You Don't Have to Gain Weight Over the Holidays

Have you put on pounds since Thanksgiving? A simple trick can help you lose them

Posted Dec 07, 2020

Are you going to gain weight this holiday season? Since Thanksgiving, do your clothes feel a little tighter? With Christmas and Hanukkah only a few days away followed by New Year’s Eve you might be worried about putting on additional pounds. You’re in good company. Several studies have found that holiday weight gain averages between one to three-and-a-third pounds. It might not seem to be a lot of weight but if it occurs each holiday season, and most of those pounds don’t go away, it will add up over the years.

If you’re a dieter, you could count calories, cut out carbs, or fast intermittently but dieting is hard enough the rest of the year and it’s more difficult now. Although Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s parties are limited by Covid 19 there are still many opportunities to overeat. Not surprisingly most favorite food choices are calorically rich.

Few of us would be happy substituting sparkling water for eggnog or firm tofu with shredded carrots instead of turkey and stuffing, or sugar-free, fat-free fudgsicles instead of a chocolate cream-filled yule log with cherries on top. 

A recent study from the University of Georgia suggests a simple, relatively painless way of minimizing holiday weight gain. One hundred and eleven adults were assigned to either a control group or the treatment which was daily weighing using a wi-fi scale. They were instructed to weigh themselves the first thing in the morning. In addition to the participant’s weight, the scale’s screen displayed their weight as a graph.

The average weight during the first four days of the study (before Thanksgiving) was considered the target which showed up as a straight line on the weight graph. The participants were told to try not to gain weight above the target line but weren’t given any diets or other suggestions to achieve their goal. 

Participants in the control group gained over five pounds by New Year’s and retained three of the pounds at the May follow-up. Although holiday weight gain was similar for men and women in the control group, women were more likely to retain their weight gain at follow-up while men lost most of their additional holiday weight. 

The daily weighing and weight graph viewing prevented holiday weight gain. Normal weight participants who weighed daily didn’t gain weight while participants with overweight or obesity who weighed daily lost an average of three pounds over the holidays.  The researchers think that daily self-weighing doesn’t protect against holiday eating but rather it prompts users to restrict their future eating to compensate for any weight they may have gained.  

If you are concerned about your weight this holiday season you don’t need a wi-fi scale. Just draw a weight graph with a line representing your pre-holiday weight. Then weigh yourself each morning and plot the weight on your graph aiming to keep it at or below the line.

Happy Holidays!

References

Kaviani, S., vanDellen, M.& Cooper, J. A. (2019). Daily self-weighing to prevent holiday-associated weight gain in adults. Obesity, 27, 908-916.