Christmas Morning Breakfast

Hitting the Snooze Button on Holiday Weight Gain?

It’s a fact. Around the time of winter holidays, people tend to gain weight. And when it comes to pop nutrition advice, you can find just about anything you want to hear on the subject of holiday weight gain.

Holiday Food Patterns

The pattern is clear enough. Lisa Jahns and colleagues actually documented it in a study last year. To a statistically significant extent, dietary quality takes a dip when the winter holidays roll around. Food cues pop up everywhere. Friends and relatives prompt us to eat all kinds of stuff we would seldom eat otherwise. Fruitcake? Sure. We’re supposed to eat more fruit.

So it’s not surprising that, indeed, people tend to gain a bit of weight during the winter holiday season. Individual outcomes certainly vary, but studies report average weight gain of about a pound. Some people are more susceptible to those holiday food cues than others and thus will gain more. Some are seemingly immune.

Hitting the Snooze Button?

So what shall we do? A quick scan of pop nutrition advice makes one thing very clear – the advice is all over the place.

A recent, dubious article in the LA Times boldly tells us that “the biggest cause of holiday weight gain isn’t food.” The author of that revelation says fahgettaboudit. “Sit back, eat what you want, and enjoy all the wonderful reasons the holidays are the best time of year.” Take a long sip of your Christmas Tree Frappuccino if you like the wisdom of those words.

But we’ll put our faith in very different advice from Linda Gigliotti, a respected expert on weight management in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She tells us  that the best results come from simply paying attention to the choices we make. Those choices should aim merely to maintain rather than gain during this “national eating season.” Her clients enjoy traditions that are important to them and make adjustments to stay on track along the way.

Gigliotti’s advice lines up nicely with research that shows consistent self-monitoring can help to minimize weight gain during these holidays. In other words, pay attention and enjoy the season, without lapsing into mindless eating.

You’ll find more research on holiday weight gain here, here, here, and here.

Christmas Morning Breakfast, painting by Horace Pippin / WikiArt

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December 21, 2017