Holiday Weight Gain: Exploring the Nuance

It’s that time of the year when we’re inundated with endless family feasts, work parties, eggnog, and chocolate covered everything. We celebrate a figure who consumes millions of calories of cookies in a single night, whose stomach shakes like a sandwich topping, and whose employees’ dietary staple is the candy cane. Food and drink are constantly on the brain.

We’ve been repeatedly told that we’ll be carrying around at least 5 extra pounds after the damage is done. As Yanovski and colleagues note in the New England Journal of Medicine, this message has been perpetuated by certain news outlets and medical associations alike. This year is no exception, with bad science reinforcing the idea to sell product. There are in fact no studies that show, on average, that this much weight gain occurs. It would be surprising if they did, given that the average annual weight gain is fewer than 2 pounds. Even so, that doesn’t preclude a risk of holidays on weight, and given the strong links between weight gain and cancer it is worth an exploration of the research.

By my count, there are 9 studies on weight gain over Thanksgiving or the whole holiday period (Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day), however most have low numbers of participants, are in specific populations (like college students), or are too short to draw definitive conclusions. Continue reading