Obesity in Adults
Obesity in adults is generally attributed to a small prolonged increase in energy intake and a decrease in energy expenditure that results in a gradual year-to-year weight gain. But now some researchers are pointing to the holiday season as one of the main culprits of annual weight gain.
The researchers, who published their findings in The New England Journal of Medicine, compiled data from close to 3,000 participants from three different countries including Japan, Germany, and the United States (1).
They meticulously recorded daily weight change and dietary intake for 12 months. In all three countries, the participants’ weight increased within 10 days after Christmas Day compared with 10 days before Christmas Day—they recorded weight increases of 0.4 percent in the United States, 0.6 percent in Germany, and 0.5 percent in Japan.
2 lbs. Per Year
The researchers also recorded significant weight gain during other major holidays in each country, which leveled out during the rest of the year. On average the participants gained more than two pounds at the end of the year.
While two pounds may seem trivial, it contributes to accumulated weight gain repeated annually.
It’s no surprise that the holidays are a time of overconsumption. The season is rife with longer eating durations, easy access to food, eating in the presence of others, and the most problematic−increased portion sizes (2-4).
In the U.S., the holiday season tends to last around six weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. The weight gain during this relatively brief time period ranges from 2-5 pounds and is often not reversed during the spring or summer (6).
Keep Weight Off
Given the statistics, it is clear that holiday overeating is a key target for weight management. In fact, focusing on keeping weight off during the holiday season in particular may be the best way to stop long-term weight gain.
Prevailing advice revolves around losing the weight in the time following the holidays, but it doesn’t always work. When the damage is done, even those of a normal weight who have a weight-control plan have difficulty “recovering” from the holidays (6, 8). A more proactive approach is to have a plan to avoid gaining the weight in the first place.
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