The holiday season is full of stories and myths. Some are a delightful part of the season, like the notion of Santa dropping off toys to all the good girls and boys on one magical night. Or that Frosty the Snowman might come to life one day if we could just find the right hat.

The Myth of Holiday Weight Gain
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image by IPBrian

But there is one myth that, quite literally, weighs on us as we approach New Year’s Day. It is the one that tells us that when we step on the scale on January 2 will be about 10 pounds heavier than we were before Thanksgiving.

Fear not, however. The 10 pounds the average American is alleged to gain from eating too much pumpkin pie and drinking too much eggnog in the six week holiday season is indeed a myth. A National Institute of Health study in 2000 tested this theory by measuring the weights of 195 volunteers before, during and after the six week holiday season. What they found was the average weight gain was only about 1 pound.

Yet, the myth still persists and is spread even in fitness circles. Perhaps it is because some people do gain excessive amounts of weight during the holidays.  After all, if 1 pound is the average weight gain, and we know that some people didn’t gain any weight at all, some people exceeded that average as well. The study showed that about 10 percent of participants gained more than 5 pounds during the 6 week holiday season.  Its results concluded that there were 3 factors that influenced who gained 5 or more pounds and who didn’t.

The Top Factor: Being overweight or obese.

This means your best offense is a good defense. If you are fit, healthy and focused on staying that way all year, the holidays don’t prove to be as much of a challenge.  So don’t wait till January 2 to start a fitness program. Do it now and have a foundation to help you navigate the holidays and minimize the damage.

The other two Top Factors: Level of hunger and level of activity.

Level of activity will be addressed by your defensive measure of starting a fitness program.  As your schedule gets busier, remember that something is always better than nothing. As a part of your fitness program, have quick activities you can do that easily at home or on the road.  Also workouts can be broken into 10 or 15 minutes segments, making it easy to fit in on hectic days.

Keeping hunger at bay, and addressing the third factor, can be more challenging because of another myth-saving up calories for a big meal.  The worst thing you can do is to go to a party or a family Thanksgiving meal hungry. When we arrive hungry with blood sugar levels plummeting, everything looks good.  Eating normally throughout the day is a much better strategy and will help you make better choices.

During the holiday season we will be overwhelmed with choices at office parties, holiday open houses and family festivities. The key is to be proactive: have a plan, stay active and eat normally. Knowing the facts will help you stay below average when it comes to holiday weight gain.

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