Food/Nutrition Columnist
Holiday Weight Gain – Myth or Reality
Dec 3, 2017 - 7:06:00 AM

( - Whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza or nothing at all, everywhere you turn at this time of year someone is offering you something to eat and everyone is telling you that you will gain weight over the holidays. Is there any truth to this yearly barrage of advice?

Like the freshman 15 which says all new college students will gain 15 pounds during their first year away from home (the actual weight gain is as little as 1.5 pounds), yearly reports of holiday weight gains of 5 to 15 pounds is more media myth than reality. In actuality the average holiday weight gain is 0.4 to 1 pound. That doesn’t mean you won’t see fluctuations in your weight during the season, because you ate more salt than usual, you are not working out, you are enjoying an occasional drink, or you are eating late at night. But these weight increases, are almost always short-lived and will adjust back to your normal weight in a couple of days.

Weight gain and the holidays is a perfect example correlation versus causation. Two things may be correlated but that does not equal cause and effect. Holidays do provide an abundance of food. Food does equal calories. And, too many calories do cause weight gain. All of these things are facts. But do you really eat so much more over the holidays that you will gain 5 to 10 pounds in a few short weeks. In order to do that you would have to overeat a great deal every single day to actually cause such a large weight gain.

What is more likely during the holidays is that you will overeat a few times at parties or dinners, or snack more on tempting treats. This overindulgence will lead to eating a little more than usual and you may gain a small amount of weight but you won’t be shopping for a new wardrobe after the New Year because of an exaggerated weight gain.

Causation is a much more specific cause and result. Smoking leads to lung cancer. This is a proven cause and effect. If you stop smoking this risk is dramatically reduced, even for once heavy smokers. This is an example of an action that has a direct outcome. A table overflowing with holiday goodies will not automatically make you fat, unless you eat too much and do it over and over again.

Most nutrition research is summarized when you read it in a newspaper, magazine or even here in my column. Why? Most studies are long on details and pretty boring to read from beginning to end. When you are provided just the highlights you could miss some important points that are buried in the fine details. The media also loves to make the results sensational to grab your attention. Exaggerated holiday weight gain is a perfect example.

Here are three important tips that can help you maintain your weight over the holidays.

© NRH Nutrition Consultants, Inc.
Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and the author of 30 books. Available as eBooks from iTunes and Kindle/Amazon:

Diabetes Counter

Calorie Counter

Protein Counter

Healthy Wholefoods Counter

Complete Food Counter

Fat and Cholesterol Counter

Available in print from Gallery Books:

Most Complete Food Counter, 3rd Ed.

Your Complete Food Counter App:

For more information on Jo-Ann and her books, go to:


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