Holiday Weight Gain Is for Adults

Christmas is for children, or so the old song tells us. But holiday weight gain is for adults. You can thank Dale Schoeller for this insight from a recent, thorough review of the subject published in Physiology & Behavior.

A significant body of research on the subject of holiday weight gain has accumulated in the scientific literature over the last decade. It turns out that children are more or less exempt. Their weight gain occurs during the summer months.

But for adults in western cultures, the November to January holiday season is a time for a gain that averages just a bit more than a pound. It’s highly variable. Most of it occurs in people who already have excess weight. In fact, Schoeller concludes, “gains of this magnitude are sufficient to drive the obesity epidemic in the United States.”

There’s also some encouragement to be found in the literature. By identifying the risk and planning appropriate strategies, studies have shown that people can prevent most of this weight gain. Simple behavioral strategies are pretty effective in this setting. Self-monitoring and coaching on energy balance yield good results. Even conjugated linoleic acid in a controlled study was found to help prevent holiday weight gain.

So it appears that an ounce of prevention — for holiday weight gain — may indeed be worth a pound of cure.

Click here to read Schoeller’s paper and here for strategies from the Obesity Action Coalition for avoiding holiday weight gain.

Gingerbread Man, photograph © Riccardo Cuppini / flickr

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.