Holiday Weight Gain: How Much is Normal?

Christmas party, holiday, toast

Source: iStock

The holiday season is officially here, and it’s the season for decorating, shopping, and eating  a lot. With all of those opportunities to stuff our faces and lay around over the holidays, it seems that we all kind of accept that we’re going to put on some winter holiday weight. The New York Times explains that it’s a myth that the holidays account for much of a person’s annual weight gain. The average person will only gain around one to two pounds from Thanksgiving to New Years.

Here are the real details on holiday weight gain: A 2000 study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine explored the five pound weight gain claim using 195 adults to study their body weight, and concluded that in fact the real number was closer to one pound. A 2013 study out of Texas Tech University yielded similar results, further legitimizing the previous study. Traci Mann, PhD, a professor at the University of Minnesota who researches eating behaviors, body image, and weight loss explains the reason for this minimal weight gain, “Changes that happen to your body when you switch up your diet are almost always temporary, especially if you’re eating differently for only a short period of time,” she said to Refinery29.

Also, your holiday indulgence won’t do much to budge the scales, Dr. Mann explains, because your body works within a set weight range. “People understand this when you talk about losing weight: You drop a few pounds, and your body pushes back. Your metabolism slows down, so there’s more left over to store as fat.” However, the opposite also happens to be true: Your body adjusts to keep you from gaining a lot of weight.

When it’s all said and done, one pound does not sound like much weight gain, but a recent review that was published in Physiology and Behavior found that unfortunately a lot of us never lose that pound and it accumulates year after year, potentially leading to health problems such as obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes, says US News World and Report.

Keep in mind that just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean that you should neglect your health. Although this is probably not the best time of the year to commit to a new diet, you can still help yourself while enjoying yourself  as long as it’s in moderation. Continue to enjoy the holidays and the Christmas cookies and the eggnog, but heed some of these tips. Here are some easy ways to avoid weight gain over the holidays so that the pounds don’t eventually tip the scale in the wrong direction.

1. Practice moderation

The holidays don’t give you a free month and a half pass to eat everything in sight. You don’t have to avoid all the tasty appetizers and desserts, but you shouldn’t gorge yourself either. The better choice is to enjoy a little bit of everything instead of avoiding it completely or going overboard. You’ll end up feeling better and less bloated.

2. Keep your healthy habits in check

running, winter, cold

Source: iStock

If you already practice healthy habits, like running everyday or eating nutritious foods, don’t stop. People often put their healthy habits aside during this joyous time of the year. Acknowledge and pinpoint your healthy habits and focus on keeping them consistent during this hectic time.

3. Plan for your indulgences

A conscious indulgence is a planned treat that you add because it makes you happy, which is a part of being an empowered eater. If you’re looking forward to having chocolate cake, plan on having one slice. During the holiday season, plan on your food choices and try and go for no more than two each week. You’ll feel much better about having it and won’t feel as guilty because you thought about it before hand, says Today. Just stick to eating your regular meals  to avoid any kind of indulgence pitfalls (i.e. overeating) as well.

4. Make sure you eat your vegetables

No, this is not your mother; this is to help you avoid that pound that will creep up on you. Here’s a big tip: If you’re at a holiday dinner, make sure to load up on vegetables, as well as protein to prevent you from overeating. Balance out what you eat, and serve yourself a generous portion of veggies with some smaller servings of the good stuff, says the Huffington Post.

More from Health & Fitness Cheat Sheet:

Want more great content like this? Sign up here to receive the best of Cheat Sheet delivered daily. No spam; just tailored content straight to your inbox.