holiday season in the U.S. and Germany, weight increased an average of 0.7% (0.6 kg or 1.3 lbs) and 1% (0.8 kg or 1.8 lbs) respectively, from participant minimum annual weight. Japanese participants’ weight increased an average of 0.7% (0.5 kg or 1.1 lbs) during Golden week compared to their minimum annual weight.
The researchers note that their sample population was more motivated toward weight loss than average, so the observed weight gained after holidays in this study may be underestimated. While gaining a fraction of a kilogram (or pound) after each holiday may seem like a negligible amount, this weight undoubtedly adds up. For example, an American adult male weighing 80 kg could gain an average of 1 kg (2.2 lbs) in just the period between Thanksgiving and New Year. So when celebrating, remember to indulge in moderation. The less weight gained during the holidays, the less you’ll have to worry about losing afterward.
Written By: Fiona Wong