How Much Weight Do People Gain Over the Holidays?

Kenora-based nutrition coach Crystal Kirby-Peloquin presents in front of a whiteboard at a seminar.

You might have heard that people gain about 5 lb. between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

It turns out that number isn’t accurate.

That’s the good news. The bad news:

  • The New England Journal of Medicine reported that in a 2000 study the average weight gain over the holidays was about 1 lb. (this is the six-week period between American Thanksgiving and Jan. 1).
  • Overweight and obese people were more likely to gain weight.
  • Those who were less active gained more weight.

And here’s the big one:

“We also found that the 0.18-kg average weight gain during the fall preholiday period and the 0.37-kg increase during the holiday season were largely maintained during the post-holiday winter period from January to February or March, resulting in a net average weight gain of 0.48 kg.

“In subjects who completed one year of observation, the weight increased by an average of 0.32 kg during the holiday period and 0.62 kg over the entire year, suggesting that the period contributing most to yearly weight change is the six-week holiday period.”

What does that mean? The holiday period has a huge effect on weight gain, and the weight that’s added in this period often doesn’t come off.

If you consider this an annual cycle, a person might gain 10 lb. or more in 10 years. That’s not great for your health or your performance in the gym.

How to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

So how do you avoid putting on the weight? Here are five simple tips:

1. Keep working out. Remember, inactive people in the study gained more weight. So make sure you work out regularly. Enjoy yourself, rest and relax, but don’t stop training!

2. Stay active. Make movement part of your holiday traditions. Get out on the hill for some sledding, walk the streets and look at lights, go skating or skiing—just avoid sitting on the couch for huge periods of time. You’re definitely allowed to sink into bed to watch “Love, Actually” for the 10th time, but go for a hike first!

3. Eat well when you can. We all know there will be a few holiday feasts. Don’t worry about them. Enjoy rich food on special occasions! But try to eat lots of vegetables and lean protein in the meals around those feasts.

4. Be moderate with alcohol and sugary beverages. People often drink way more and eat too many treats during then holidays. Try to keep your consumption to reasonable levels. Two glasses of wine might make for a wonderful evening with friends. Two bottles will make for a horrible next morning. Same thing with sweets: A few cookies are a treat, but a box can really set you back.

5. Work with a coach. If you’re reading this, you obviously have health and fitness goals. A coach can help you make an exact plan to help you achieve them. (Click here to chat with me.)

Enjoy the Holidays!

If you follow these tips, you’ll avoid the annual 1 lb. weight gain and still enjoy yourself during a special time of year. You don’t have to eat celery on New Year’s Eve.

Prioritize regular movement and eat nutritious food 80 percent of the time. If you do, you’ll be well on your way to accomplishing your goals in 2024.


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We head to Mount Evergreen and ski under the stars, then plink some targets at the Lake of the Woods Gun Club.


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