Are You Dreading Holiday Weight Gain?

November 01, 2018

Weight Gain During the Holiday Season

Now that the holidays are upon us, we become more likely to increase our calorie intake while at the same time reducing our time spent being active. This combination will invariably lead to weight gain. On average, adults aged 40-69 years old will gain 1% of their pre-holiday weight between Thanksgiving and New Year’s1. Studies suggest that this gain may be weight that becomes permanent rather than just a “holiday bump”.


One strategy that we tend to employ to combat this increase is the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot. Burn a few calories in the morning before the feast and give yourself more “room” to enjoy your meal. Unfortunately, this often does not work as we typically do not burn as many calories as we would like to think and eat significantly more than what we expended.


Fall is the season when many marathons, bicycle centuries, and long distance triathlons are scheduled as cooler temperatures during this time makes competing in these events more conducive. Training for these endeavors obviously requires a considerable amount of time and athletes preparing for these events are expending a ton of calories. One may assume that given all the exercise they have been doing, their body could use a few extra calories around the holidays. After all, those calories were earned through hard work, right?


Unfortunately, what was found in the study cited above was that pre-holiday exercise expenditure had little if any effect on the tendency to gain that 1% of body weight. Even if you were preparing for an Ironman triathlon throughout the fall, you will still fall prey to the 1% increase unless you are conscious about your calorie intake and activity level.


Does this mean you cannot enjoy yourself during the holidays? Absolutely not. It does mean, however, that no matter how active you may have been during the fall, you still need to practice moderation and avoid a significant increase in food consumption with a concomitant reduction in activity during this time of the year.


1.Relation between holiday weight gain and total energy expenditure among 40- to 69-y-old men and women (OPEN study). Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Mar;95(3):726-31. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.023036. Epub 2012 Feb 1.




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