By Brian B. Parr, Ph.D., ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist
It seems like summer just ended and already the holiday season is upon us. In addition to spending time with family and friends, the big events of the season seem to involve shopping and eating. This will almost certainly result in big numbers on your credit card bills and on your bathroom scale! Holiday weight gain is an unpleasant reality for many people, but there is something you can do.
Research shows that, on average, people gain about one pound during the period between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. Winter is the beginning of a time when eating patterns change and not only do people tend to eat more in general, but they also eat more fat. This, combined with a seasonal decline in physical activity, can contribute to unwelcome weight gain. Interestingly, a difference of just 50 calories per day is all that is needed to cause a one-pound weight gain over the holidays, so small changes in eating and activity behaviors that you might not notice now can lead to weight gain that will get your attention later.
The problem is that this extra weight may not be lost during the spring or summer. This means that holiday weight gain can be a major contributor to a gradual, but lasting increase in weight, about one pound per year, that most people experience over time. People who are overweight to begin with tend to gain more weight over the holidays than people who start at a normal weight. This seems to be true in children, young adults, and middle-aged and older adults. Let’s face it, holiday weight gain can be a reality for everyone.