Only About a Pound Lingers After the Holidays
WebMD News Archive
March 22, 2000 (New York) -- Like Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red-Nosed
Reindeer, the idea that people tend to gain five pounds or more during the
holiday season may be a myth. People appear, on average, to gain slightly more
than a pound from Thanksgiving to New Year's, according to a study in
Thursday's issue of TheNew England Journal of Medicine.
But that's not to say that all that turkey and fruitcake doesn't take a
toll. Unfortunately, most people don't drop that pound or so after the holiday
season is over, the researchers report. And people who are overweight to start
with are more likely to gain five holiday pounds or more.
In the study of 195 adults who were weighed before the winter holidays (from
late September or early October to mid-November), during the holidays (from
mid-November to early or mid-January), and again after the season (from early
to mid-January to late February or early March), participants were found to
have gained an average of 1.06 pounds by late February or early March. Most of
the gain occurred during the six-week interval between Thanksgiving and New
Year's Day. A year after the study began, 165 participants who were weighed
again were, on average, up about 1.36 pounds from their initial weights, the
"This is a good news/bad news story," study author Jack A. Yanovski,
MD, head of the National Institutes of Health Unit on Growth and Obesity in
Bethesda, Md., tells WebMD. "The good news is that most people are not
gaining five or six pounds during the holidays, but the bad news is that weight
gained over the winter holidays isn't lost during the rest of the year, "
"The most important message is that everybody needs to be concerned
about the small increases in weight that occur over the holiday season because
it adds up over the years and can cause medical problems," Yanovski
"These findings suggest that developing ways to avoid holiday weight
gain may be extremely important for preventing obesity and the diseases
associated with it," Duane Alexander, MD, director of the National
Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, says in a written
More than half of Americans are overweight, and excess weight sets the stage
for heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
Contrary to the widely held view that a five-pound weight gain is common
over the holidays, fewer than 10% of study participants gained that amount or
more during that period. But people who were overweight or obese to begin with
were more likely to gain five pounds or more than those who were not overweight
when the study started, Yanovski and colleagues report. Study participants
ranged from 19 to 82 years old and weighed 95 to 306 pounds at the outset.