Best Way to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

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Weight gain statistics show that Americans gain an average of .4 to 1.8 pounds each year during their adult lives, says Sharon Palmer in the Environmental Health magazine article “Celebrate a Happy Holiday…Without the Weight Gain,” and research shows the holidays may be one of the most likely times people pack on the extra pounds.

Holiday Weight Gain Statistics

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health conducted a study that examined the number of pounds people gained between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. A study published the March 2000 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine showed that on average people gain 1.05 pounds during the holiday months from November through February.

Even though 1.05 pounds may not sound like much, when the participants in the study were weighed again a year later, they still hadn’t dropped that extra pound. Moreover, people who were already overweight or obese added even more pounds during holidays. Fourteen percent gained as much as five pounds or more.

Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Here are some tips that will help you prevent gaining extra pounds during the holidays:

  • Save several of your daily calories for a holiday celebration that’s during another time of day. For example, if you have to go to an event in the evening, eat a light breakfast and lunch. Then eat a low-calorie snack right before going to the party.
  • Exercise more during holidays. If you plan a more strenuous exercise program during a holiday, you’ll burn more calories, which will help offset the additional consumption of calories in your favorite holiday foods.
  • Watch serving sizes. It’s too easy to go overboard on portion sizes during the holidays. If you want to splurge on on a few favorite holiday treats, make sure to plan ahead and eat small portions. You could also grab a smaller plate, and be sure not to stack food.
  • Go easy on alcoholic drinks. There are usually way too many calories in alcoholic drinks. Make sure to make a concerted effort to drink fewer alcoholic beverages by limiting yourself to a one or two drinks.
  • Beware of sauces and dips. They’re usually packed with calories. Instead, fill up on vegetables and fruit first. Then if you want to indulge in a favorite food, make sure to eat a small portion.
  • Be meticulous about writing down what you eat. Keeping a record of what you’ve eaten and its nutritional value such as calories, carbohydrates and fat content will help keep you from grazing and overeating.
  • Get emotional support during holidays. Find a holiday food buddy. By being accountable to someone else, you’ll be less likely to overeat.
  • Avoid getting too close to the food. Instead of standing around the food area drinking and grazing, try making it a goal to socialize more with people as part of the holiday spirit instead of hoovering over holiday goodies.
  • Watch emotional eating during holidays. Many people associate holiday food and happy memories with food. Be aware of why you’re eating and avoid going overboard with calories to recreate and recapture memories from the past.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you go overboard. Instead make a plan to stick to your diet extra closely a day or two after a holiday party. Be sure to exercise a little more too.


Palmer, Sharon. “Celebrate a Happy Holiday…Without the Weight Gain.” Environmental Health. December 2009, Vol. 32 Issue 12, p2

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